Mother and Daughter Share International Student Experiences on the Forty Acres
- Jun 28, 2022
- Chris Smith and Valeria Colunga
Being a University of Texas at Austin alumnus doesn’t just mean you are a graduate of UT Austin; it also means you’re connected to a wide network of individuals, traditions and common experiences.
However, for two alumnae—a mother and daughter from Monterrey, Mexico—this connection isn’t just abstract: It’s all in the family. Having both graduated from UT, the pair have found even more commonality in their love for UT and their shared experiences as Longhorns.
Martha Lozano (M.B.A. '95) is the director of marketing at Alestra, a telecommunications company. A supporter of females in STEM—a STEMinist—Martha has worked for more than 20 years in the field where she started as a product manager.
Martha’s daughter, Valeria Colunga, is a 2022 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts who dual-majored in Latin American studies and international relations and global studies. Valeria racked up accolades during her time at UT Austin, as one of eight inaugural UN Foundation Next Generation Fellows, the winner of the Spring 2020 LLILAS Benson Community Engagement Award and a finalist in DivInc's 2021 Champions of Change Awards. She also runs a podcast in Spanish, titled “Activismos & Quietismos.”
Both women arrived at the Forty Acres—though many years apart—as international students. In the writing that follows, Valeria reveals how meaningful the campus experiences and traditions have been for herself and her mother. She describes these moments in her own words, sharing not just her own story but also the ways these events have united the mother-daughter pair.
From Monterrey With Love: Valeria Colunga
Getting your class ring from the University of Texas at Austin is an exciting tradition to participate in. It is the beginning of your countdown for graduation, a mark of your achievements as a student, and a reminder of the prestige of your education. It is a physical remembrance that you are connected to the many Longhorns who have passed through this university. For me, this tradition was more than that: It symbolizes a shared mother-daughter experience.
Growing up in Monterrey, Mexico, I always heard my mother talk about her time at UT as an M.B.A. student (Class of 1995). She arrived in Austin in 1994 for a semester-long exchange, but decided to graduate here after experiencing firsthand the magic of UT.
When I was young, her stories made very little sense: Why would a university have a Longhorn as a mascot? Where is West Campus? How can a city be so fond of bats?
I didn’t understand my mother’s excitement when I got my acceptance letter to UT until I visited campus. I was amazed by the size of the university, its prestige, the opportunities it offered, and its vibrant student body.
As a former UT tour guide, I can say there is nothing like taking a campus tour with alumni. You can feel the nostalgia and see their enthusiasm to show you their alma mater. Visiting campus with my mother gave me insight into her youthful years and college memories. There is an indescribable emotion to studying at the Union and walking by the Tower, knowing that my mother lived some of her most memorable experiences there.
From my first day of classes, I could feel my empathy toward my mother grow. Being an international student can be an overwhelming experience, especially when you are by yourself. At moments when I felt confused or alone, I would remember my mother’s stories of how much she learned from her time at UT as an international student.
I found comfort in walking past the gas station in West Campus where she would use the pay phone to call my grandparents in Mexico. It made me think of the ease of grabbing my cell phone to call her anywhere she is, from the comfort of my apartment. My mother describes her time at UT as the formative years for her to become an adult; I think that’s exactly what UT has been for me, too.
From teaching me how to make a “Hook ’em” to explaining UT lingo, my mother showed me how to be a Longhorn. More importantly, she inspired me to become the person I am today. Studying at the same university she did has strengthened our relationship in unimaginable ways and grown our admiration for each other. These are things that I wouldn’t give up for anything. “Joining the tradition” has opened my eyes to the profound impact that UT has on people’s lives, including my own.
My time at UT has been nothing like my mother’s: I am fully fluent in English, studied for an undergraduate degree, and lived through a global pandemic. Nonetheless, we are now united by shared experiences that only this university can offer.
Celebrating my class ring with my parents was a reminder of that juxtaposition and a moment that we will remember forever. I know my parents are as proud of me for graduating from this prestigious university as my grandparents were of my mother in 1995.
To all Longhorns with Texas Exes in their family: Ask your family about their time at UT and create shared experiences with them. This will strengthen your relationship and give you memories that you will cherish forever.
From Monterrey with love,
Hook ’em por siempre!