Olimpia Montserrat Valdivia Ramírez

Mexico City

Degree program:
PhD in Latin American Studies

The University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Rebecca Maria Torres

How did you first learn about the ConTex fellowship program?
I applied to a CONACYT scholarship in Mexico because I had a previous master's scholarship. When CONACYT awarded me the doctoral fellowship, UT Austin asked if I wanted to be a part of the ConTex agreement and I accepted.

Tell us about your research and the reasons it is important to you
My research project is about adolescent Central American gang members seeking to be recognized as refugees in Mexico. It is an important project for me because this is a sector of the population that is particularly at risk in their countries of origin. Due to the high levels of violence that plague the region, teenagers are attracted or forced to join gangs to survive. Many people see migration and the possibility of being granted asylum in another country as an avenue to receive the protection they lack in their communities.

What have been the biggest challenges and the greatest satisfactions of studying in the United States?
The biggest challenge has been the language. Although I knew English before arriving in the U.S., my level of proficiency was not advanced. My English has improved since the time I started studying here. It has been satisfying to see the progress.

Tell us about how your other experiences abroad have helped you during this stage of your academic journey in Texas.
I had not experienced study abroad before attending The University of Texas at Austin.

In what ways do you expect your research to contribute to improving the relationship between the United States and Mexico and the well-being of people in both countries?
Contemporary migratory movements are complex due to the many factors that lead to forced migration, as well as the high level of vulnerability of migrants. One of the great challenges facing Mexico and the United States is the arrival of unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents. This sector of the migrant population has been recognized by both countries as a particularly vulnerable group that requires specific migration policies. My PhD research is testimony of my interest and commitment to the issue of migration. I hope to have a positive impact on the living conditions of migrants. Due to the circumstances in which irregular migration occurs in the region, it is necessary to have migration experts who, in addition to studying this phenomenon, contribute with their knowledge to improve the conditions of the migrants transiting through Mexico.

What advice would you give to other Mexican students who are considering studying in Texas?
I would advise them to trust their knowledge and experiences.  To come to Texas with an open mind in order to allow themselves the opportunity to study abroad and become enriched with thinking and seeing life differently. Most importantly, that they arrive ready to build knowledge collectively.