When Daria Antonova contemplated what field to go into after high school, she looked up to a cousin who earned her degree in civil engineering. Inspired by this role model in her life, as well as a strong understanding of physics, Antonova decided to follow in her footsteps.
She took her dream one step further by leaving her home in Russia to pursue her education in America, not knowing that she would go on to win a $6,000 scholarship that is only awarded to one student from each California State University campus.
She didn’t have any family or friends in the United States but with a burst of independence, Antonova packed her bags and made the move.
Her parents were supportive and encouraged her to achieve her dream no matter how much it made her mother worry. This was somewhat unique compared to other families she knew in Russia, Antonova said.
She began the first two years of her undergraduate coursework at Orange Coast College and Skyped her family constantly, even though they are 11 hours ahead of Pacific Time. Antonova also found a family to rent a room from, who helped her become acquainted with the area.
“When I first moved here, I didn’t know anyone, so I was trying to get involved with as many student organizations as I could, so I could know more people and make friends,” Antonova said.
She quickly became friends with a girl she met in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Debora Motabrito.
Motabrito described her as a very kind person, who’s passionate about everything she does.
“…she also takes school very seriously and always looks for more to do besides school,” Motabrito said. “She’s always trying to learn more.”
Antonova loaded her schedule with classes and volunteered with various groups such as student government and honor societies including Phi Theta Kappa.
She also mentioned that she noticed far less women than men in her major, and that most have to work really hard to prove themselves in engineering.
According to the Society of Women Engineers, women make up 20 percent of engineering school graduates, and only 12 percent go on to practice engineering.
“I feel like there is a stigma with the men, that if you’re a woman, you’re not that good in science and math,” Antonova said. “I feel like sometimes women need to prove that they are good, so people take them seriously.”
When she transferred to Long Beach State after two years, she joined the Society of Women Engineers, so she could have a support system and meet more women in her major. She also scored a research assistant opportunity with one of her civil engineering professors, Lisa Star.
“From the first day I met her, she’s been hard working and she always seeks out new challenges that she can take on,” Star said.
Star got her working on a couple of projects funded by the National Science Foundation.
Antonova has been working with students from UCLA and postdoctoral researchers, which Star said is “a big deal because not a lot of students at LBSU are doing projects like this.”
Although this job pays, Antonova quickly realized that she needed to find another way to mitigate the cost of paying out-of-state tuition as an international student. The average annual cost of LBSU for a California resident is about $17,350, and for someone paying out-of-state tuition like Antonova, it costs $27,350, according to the school’s website.
She began applying for scholarships, half-believing she was going to win one.
“I thought, ‘Well, I might as well try,’ but I had low expectations … especially because it’s very hard for international students to get scholarships because most scholarship donors prefer they to go to Americans,” Antonova said.
She said she put the idea of winning a scholarship out of her mind, and began planning her wedding after getting proposed to by her boyfriend, Saul Madrigal.
They got married June 2018, with Motabrito by her side as the Maid of Honor.
One month later she received an email from the Cal State system saying that she won a 2018 Trustee’s Award for Outstanding Achievement — the Edison International Scholarship.
“For a while I felt like, ‘No, this isn’t true. They’re going to email me back and say it was a mistake.’ It took me a week or two to process it,” Antonova said.
After an eventful summer, Antonova was publically awarded with the other recipients of the Trustee’s Award Sept. 11.
She is now on track to graduate spring 2019 with a degree in civil engineering.
“It’s a challenge to graduate in four years,” Star said. “Very, very few of our students do it in four years, let alone our transfer students.”
Star also said that she expects to see great things from Antonova, and hopes she continues doing research.
Antonova plans to find a job, hopefully in civil engineering, after graduation and gain some experience before continuing her education with a graduate degree in engineering.