This article is part of an ongoing series, in which students document their experiences, both on campus and beyond, from their unique perspective.  

Before Sydney Mitchell ’19 graduated with a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience, she traveled to the Rio Grande Valley with other students on the annual Social Justice Journey, an immersive trip during which students consider the complicated relationship among history, legacy, activism and social change. Here are a few of her reflections and photos.

Joi Torres and Alex Barron in Marfa

Director of Diversity and Inclusion Joi Torres and Associate Professor of University Studies Alex Barron go from nada to Prada. 

Outside the Prada store in Marfa

While visiting the Prada store in Marfa, we left our mark. 

Sydney Mitchell, Lilli Hime and Bianca Salinas

Lilli Hime ’19 (center), Bianca (B.) Salinas ’19 (right) and me (left) became known as the “alumni association” on the Social Justice Journey.

Marfa, Texas

A glimpse into a day-in-the-life of Marfa, Texas

Rio Grande Valley

Lynette Rucker ’22, Joy Ambrose ’22 and Valentin Padilla ’22 cool off in the Rio Grande River. Behind them is Mexico!

Big Bend National Park

Joi and Alex pose, while the rest of us cooled off in the van after canoeing 5 miles down the Rio Grande River!

Joi Torres on the Social Justice Journey

Joi contemplates the rhetoric surrounding the borders and migrants risking everything for a better life.

Social Justice Journey

A snippet of the beautiful scenery that followed us along the journey

Marathon, Texas

We stayed at Eve’s Garden, a unique bed and breakfast, in Marathon, Texas.

Marathon, Texas

There is a small observation deck on top of this building, perfect for decompressing and stargazing.

In Marathon, Texas

B. and I were up early in the morning, ready to fight racism, homophobia and transphobia, which we regularly experienced on our trip.

McAllen Public Library

Joi reads  at the largest one-story library in the nation. It was previously a WalMart and was converted into the McAllen Public Library.

2019 Social Justice Journey Group

The entire Social Justice Journey group poses outside La Posada Hotel in Laredo, Texas.

Rio Grande River

Lilli and B. collect wild sunflowers off the shore of the Rio Grande River.

International bridge over the Rio Grande River

A peek at the international bridge over the Rio Grande River

Lo Lomita Mission

B. explores the historical church, La Lomita Mission, outside her hometown.

Sydney Mitchell and Lilli Hime

Lilli and I ponder how a wall will completely destroy this beautiful ecosystem and timeless neighborhood.

The Social Justice Journey Group

Our group in front of the Rio Grande River, after a tour of the Chimney Trailer Park

More About Sydney

Where are you from? Akron, Ohio (home of Swensons and — I guess — Lebron).

Describe your life on the hilltop in three words? Invaluable, transitional, adventurous 

What was the favorite part of the trip? The structure of the trip: We began our journey canoeing at Big Bend, which is a natural “border,” then ventured to the more rigid border and checkpoints, then visited Laredo, where the border was tangible, militarized, and finally, we saw the area where the wall is to be built.

Your idea of happiness? Living a transient life, never being in a single place for too long, and simply existing with those I love the most.

What is your present state of mind? Content, while in search of my true passion.

Tea or Coffee? Tea, more specifically, iced matcha tea with coconut milk and ½ pump of coconut syrup.

What inspires you? My mentors, the people who constantly push for equity, social awareness and cultural appreciation despite their surroundings.

What are you doing post-graduation? I’m an admission counselor at St. Edward’s! 

What's your favorite part of Austin? Right now? The greenbelt ... when it isn’t dry.