Persevering On and Off the Court

Mariana Carvajal Torres.

Mariana Carvajan Torres, junior Honors Scholar, came to UB from Colombia to play Division I tennis.

A University Honors College student, junior communications major and member of the NCAA Division I women’s tennis team, Mariana Carvajal Torres reflects on her journey—and how far she’s come—with pride in her tenacity. “My whole life, I’ve had goals that I don’t stop working toward until I achieve them. What makes a true champion, and winner, is never giving up and always pushing forward.”

Carvajal Torres’ drive to succeed began at the start of her tennis journey at age 5, as she attended a sports training club in her hometown of Pereira, Colombia—a small city in the foothills of the Andes. Following in the footsteps of her two older brothers, she began training professionally at 14, with her father as her coach, quickly earning impressive accolades (being ranked by the International Tennis Federation and Women’s Tennis Association, and competing against Colombia’s Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, who won the Girls Division at the 2019 U.S. Open). Carvajal Torres’ path to achievement would eventually lead her to earn public speaking and online community management certifications from the Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira, a public research university, in Spring 2020—bringing her closer to her “lifelong desire” to play tennis while pursuing a communications degree.

As Carvajal Torres sought the right fit for a postsecondary education that would help her reach her goals both academically and athletically, she connected with Kristen Maines, head coach of the UB women’s tennis team. UB and four other schools subsequently offered her an “official visit.” Soon after, she was introduced to her UB teammates, all of whom hail from international cultures and backgrounds, and she chose UB. “I fell in love with UB’s campus, and the people I met as soon as I arrived,” she says. “I quickly connected with the unique and amazing players on my team and they helped ease my transition.” 

That transition, and her own bold endeavor, meant traveling to the United States to attend UB in August 2020 as an incoming Honors College freshman and Division I athlete—moving away from her family, adjusting to a new country and language, and balancing coursework and tennis training. As a freshman, Carvajal Torres began applying for internships in communications and business marketing—working closely with advisors, and browsing available opportunities through Handshake, an online career and internship information hub. “I submitted an endless number of applications for internships and received many rejections, but I didn’t give up. Rejections just meant that there was something better out there for me.”

Carvajal Torres has now gained valuable insight and opportunities serving, at various times, as a marketing and social media intern with the Honors College, a marketing intern with UB Athletics and a communications intern with Comcast Business.  This summer, she will travel to New York City as a communications/event management intern with SAP Software Solutions. Longer range, Carvajal Torres aspires to a VP position overseeing corporate communications.

When it comes to earning all-academic honors, taking on additional minors in media messaging and business administration, finding time for internships and excelling on the court, Carvajal Torres maintains her mental health by setting aside time for self-care through activities she enjoys, such as skiing, painting and updating her parents via phone. “Maintaining consistent connection with my family members helps me connect to my roots and stay grounded,” she says. 

Little Mariana playing tennis.

Mariana Carvajal Torres as a young girl playing tennis in her native Colombia, where she began attending a sports training club at age 5.

On par with her drive and determination, Carvajal Torres remains steadfast in her trajectory toward lifelong fulfillment, but she doesn’t forget about those at home. One day, she hopes to provide young women from Colombia with access to the same experiences she’s had, perhaps by helping to sponsor girls in sports, or even creating a foundation or nonprofit “that assists in providing the resources for travel, or to show the world their talent.”

She continues: “There are limited opportunities for young women in sports, but I want to show them that it’s not impossible to dream, despite not having all of the resources.

“My career path in communications can help me use my skills, my networking abilities and my connections to speak with them, to inspire them, and to share my message that they can achieve anything, just like I did.”

Story By Gina Carbone, BA ’20        
Photograph by Douglas Levere

Published March 21, 2023