West Coast (will secretly always be the) Best Coast



It’s been a few weeks since I’ve flown back to Sydney but I must say Oregon, you’ve done it yet again. You’ve managed to leave me with nothing but sweet memories and a heart that longs for more. There were still people I wanted to meet and places I wanted to go but at some point I had to stop trying to squeeze everything in.  My dear friend and cousin had to remind me to just go with the flow. If I preoccupy myself with trying to plan life I will definitely miss living it.

So, with that said, thank you so much Oregon for one of the best (and shortest) weeks I’ve had in a while. Miss you heaps. Here’s to another (and hopefully soon) merge in our paths.

Stay golden.

Grace Works

tumblr_inline_n9jzh5Men31qe80vk The thing I love about grace is not only its ability to get you to the next point but also its ability to get you through the current one.

You’re probably thinking, duh, if God’s grace can get you to it can definitely get you through it. However, as obvious as that statement is I don’t think a lot of people knew that. If you did, then great! But if you didn’t don’t be too bummed, the present is always the perfect time to learn from the past.
I think over the course our lives we’ve become accustomed to looking forward to for the next big moment and in doing so we end up scrutinizing and regretting our current situation as if it’s a first draft on some essay.
"Lord, if you can just get me through to the next thing…"
"I messed this up but can you help me be better next time?" 
"God, help me to last so I can make it to another day."
or even,
"Give me the strength to endure what I’m doing."
They are all good and valid but why don’t we leave room for God to show off a little? Don’t wait for another chance to come along when He can make the best out of the one you’re in. Ask Him to make this time not only bearable but enjoyable. Seek out His help to make this season, this day, this moment the most awesome yet. Then you can see for yourself how He shows up in every way you could have never imagined.

Beyond My Borders: Joe George

My name is Joe Varghese George and I have been living in Sydney for close to 6 years now. I have to take a deep breath when people here ask me where I’m from as I prepare to elaborate. I know my skin colour gives away my Indian decent but I also know that  peoples lack of knowledge of the part of the world I’m from can throw them off with what I’m about to say next. So I don’t wait around to risk misjudgment and begin my longer-than-needed explanation that starts with the fact that I was born and raised in a place called Qatar. For the ones that have a confused look at this point or the Oh-yeah-I’ve-heard-Calcutta look, I have to clarify that it’s not Calcutta but rather a separate country, an Arab one, close to Dubai. And usually after the utterance of the name Dubai, everyone starts feeling at ease and that we’re making progress. From there I move on to clarify that I’m not Arab but I am originally from India. In fact, I come from a state called Kerala in the south of India. It is sooo beautiful that you have to look it up soon after reading this.

I chose to come study at the University of New South Wales after my high school. To me it was an exciting prospect. Living life on my own terms, growing into a real man, going to this fascinating new place and meeting new people, were all the fun things I was looking forward to as an 18 year old. The first year went by so quickly. I enjoyed the thrill of being challenged with many things that I never had to do before like finding my own place to live, managing my own expenses and COOKING! Not everything was rosy all the time. In fact, I got ganged up on and beat up by a bunch of teens one day while trying to mug me in my first visit to the city. It was all so new to me, you know this attacking-you-in-public thing. I came from Qatar, I’d believed the number of educated people in Australia was more than that in Qatar, yet I had never experienced such behaviour over there. I was left traumatized for a while after that incident.  But soon after I got a job in the city, a night shift at that. It helped me slowly overcome my fears and to be bolder and better prepared to act if it ever happened again. And I guess it brings me to the best part of living in a new country all by yourself….it is the realization that life moves on and you can chose to curl up in fear or overcome it and keep up and move on to better days. Since I knew I couldn’t afford to do the former, I had to start moving again. Yeah trust me that took many moments of being stuck, being scared and being alone, feeling far from home, to be this bold. I’m grateful for all of it.

Anyway, after my first year in Sydney I went back to visit my family and other important people and I must admit it was difficult to go back to living on my own, at least on the flight back it felt terrible. But I knew that I had things to get done so I kept at it. So, through many dangers, toils and snares, I finally got over with Uni… the reason I’d come to Sydney, and I had a choice to make of what was next for me. But I soon realized that I had found a home, away from home. In fact, I’m still confused of where “home” is. I realized that over these 6 years I’ve made some great friends that I can see myself doing life with. I’ve realized that when you let yourself to be vulnerable, you find friends. You find family. Over the course of events I had to really define my beliefs and something that was important to me…I had to ask myself who God was to me and how I really saw him. I had to taste God for myself and I can say honestly, how good he has been! I’ve become my own person in Sydney, albeit my foundations were shaken and re-cast. As cliché as it sounds, I found myself. I know more about me today, than I would have ever known in the comfort of my home.

Soooooooooooo…. The big finish! Get out there while you are still young! If anything, we grow! Why not grow with some great experiences, good and bad. Experiences that make you think about the way you see others; Experiences that make you think who about you want to be; Experiences that make you appreciate life and the people in it. So I say to anyone contemplating moving out beyond your borders, whatever that may be to you, be excited about new things, excited about discovering new places, discovering new people and more interestingly discovering yourself in the process. These experiences open up your mind to see things differently. So I say to you, in the words of princess Elsa, let it go….let it go…don’t hold back any more.

Beyond My Borders:Matthew & Crystal Espie


In high school, Matthew and Crystal Espie both dreamed of heading east for college. When the high school sweethearts met in their AP Environmental Science class at Aloha High School in Beaverton, OR, they found that their college and career plans were similar. Both were interested in governance in one form or another. While Crystal was more interested in public administration, Matthew wanted to pursue a career in environmental work. During their senior years of high school, they were each admitted to American University, located in Washington, DC.

American University (AU) was appealing because of the programs it offered and its location in the US capital. AU offers strong programs in political science, international relations, environmental policy, public administration, economics, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. These are all topics that are of interest to Crystal and/or Matthew. By the end of 2014, Matthew and Crystal will have each earned a Bachelor’s degrees and a Master’s degree from AU. The decision to attend a university so far from home was not easy. Both knew that they would be leaving the friends and family that had supported them their entire lives, and would be moving to a city where they knew no one.

While Matthew and Crystal each had reservations about moving across the country, they knew that this choice would give them phenomenal opportunities. Crystal was able to pursue a double major in her undergraduate studies, intern for Senators Ron Wyden and Patty Murray, complete a fellowship with the Women’s Campaign Fund, and serve on the District of Columbia Commission for Women. Matthew had the opportunity to intern with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the UN Environment Program, and the District Department of the Environment. Matthew and Crystal also enjoy other aspects of living in the District of Columbia, including being able to participate in protests, attend President Obama’s second inauguration, and visit museums and national landmarks.

Crystal and Matthew still visit Oregon often to spend time with family and friends. One day, they plan to move back. For now, though, they enjoy the educational and professional opportunities they have in the District of Columbia. After finishing his graduate studies at American University, Matthew secured a job at the District Department of the Environment. Crystal is completing a Master’s of Public Administration while simultaneously working at AARP and serving in her third year on the DC Commission for Women.

Matthew and Crystal would encourage others who want to move away from home for college or work to go for it. They both found opportunities in the District of Columbia that they would not have had if they had chosen to attend universities closer to home. For the fields of work they wanted to pursue, DC offered the best educational and career opportunities, and they are glad that they chose to move to Washington, DC, after high school.

Beyond My Borders: Hoang Pham

My name is Hoang Pham, I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. I attended Benson Polytechnic High School and graduated in June of 2007. I then attended the University of Oregon, studied Political Science, Ethnic Studies, and Business Administration. I moved to Los Angeles from Portland after college and started Teach For America. I taught, and continue to teach 1st grade at KIPP: Empower Academy. During my first two years of teaching, I got my masters in Urban Education at Loyola Marymount University. Besides school, I love dancing, and have been breakdancing since I was in 8th grade. In L.A., I breakdance during quarter breaks and halftime with the Los Angeles Clippers Fast Break Crew. I also thoroughly enjoy cars, and run time attack road race events in Southern California.

            As I had mentioned, I moved because I was accepted into a program called Teach For America, where recently graduated college students are placed into a low-income community to teach for two or more years. I plan on teaching for another three to four, possibly five or more years, I honestly do not have a cap on teaching because I believe that there is so much to be learned about the teaching profession every single year that you have a new set of students. I also believe that I am nowhere near my vision for what a classroom should be like for black and brown kids in South Los Angeles, and am striving towards that every single day. However, post teaching, I’ve had many different thoughts of what to do. I might possibly take on a different role in education, whether a school administrator or curriculum specialist, maybe take the law school route and study education law, or possibly even run for an elected office one day. Who knows, but I do believe that whatever I’ll be doing, I will be striving towards creating spaces where people can be amazing, so amazing that they create other spaces that ultimately builds a better world for all people.

            If I could give anyone advice about moving, I would tell them two primary things. 1) When you do move, make sure that wherever you are moving to have a job waiting for you there. The biggest difficulty with moving is uncertainty with how you will be paying for everything, so when you move, move for the purpose of a job, or schooling, or a career promotion. This way, there is a reason that you are moving where you are going to, not just because you got bored one day and decided that you wanted to move there, that would be the thing you should not do. 2) To be honest, regardless of where you move, you’ll get a chance to experience whatever that place is known for plus a whole lot more. But after awhile, it is really the people that keep you happy and wanting to stay somewhere, not the job opportunities, not the night life, not the food, not the weather, the people. More than anything else people keep you where you are at. You can get everything else for the most part, but the one thing you cannot replace are people who deeply care about you, and are there when you need them the most. Thus, if you do plan on moving, keep in mind that either you might want to keep your friends and family nearby, but maybe that you also should establish strong networks of amazing people like yourself sooner than later wherever you choose to move.

            I could probably tell you a million other things about life, but I myself am still trying to figure out so much, and this will be always true, because we are never done learning about ourselves, or the world around us. One of my mentors last Summer asked me a pivotal question that gave me a great understanding of how to view the things in and around my life. He did not ask me what I wanted to be, as that would assume that we seek a position. Positions, in its entirety are temporary. You hold positions for duration of time, but once that duration is over something else shall come along. You must ask yourself, what do you want to change, because the answer to that question will keep you inspired and motivated for the rest of your life.

Beyond My Borders: Tyler & Jordan Dardis


Jordan and I both grew up in the Portland area. We met in high school and went on to study at Oregon State University together. We both knew we wanted to be together and in 2011 we finally married. In our last year of college we began planning what we would do after graduating. As much as we loved Oregon, we knew we wanted to move somewhere new. We talked about various places we could go, and as soon as we brought up Alaska, we knew that was it. We both love the outdoors, the mountains, the snow… Alaska had everything.

It was important to us to set a date to move by because we knew we could be sitting around the rest of our lives for the perfect time, which may never have come. So on July 22nd, we packed up the car, grabbed our puppy and headed to Anchorage. When we arrived we pitched our tent and started looking for jobs. After about a month, I was offered a job by my top choice organization in Anchorage. We found a great place to live with a big yard for our dog, and soon after, Jordan was able to move into a position where she could apply her degree in design.

This year we’ve spent in Alaska has been incredible. It definitely pushed me far outside of my comfort zone, which was scary but awesome at the same time. We both were given opportunities we wouldn’t have had in Oregon. We have been able to see and do things that we wouldn’t have been able to see or do in Oregon. It was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We both truly believe that everybody should travel and experience a new place in their lives. It doesn’t take a lot of money or tons of planning. It just takes willingness to get up and go. In hindsight, the month we spent living in a tent was just a small sacrifice for the amazing experience we have had here. We are not sure how long we will be here or where we will go next, but we will always have this experience for the rest of our lives.

Beyond My Border: Sylvia Onyeagusi

Hey bloggers!!! (LOL)

My name is Sylvia Onyeagusi. I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. I moved to the U.S. in 2010 for college, started off in Louisiana, moved to Oregon where I had family for an average of 2yrs and now I’m back in Louisiana pursuing a career in nursing. When people as ask me why I decided to move to Louisiana I just say because I think this is where God wants me to be, which has to be true. To add to that, I’m in a really good nursing program and it’s been good.

Change is constant and we can’t avoid it. I would say that moving isn’t as bad as it may seem. Although it is stressful to settle in a new environment and get acquainted with new people it’s worth it once you get your feet wet. For anybody looking to move for whatever reason, I would advise you never to move out of impulse, don’t make a permanent decision (not so permanent, depends on how you look at it) based on a temporary situation. Did I already say plan ahead of time? Absolutely, you have to. Also, keep in touch with your old friends and family. Lastly, maintain your relationship with God, it gets tough when you are out there without family or people you can confide in. One of the ways I find I coped and still use to cope is getting into a really good bible-believing church, not like I didn’t have that before, but keeping up with it, just having a good relationship with God, we all need him. It’s your experience, it’s your journey, don’t forget to have fun.

P.s. to my Nigerians: go find where all the other Nigerians hang out, do it before summer rolls along. Hint: Jollof rice.

Beyond My Borders: Joe Vassel

I’m originally from Long Island and went to the University of Southern California where I majored in Business Administration and Marketing. I graduated in May of 2012 and worked at a technical recruiting firm before transitioning over to a sales/client services role at a digital advertising firm. I made the drastic move from Los Angeles to New York earlier this month and it definitely came with its fair share of uncertainty.

Although I technically moved “back home” after living in LA for 6 years, it was not an easy decision to leave sunny California. It was very comfortable living in LA, since most of my friends from college stayed after graduation. But I’m 24 years old and am too young and restless to live somewhere just because it’s easy. Growing up, I’ve always wanted to live in Manhattan and I had the opportunity to transfer offices with the current company I am working for. What better time to make the move than now? You’ll never be 100% certain that you are making the “right” choice but you have to put yourself out there and just go for it. The experience will just make you that much more well-rounded and cultured.

When I told my friends in LA that I was moving to New York, I had a lot of people asking “But why would you leave the great weather”, saying “You’re going to experience winter and come back in a heartbeat”, and letting me know how abrasive the people that live in NY are. Hey… maybe I will move back, maybe I won’t. But maybe I will love it and never leave. If I didn’t do this then there would have always been that little voice in the back of my head saying “What if?” Don’t let anyone make you second guess yourself.  You only live once (yes, this phrase is very played out but at least I didn’t say #yolo).

Get out there and experience the world people! You won’t regret it.