Member Features

Every week, we track down some of our most interesting members and ask them what makes them tick, what their passions are, and what their plans are for this world of ours. We were all surprised by the amount of knowledge, wit, and vulnerability put into these features. Cheers to some of the most forward thinking brains of our generation. 

 
 
 

Dara Ladjevardian – Houston, Texas
Expat Society Georgetown

My grandfather taught me to believe in the worth of every human being. Growing up in a Persian household, my parents continuously reminded me to seek opportunities with a sense of purpose. That's pretty much what every Persian parent does, but I listened anyways. From learning hit songs like "I Got A Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas on the piano, to getting wrecked literally everyday at football practice on the offensive line, I tried to take advantage of... [read more]

 

Will Detwiler – Brooklyn, New York
Expat Society Georgetown

I love car rides with other people. Across the world, under the roofs of cars I’ve had some of the best conversations of my life for one simple reason—there is nothing better to do. Growing up, in the car with my mom, all roads led to one reoccurring discussion: When we win the lottery, how we are going to spend the money. In the car with my dad, we would always return to the mental blackboard of what company we are going to start.As I’ve grown up and changed and developed, I’ve always carried one trait on my back. I become passionate about... [read more]

 

MacKenna Strange – Malibu, California
Expat Society Georgetown


My brother Johnny was a superhero. Most of the time he was at our home in Malibu, hanging out in the jacuzzi or on the couch watching movies, constantly with takeout food around him. He was one of the only people in the world who shared my ridiculous sense of humor. He couldn’t go a day without playing a joke on someone. Once, I felt like I was getting sick but still wanted to go to the beach with him and some friends, so I asked him to... [read more]

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Fares Sebai – Aleppo, Syria

There's a real fear and there has been for a long time. I actually still have grandparents in the capital right now, in Damascus. It’s relatively safe because it’s government-controlled and the security is tight. But when I talk to my grandparents on the phone, they tell me how they can hear everything. They can hear the missiles and the fighting going on only five kilometers away from where they are. They can’t sleep at night because of the mortars firing constantly. When I was younger, I had a friend who used to take...[read more]

 

Sammy Sawaf – Aleppo, Syria

I'm proud to be Syrian-American. I feel like people have different reactions when I say that I'm Syrian. Some people think negative things - a lot of people think negative things. Most people think that they know enough about the issue when they don't. People think it's the same as Iraq or Afghanistan, but they don't know the scale of the tragedy where there are half a million reported deaths, but in reality, it could be upwards to a million. The ignorance of the west has made the situation so much worse...[read more]

 

Malak Raihani – Casablanca, Morocco

I've definitely already hit about 10 mid-life crises. Let me explain. Palma de Mallorca - 2006. I was on summer vacation with my parents, who were married at the time, and my older brother. The entire vacation is a blur since it was so long ago - but there was this one raw moment that marked me. We were riding these beautiful mountain bikes around the island. My mother and I were going wild, paying...[read more]

 

Pedro Salles Leite – São Paulo, Brazil

"Don't drive fast over the speed bump, Dad! I'll lose my idea." And with that, I was back where I love to be - down the rabbit hole, my mind in a frenzy of ideas. Daydreaming is often regarded as a waste of time, and according to one of my teachers, petit mal seizures. 'Consider having him tested,' my parents were advised. But it's in my dreaming that I find possibilities, ideas, solutions, and stories... [read more]

 

Olive Numeroff – New York, New York 

I must have been Chinese in my past life. I was on track to sign with Israel to skate for them in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. I was only an 8th grader at the time, so it was all very exciting. In May of that year, however, I was getting out of the car to go to school when I had stepped into a pothole, breaking both of my feet. After that, I was in a wheelchair for two and a half months. This incident marked...[read more]

 

Alex Carvalho – Huntington Beach, California 

I'm just a little Asian boy trying to get pitted. My dad grew up surfing in Rio. So, when I was 4 years old, my dad put me and my brother on a shortboard and told us that we had an hour to stand up or else we wouldn't get dinner. After about an hour, I managed to get up on my knees, and I got to go home and eat dinner - which was mac and cheese, the best thing ever. After that, I just kept doing it. Surfing is something that I just fell in love with. I competed throughout middle school and high school. And my sophomore year in...[read more]

 

Daniela Bao – Lima, Peru

I had the amazing opportunity to intern at The Little Market,  which is an online fair trade shop founded by Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla. Customers can buy gorgeous handmade products by artisans in developing countries all over the world, which really generates meaningful income for these artisans and their families. Even though Lauren Conrad is my boss - which is pretty awesome - the business model is what is so appealing to me. I feel like this organization is almost catered to me in fulfilling all the niches that I am most passionate...[read more]

 

 

Massi Pagnotta – Rome, Italy

My stroke was butterfly. I used to be a very, very competitive swimmer. I had been doing it since I was 4 years old. There was a point in my life when it was so competitive and I loved it. I had qualified for the European championships and with that came a very rigorous schedule. I would have to wake up at 5a.m. for a two-hour practice, change, then go to school, then go to practice again. There was even...[read more]                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Jaycie Luo – Bay Area, California

I actually was never that involved in film. It wasn't something that my parents and I were familiar with until I came to USC. After getting into Marshall and taking more cinema classes though, I finally decided to pick up a cinema minor. I think it took so long for me to pick up the minor because it wasn't the practical thing to do. My mom has always been really adamant about how important grades and success were, but once my parents say how interest I was in the film industry, they really turned around and supported me. Right now, I'm in the process of...[read more]

 

Xavier Di Petta – Shepparton, Australia

When I was 10 years old, my cousin showed me this hilarious video on MySpace. It was a video of these two average guys lip-syncing the Pokémon theme song with 20 million views. And growing up in Australia, my dream was to be an actor and move out to LA. So after watching this, I decided to make my own YouTube videos. They were these terrible comedy sketches where I was the only character in them. I wrote them, directed them - everything. And they were just absolutely horrible, but I was so bad, it was funny. After 3 months...[read more]

 

                                                                                                    

Rachel Chang – Shanghai, China

When I was in the 7th grade, both of my parents moved to Taiwan and left my brother and I in Shanghai. At the time, I didn’t think it was abnormal that my parents didn’t come home every night. This was until I went over to some friend’s house and realized it was normal for them to have dinner with their parents every night. I think, because my house was always quite empty, it made me resent my parents and the idea of home. But I understood it wasn’t because they didn’t care for me or love me, it was just... [read more]

 

Jeronimo Arrigunaga – Mexico City, Mexico

"Justin Bieber! Justin Bieber!” They were following me all around Bangkok, grabbing onto my shirt, and taking photos of me. It was about three years ago. I was a skinny, short-haired 17 year old traveling around Thailand for a family vacation. Our trip began in Bangkok, where we stayed for a couple of nights, Naturally, we decided to go out. We hit a few clubs, until we found a place that’d make us want to stay. The first few clubs and strip clubs were a miss – nothing exciting was going on. The night seemed relatively calm – that was until we... [read more]

 
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Aaliya Amrin – Hong Kong

Dance was an excuse to misbehave beautifully. I used to do it just for kicks in high school, little gigs here and there, but I never trained. I didn't actually compete and perform with teams until college. Grueling practice regimens and sleepless nights leading up to competition season eventually took its toll. I remember I took a semester off from dance my sophomore year and that the first time in college where I felt off my game... [read more]

 
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Felipe Parra – Lagos, Nigeria

"This one's fucking gnarly. My father was the CEO of a company in Africa. This was during the Bush presidency, when there were crazy stories about the militarization of Africa and western exploitation of oil. My father's company had asked him to come turn around one of their subsidiaries which was $200 billion in the hole. However from the minute we arrived, I realized that we were in a "fucked situation"... [read more]

 
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Baron Chuahiong – Manila, Philipines 

What motivates me is that innate feeling that I have to do something. I feel that everyone has been given so much, but it's about what you choose to make out of it. Since I was a kid I have been very concerned about why am I here, what am I doing – I had an existential cris since I was born. I can't just sit around and watch TC and each popcorn, I'm not that type of person. When I was 12... [read more]

 
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Luca Bianchessi – Milano, Italy

As an Expat, there have been times when being far from home has been very hard. One of the hardest times was after winter break of freshman year, when I was still at UC Irvine. I had gone with my family to vacation in the Dominican Republic and returning to school was hard and unsettling. It was the first time that I got homesick. I had the irrational thought that I had cut off all the bridges to home and that I was never going to be able to go back... [read more]