Tat-Tuesday: Students share stories behind their ink

Justin Jones

Editor’s note: Tat-Tuesday is a weekly series that features students around campus and their tattoos.

Karen Dabroi


Using a sewing needle taped to a pencil, visual arts studies sophomore Karen Dabroi started DIY tattoos when she was 16. Though many students seek out professional tattoo artists with detailed designs, some do it themselves.

“I thought it was cool, but that took a long time,” Dabroi said. “So I got just tattoo needles (and) ink from an art store.”

Without the expensive tools used by professional artists, Dabroi has to figure out which designs can be visually appealing but still easily drawn with her stick-and-poke system. She is left with basic shapes tattooed across her body, but for Dabroi, each tattoo is a reflection of her in that stage of life.

“I used to like self-harm a little bit,” Dabroi said. “It’s the same effect, you know — poking yourself — but it’s kind of constructive, it’s an outlet for emotions. It’s whatever comes to mind, whatever you see, interpret as you wish.”

Ben Hsi


The meaning of the beautiful tattoo that adorns the upper arm of UT alumnus Ben His is missed by most Americans. The design is a stylized poem that’s been in his family for generations. 

“It’s been around for, I don’t know, a hundred years,” Hsi said. “The meaning is essentially ‘Have good values, pass them on and your family will be blessed.’ Each character represents what generation you are within the Hsi family.”

Hsi’s immediate family first moved to America in 1979, two years before his birth. Though the distance prevents Hsi from keeping a close relationship with his distant family, he said the tattoo serves as a connection to them.

“It reminds me of what my grandparents went through,” Hsi said. “Our family may be in different places, but they crossed different cultures and places across the world just to give us a better life.”

Regina Balmaceda


English freshman Regina Balmaceda has never lived near mountains, but her special connection to them led her to get the simple yet stylish tattoo on her thigh. 

“Every time I’ve gone (to a mountainous area) I feel invigorated,” Balmaceda said. “I use (the tattoo) to remind myself of the invigoration I feel. The energy feels very natural, very primal.”

Balmaceda did not grow up with this passion for mountainous regions, finally developing it during a profound moment in the peaks of Wyoming.

“I remember I would be hiking and I would just stop and breathe in,” Balmaceda said. “I felt stronger. That’s where I feel alive. Even though I might change, that feeling won’t. It’s always going to remind me of what that felt like.”