First in Your Family

First in Your Family

By Isabel Alvarado, Bud Class of 2016

Being a first-generation student is something that I am very proud of. While it was not always easy, I am grateful for my experiences at UT. A first-generation student is someone whose parents did not receive a 4-year degree in the United States. This title comes with many things: struggles, celebrations, confusion, happiness, and pride. My experiences as a first-gen may not be like others, but I have come to appreciate every part of it, from not understanding FAFSA to having to figure what being at college is even like. 

After getting a little acquainted with UT, I decided I would join Physical Therapy Organization. It was geared towards what I wanted to do after college, I had friends in it, and it seemed fun! PTO was a good time, but it wasn’t for me. During a meeting, I realized that I didn’t actually want to do physical therapy. I wanted to help people, but not in that way—I just want to make a quick point, if you don’t feel comfortable in an organization right away, it’s okay to keep trying, and it’s okay to leave, but the most important thing is to find the right place for you. After this crisis of what to actually do with my life came up, I turned to my mentors. They led me in the direction that I needed and I found my major, Youth & Community Studies.

My family, especially my Nonno, has always been my biggest supporter and when I feel like I can’t do it, he reminds me that I can. My dad has always been there to remind me that I come from a culture that endures; he always tells me his favorite Mexican proverb, “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” This has been something that I always refer to when I’m struggling and I feel like the world is against me. Thankfully, I also have support on campus. I found my home away from home within Women of Excellence. These women keep me accountable and remind me that I am powerful and strong when I need it. 

During my time at UT, I was in a scholarship program called the University Leadership Network. They did a great job of supporting me my first year, but I wish I had something to support me all the way through. From my different campus experiences grew my passion for wanting to better support first-gen students as my future career. My hopes are to create a program that better supports college students the whole time and beyond. There are many efforts that get us here, but who helps us stay here? Creating my own non-profit that focuses on these efforts is my ultimate goal and when I get there, feel free to reach out! 

Prose & Prejudice

Prose & Prejudice

By Anna Blome, Bud Class of 2017

One fall day several years ago, I approached my 6th grade English teacher with as much consternation as I could summon to tell her exactly what I thought about The Treasure Island. I absolutely hated it! If I had bought the paper copy instead of the electronic one, I would have chucked it into the fire. From that day on, I wore my perpetual dislike of school assigned books like a badge. Catch-22 was confusing, Beowulf was too old, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern was annoying. But that all changed when I became a junior and was assigned three books: East of Eden, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Pride & Prejudice

All three of these books struck a chord somewhere deep down inside of me. While all other school books went to Goodwill when I finished reading them, these precious three remain in my bookcase. At the time, I didn’t really put much thought into why I liked some and not the rest. I just put it down to personal preferences when it came to writing styles. But what I recently realized was that I liked books that had some sort of female voice. Both Pride & Prejudice and A Streetcar Named Desire were told mostly or entirely from the female perspective, while largely focusing on females. Meanwhile, the two main women in East of Eden were singular in that their decisions and personalities were key to the story being told. Reading stories like these made me feel included and heard as a young woman. 

So, it was only made sense that these are the books that stood out to me. Reading about complex women, who struggled with real-life issues, normalized my existence for me. Over seven years of assigned readings, it’s incredibly disheartening that I found only three such books. The books that dominated my reading list were mostly written by white men. Their respective plots and messages inherently reflected that, purposeful or not. And, I don’t think this was just the case at my middle and high school. Representation matters. No matter what kind of book I’m reading, I’m always looking to find a bit of myself in between the pages. Existing in today’s world is hard and exhausting. There’s the constant worry over whether one fits in. Being able to read a book and see yourself or some aspect of yourself is important because it serves as a form of valediction. By limiting our reading lists to stories told by just one type of person, anyone who doesn’t belong to that group is marginalized. They’re told that their stories, and by extension their lives, are less important. While I’m not suggesting we discount the old classics, it is crucial that reading lists also draw from a diverse range of authors, who depict different lifestyles.

Self-Love in the Spring

Self-Love in the Spring

By Gabby Ponds, Bud Class of 2017

The spring semester is notorious for being more difficult than the fall. Typically, when life gets more stressful, we forget to take the time to take care of ourselves. Similarly, we forget to nourish the special relationship that we have with ourselves. Even when self-love seems impossible, there are little things that you can do to ensure that you ace your classes while living your best life.

For one, practice self-care! When a friend is stressed out, upset or in pain, we take care of them. However, we also have to learn to be a friend to ourselves. When you wake up in the morning, take a shower, brush your teeth, comb your hair, etc. Make sure to leave yourself enough time to care for your body. This includes making time to exercise, drink water, and eat healthy foods. When your body is taken care of, you are more likely to feel good about yourself. Therefore, creating daily routines and carving out time for your schedule for self-care is a crucial component of self-love.

Second, stop comparing yourself to others. Someone may have gotten a better grade than you, another person might have nicer shoes, etc. No matter the case, none of these things take away from your value as a person. You don’t have to be Superwoman to be successful. Find success in the little things you do and praise yourself constantly. Don’t look for validation from others and don’t strive to be like others. Each day, tell yourself that you are going to be the best version of you that you can possibly be today and then act like it.

Lastly, use affirmations! Affirmations can be short words or phrases that you repeat to yourself to try and get your brain to think more positively on its own. For example, it could be as simple as looking in the mirror and saying, “I’m beautiful.” Utilize the internet to discover affirmations for all aspects of your life. This includes motivation, confidence, interpersonal relationships, etc. But, no matter what, you must believe that what you are telling yourself is true. That way, your brain will learn to automatically praise itself when things go right rather than berating itself when things go wrong.

Overall, self-love can be difficult to master. However, life is too short to spend it hating yourself. Learn to cultivate a love that you can easily give to yourself without question. Remember, that you are beautiful, priceless and deserve all the love and care in the world. Fortunately, with constant practice, you will begin to fall in love with the amazing person that you truly are.

Inclusive Feminism & Why We Should Embrace It

Inclusive Feminism & Why We Should Embrace It

By Celena Valentine, Bud Class of 2018

As feminist philosophy has moved from the fringes of society to the forefront of political discourse, the American public seems to have embraced the struggles of women like never before. Navigating this uncharted territory has at times been challenging and uncomfortable, but we are making strides. However, as the feminist movement has become more mainstream, it has also fallen victim to a level of commodification and white washing.

Popular culture’s attempts to embrace the ‘trendiness’ of feminism have created an echo chamber of sorts, drowning out the unique challenges faced by women of color, transgender women and non- binary women in favor of more palatable and appealing women’s issues. In American society, this tends to put the emphasis on young, white, wealthy and well educated women. This palatability makes feminism more accessible to the white majority and in turn, more profitable. From pink pussy hats to the tens of thousands of Feminist af and Girl Power tee-shirts that populate the clearance section of Forever 21; feminism has become old news. Nothing more than a symbolic gesture and a great hashtag. But for many women, in fact, a majority of women in the world, the fight is far from over. This perception of feminism fails to account for the implications that race, wealth, religion, sexual orientation and culture have on womanhood, thus limiting the scope of the movement. Women of color face gender inequality which is compounded with racial inequality. Sex positive advocates often neglect the social restrictions placed on marginalized women as well as the histories of abuse and exploitation faced by these groups. Similarly modest lifeways, such as those outlined by Islam, are not always embraced by the mainstream feminist community. Until all women are able to fully embrace their agency, we are all oppressed. Feminism cannot simply exist as a tool to further the privilege of the few, it has to be inclusive to survive and thrive. As a society, we are only as strong as our most vulnerable groups and discounting their struggles only serves to prop up the patriarchy and other forms of oppression.

By embracing women of all backgrounds and walks of life we give the feminist movement dimension and range which allows us to explore and dismantle the many ways in which patriarchy and misogyny manifest in society. But this first has to begin with ally-ship and solidarity between women of all walks of life. Those with privilege must use it not only to bring awareness to their own plights, but also the challenges faced by those who are too vulnerable to advocate for themselves. Ask yourself today “how am I privileged and how can I use this privilege to help advocate for others?”

The Superpower of Self-Acceptance

The Superpower of Self-Acceptance

By Alice Kanitz Sanchez, Bud Class of 2015

In one of my favorite genre flicks, insecure bassist Scott Pilgrim finally obtains the Power of Love in the form of a sword and battles it out with the villain to win the heart of Ramona Flowers. However, in a crucial moment, his sword of love is broken and he is killed. Thankfully, he had an extra life (it’s a weird movie), and it’s with the Power of Self-Respect that he ultimately prevails.

The power of self-respect and its cousin, the superpower of self-acceptance, were two of the hardest things for me to obtain. I came from college as a Third-Culture Kid—someone who has spent significant time outside of one’s parents’ culture during their formative years. I wasn’t quite Brazilian like my birth certificate said, I wasn’t really Mexican or Venezuelan like the past seven years of apartments would indicate, and I sure as hell wasn’t Texan. Of course I knew certain norms of politeness and friendmaking, but I didn’t know how to relate to kids who lived their entire lives within the same block. I hyperfocused on how different I was from everyone: my accent slipped, I knew no one aside from my boyfriend, and I didn’t realize everyone went to school in fleece jackets and leggings instead of skirts and plum lipstick.

So I did my best to mimic what everyone else wore. I pivoted conversations from “what do you mean you’ve never seen The Office?” to “yeah, that one party was crazy!” I deleted all the Facebook pictures of my high school pink hair, and I stopped telling people where I was from if I could help it. I chose a specific major that didn’t spark for me because I thought I probably should. I was never content with who I was, watching my back to see if anyone would figure out I wasn’t cool like I pretended to be.

Then several things happened. My sophomore year, I met a group of friends who loved me for who I was, and they accepted me. My junior year, I leaned into WOE with my whole heart, coming away with friends who I am sure will turn into bridesmaids. I never knew I was likable without putting on a costume. Maybe I was worthy of the power of love; I would die for any one of the people I cherish. So why was I still unhappy?

There are many things I don’t like about myself. I can be inflexible and self-absorbed. I can be irresponsible and reckless at times; I can be an absolute downer at others. There are also wonderful things about me: I love unashamedly and unabashedly. I like to think I’m funny. I like to think I’m good at empathy. And I couldn’t have worked on the darker aspects of my character if I had not first gained self-respect and sought help—not to please others, but because I owed it to myself. Finally, I gained the superpower of self-acceptance.

Now, I walk with a skip in my step. I am secure in my identity, my story, where I come from and where I hope to be. I am studying a major I love, surrounded by friends I love, going on seven years with a man I love. I deserved to be happy, and I fight tooth and nail for that happiness with the Superpower of Self-Acceptance.

Dangerous Dating

Dangerous Dating

By Caitlin Smith, Bud Class of 2016

I binged Netflix’s You over winter break and, like any rational woman, was instantly confronted with my worst nightmare: dating a seemingly perfect guy with the kind of double-life true crime fanatics fawn over. I saw myself in Beck, a writer completing an MFA in New York City. She was living the dream! She even met Joe in a bookstore—the one fantasy my mind always returned to in Barnes & Noble. Their relationship from her point of view was incredible. Supportive, thoughtful, and just plain fun. Anything that seemed questionable was brushed off as Beck overreacting.

That’s a trap women fall into all the time.

I’ve been on my fair share of bad dates. Ask any of my friends—for a while, it seemed like I was straight-up cursed. Thankfully they haven’t been as deceptive as Joe, but I’ve still had moments of second-guessing myself and trying to rationalize disconcerting behavior.

Take my Bumble date with a brain-damaged guy: We’d matched and exchanged very polite messages, and I had no idea he’d been hit by a drunk driver two years prior when I got in his car. Immediately, I was on guard. He looked different than his pictures (not totally out of the ordinary) and spoke as if English wasn’t his first language (not a problem, just not what I expected). Then he started talking about the different euphemisms for “penis” and I thought he might just be passionate about the male anatomy.

It wasn’t until he told me point-blank that he was recovering from a traumatic brain injury that I let myself be well and truly alarmed. After all, he drove us downtown! But even then, I wanted to be polite. So what if he kept talking about prostitutes? I wanted an open mind. Open enough to learn that victims of these kinds of head injuries often act out sexually as part of the recovery process. Fine. Until he asked me if I was a virgin at dinner. In a crowded restaurant. Next to people who were definitely listening.

That’s not to say that anyone with a brain injury is automatically off the table for dating. It’s just an unfortunately universal experience amongst women. Granted, the specifics are probably different, but I don’t know a woman who hasn’t been made uncomfortable by a man but tried to play it off as an overactive imagination. Maybe you do have a bit of a runaway imagination, but it’s likely your fears are valid on some level.

Beck’s case is extreme in its outcome (spoilers ahead!), so you probably won’t die if you go out with one weirdo. But even not wanting to spend an evening in uncomfortable silence is reason enough to listen to your gut. When the guy or girl is right, you won’t have to convince yourself of anything.

Yoga & Me

Yoga & Me

By Alison Welch, Bud Class of 2017

One of the most rewarding experiences I have had while in college has been my part-time job. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true! I work at SunstoneFit, a yoga/fitness studio in North Austin. I have been with Sunstone since December of 2015, when I took a 90-minute hot yoga class with 6 of my best friends from high school. I was immediately hooked! I signed up for a membership and began avidly taking hot yoga classes for the remainder of my senior year. I loved the way hot yoga made me feel — strong, resilient, confident. I loved the heat and the sweat and the way my body was changing. I also saw improvements in my mental health during a challenging period of my life: the end of high school. My life was about to change so radically — I was soon to leave my hometown and all of my friends and my family, and I was absolutely not ready to do so. But yoga centered me; it kept me grounded and grateful for my life and health. I loved Sunstone and its classes so much that I began working there during the Summer of 2017 at one of the Dallas studios. My sophomore year, in the Fall of 2017, I transitioned to the Sunstone franchise studio in Austin so I could continue to work while attending school at UT. I was so worried about balancing work with school, and, indeed, it has been challenging — but it has also been incredibly rewarding. The people in the studio — my coworkers, the clientele — create a loving, supportive, and healthy environment and provide a much-needed respite from my chaotic life on campus.

Here’s a little about Sunstone: it is a yoga and fitness studio based in Addison, Texas. We have 13 locations in the DFW metroplex, and one location in Austin, about a 15-minute drive from the UT campus. Sunstone has a wide variety of classes, including hot yoga, HIIT (high intensity interval training), pilates, and barre. Every Sunstone studio I have been to is warm and welcoming — the teachers and Operations staff (that’s me!) love what they do and truly care about the students and their fitness goals. A typical day at work for me doesn’t even really feel like work, because I truly love spending time in the studio. My main task is to enter students into class on our computer system, and greet them/chat with them as they come in. I also conduct orientations — which consist of a studio tour and a walk-through of classes and memberships — and sell memberships to new students. It turns out I can be a pretty good salesperson when I am passionate about the product! Another important component of my job is to clean the studio — vacuuming, cleanings mats, and mopping. These tasks are all the same when I work; nevertheless, every day at the studio is unique. Every student that walks through the door has a unique story to tell, and they all bring a special energy to the class and studio. These students and my fellow staff inspire me with their dedication and passion — every time I leave work, I feel inspired to bring positive energy into my fitness routine, my school work, and my social life.

I would love to introduce all of you to Sunstone, because it has such a special place in my heart! If you ever have an itch to try hot yoga or one of our fitness classes, reach out to me.