International Alumni: Where are They Now?

Catching up with Kelvin Ma

Once you’re a Longhorn, you’re always a Longhorn. And we are so happy when alumni come back to tell us where their experience at UT has taken them in their personal and professional lives.

Alumnus Kelvin Ma dropped by during a recent visit to campus to tell us about his experience as an international student at The University of Texas at Austin and what he is doing now.

Originally from Shanghai, China, Kelvin received his Master’s in Sociology from UT Austin in 2004. He went on to Law School at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is now an attorney with De Mei Law Firm working in various areas of US immigration law. He currently leads the UT alumni chapter in Shanghai.

We caught up with Kelvin at one of his favorite local spots: Madam Mam’s.

Why did you choose UT Austin? 

UT is among the best schools that I applied. The sociology department was ranked in the top 15 in the country, and that was the area that I was interested in -- Law and Society. Also, I was lucky enough to receive a Teaching Assistantship, which helped with tuition and living expenses for an international student from a developing country.

What was your most memorable moment at UT?

The moment I got on the top floor of Main Building. Seeing the entire campus and city from the highest building is quite amazing. 

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments, personally and professionally?

Personally, I am proud to have survived two years in a foreign country. It was my first time ever to be abroad. I did not go home to visit my parents until the third semester was over. Also, I worked as a teaching assistant for 4 semesters and fed myself with the stipend. Professionally, I am proud that I successfully got my master's degree in 2 years' time in a new area and in a second language. My TA position also helped me to become a leader. 

How did your education at UT Austin prepare you for your career?

My undergraduate major in China was law. I studied law and society at UT and found that I needed to learn more about the legal system in the US. So I went to law school at University of Wisconsin-Madison. After that I took the bar exam and became a lawyer. So UT helped me develop my professional interest and prepared me for law school and my legal career.

What do you enjoy the most about your current position?

I enjoy that I can utilize my advantages in my career. I am admitted to three jurisdictions to practice law, New York, Wisconsin and China. I help Chinese investors invest in the US in exchange for their permanent resident status. My understanding of both US and China helps me greatly and makes me the person I am today.

Why and how do you remain connected to UT?

I would not have become the person I am today without my two years at UT. I am always happy to give back to my alma mater. Shanghai has a lot of UT alumni and I am honored to do something for UT in Shanghai. 

How would you encourage other alumni living abroad to connect with other Longhorns abroad? 

Technology makes it very easy to stay connected. We set up a WeChat group and keep recruiting alumni. Now we have close to 100 alumni in Shanghai. We host alumni events so that we can meet each other. We are all really looking forward to when the UT Men's Basketball team visits Shanghai in November this year. It will be a great opportunity for alumni to get together and let Shanghai experience the Longhorn spirit!

What advice do you have for international students interested in attending UT Austin? 

Explore the unknown. Studying abroad is very challenging and very exciting. Try to adapt yourself to both life and study as soon as possible. Then enjoy your time at UT. There is so much to do in Austin: music, road trips, etc. Intermingling with local and other international students is also a good way to avoid getting homesick. Life is short. Try to make yourself happy every day. 

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Interview by Fiona Mazurenko