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Life

She Believed She Could So She Did

Attending the University of Texas at Austin has been a dream for me for as long as I can remember. I was born and raised in the Greater Austin area and many of my childhood memories include popular landmarks across the city including the UT campus.

 

Celebrating a birthday while wearing my burnt orange Texas Longhorn shirt.

 

As a little kid, I remember being praised for learning how to form the horns with my clumsy little hands. I wore burnt orange shirts and cheered for Major Applewhite and Ricky Williams. I searched for dinosaur fossils on a field trip to campus. UT science students visited my elementary school and made mint-chocolate chip ice cream with liquid nitrogen. I sat on the shoulders of my friends as we chanted the Texas Fight hours after Texas won the National Championship in 2005. My grandmother even skipped classes at McCombs to be with my mom for my birth! I bleed burnt orange and have always been a fan.    

My grandmother’s senior portrait courtesy of the Cactus Yearbook Staff ,1988.

 

Photo courtesy of Jillian Arizpe

 

As it sometimes goes, life did not turn out as I expected and I eventually moved on from the idea I would ever be able to attend the University of Texas. I did not make good enough grades in high school and my finances wouldn’t allow the expense of a major university anyway. I attempted community college, but after I lost a dear friend to cancer and was laid off from my job, I fell into a deep depression that took a considerable amount of time to get out of.

 

Then, after spending over a dozen years in customer service jobs where I felt bored and resentful, I decided to return to school by taking online courses. The courses were surprisingly challenging, but I began to succeed and eventually I earned my Associates Degree in Liberal Arts with High Honors (or magna cum laude).

 

A view of the Tower when I attended summer orientation.

 

Once I started to succeed and gain some of my confidence back, I thought I might apply to UT just to see if it was possible for me to get in. What felt like an eternity later, I received my acceptance notification at 6 pm on a hot Friday in June. It was a whirlwind experience, but before I knew it, I was a student sweating across campus.

 

The weekend before my first class, my husband took me on a tour of campus so I would know where all of my classes were.

 

My friend gave me a UT themed care package filled with snacks and school supplies to get me through my first year.

 

My first semester was a bit of a culture shock, but I wound up finding an amazing support system and group of friends through Students Over 25 at UT (25+). I wrote articles every other week for Her Campus at Texas. I signed up to be a TrIG mentor. Became the Communications Officer for 25+The semester felt long with no break other than Thanksgiving and Christmas break brought sweet relief from mind-numbing textbooks and complex exams.

I was able to snap this picture with President Fenves during Parent’s Weekend!

 

Karaoke with Students Over 25

 

Spring semester has gone by in a flash, however. I was selected to be a Dean’s Ambassador for Moody College’s inaugural class of ambassadors, chosen as a student spotlight for Communication Studies majors, offered not one but two TrIG mentor opportunities, joined the Burnt Orange Leadership Development fellowship, and was elected President of 25+ for Fall 2019. I don’t say all of this to brag, but to express how amazing this semester has been!

Bluebonnets and a blue Texas sky only enhances the beauty of the UT tower!

 

Often, we don’t understand why life deals us the cards we end up with, but I’ve learned that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. I’m a proud, non-traditional student; there are only about 3% of us on campus, and I am so glad I took a chance to believe in myself. I hope that regardless of where life takes you, that you’ll continue to believe in yourself because your dreams can come true, too!

 

Photos all courtesy of the author except where noted.

Mandy Burt

Texas '21

Mandy is a senior studying at the Moody College of Communication.
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