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A Transborder Grad Student Is Using Facebook To Help Others With Their Daily Border Crossings

School has always been a challenge for Vanessa Falcon. Getting to class means navigating her way through the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the largest land border crossing in the world. Many other students live this “transborder lifestyle,” having to cross the US-Mexico border daily to go to school and work. With recent hostility at the border, it has drastically impacted their daily lives. That’s why Falcon, who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at San Diego State University, started the Facebook group Estudiantes Transfronterizos (Transborder Students). The group helps students navigate border-related challenges including long waits and border closures. Yet for Falcon, this lifestyle began way before college.

Falcon has been living a transborder lifestyle since she was 12 years old.

CREDIT: Credit: Vanessa Falcon

Born in Los Angeles, Falcon was always transitioning from one side of the border to the other. Her mother and father, who are Mexican and Peruvian respectively, frequently moved from San Diego to Tijuana due to economic hardships. They would eventually buy a trailer home, which transported them between their lives in San Diego and Tijuana. Falcon began crossing the border daily in the 6th grade, which she says was a personal decision due to many factors including quality in education and cultural identity.

Falcon recalls dealing with homelessness and early 4 a.m. starts to her day just to make it to school. She recollects long days waiting in her family’s car during school for time to pass and nights when food wasn’t always on the table. Falcon credits those hardships for making her who she is today more than ever and says they represented not only her lifestyle but her cultural identity.

“During 6th grade, I started crossing the border for school on a regular basis and it made living arrangements hard,” Falcon said. “It was challenging but now I draw a lot from that. It was definitely more of a choice than necessity but it became part of who I am today.”

Fast forward to today, Falcon is using those experiences to help others navigate through cross-border challenges.

CREDIT: Credit: Vanessa Falcon

As Falcon pursues her doctoral degrees in the joint Ph.D. in Education Program at SDSU and Claremont Graduate University, she is helping the transborder community in the San Diego-Tijuana border region. Upon starting her studies at SDSU, Falcon felt compelled to help others that were going through similar daily journeys across the border.

In 2015, she began the Facebook group Estudiantes Transfronterizos, which grew into a student group at SDSU called the Transfronterizx Alliance Student Organization (TASO). Officially recognized by SDSU in 2017, the organization focuses on creating an inclusive campus environment for transborder students on campus by connecting them with others who live a similar lifestyle.

“You can meet virtually, and now in person, which has created a small community here at SDSU,” Falcon says. “I wanted to accomplish three things here: Having a place where we can engage, having a safe space where we can discuss our lives and creating a culture where we can discuss these relevant daily challenges.”

Students say their experiences crossing the border every day means enduring intense scrutiny and discriminatory practices from Border Patrol agents. A 2015-2016 study found that young people who’ve lived and studied in two countries from San Diego and Tijuana were at a higher risk for depression than other students.

TASO gives SDSU students who live a transborder life an opportunity to share their experiences, identity, and culture.

CREDIT: CREDIT: Vanessa Falcon

TASO has helped create an inclusive community on the SDSU campus that has gone beyond just a Facebook group but an organization putting together services for transborder students. During the 2017-2018 academic year, the organization hosted a transborder studies lecture series where speakers describe their own experiences as transborder students. The group has also utilized Facebook Live to stream content for transborder students who couldn’t attend in person.

“We’ve had live streams of lectures if a student can’t arrive at campus due to border-related challenges,” Falcon says. “We’re creating a community that was once invisible to many and are getting to share our stories along the way.”

The Facebook group has also given students the opportunity to network among each other when it comes to logistics. Some offer to carpool with other transborder students and post regular updates if there are major stalls crossing the border.

Due to recent closures at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, wait times can extend to several hours long.

CREDIT: CREDIT: Vanessa Falcon

Falcon says recent border closings caused by the Trump administration and the migrant caravan residing in nearby Tijuana have added to already long wait times crossing the San Ysidro Port of Entry. She describes the scene at the border as more militarized with a larger presence of police than in the past.

“There is militarization going on everywhere at the border. Just 3 weeks ago it seemed like we were at a war zone,” Falcon says. “The border has become intense and we see the suffering of refugees at the border and that has resulted in four-hour waits just to enter.”

A letter recently sent out by SDSU’s Dean of Students Randy Timm acknowledged some of the problems students are facing due to the border closures. The letter showed support for transborder students and offered assistance on the campus. Falcon notes this is a step in the right direction in terms of institutions recognizing transborder students.

Falcon is hoping to create a larger community of transborder students that she hopes will help others navigate their daily lives easier.

CREDIT: CREDIT: Vanessa Falcon

Just last year, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) opened up its own TASO chapter on its campus where the group has begun mentorship and educational programs for transborder students. Both chapters hope to work with each other and expand to other universities in border states. Falcon says she could have never imagined the Facebook group growing the way it did. She says there are plans to pilot a transborder students ally training program at SDSU, where she will use research to train students and staff about this lifestyle.

“I want people to understand our experiences and be educated on the daily journeys that we go through,” Falcon said. “I want to teach online through Facebook and make the program accessible to all.”

Falcon says living a transborder lifestyle has given her not just an education but an appreciation of her Latina background and identity. She hopes TASO can encourage legislative changes that improve the lives for transborder students like creating a specific student lane at the U.S border.

“We still live in the margins and our experiences are often not acknowledged,” Falcon says. “We are trying to make a difference on both sides of the border and we are just seeing the potential we have as transborder students to help both sides of our communities.”


READ: Congress Members Camp Out With Asylum Seekers Including Honduran Mother And Children In Viral Tear Gas Photo

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21 Ways To Stay Accountable And Motivated About Your Fitness Goals For 2019

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21 Ways To Stay Accountable And Motivated About Your Fitness Goals For 2019

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With every new year comes the idea that we will somehow magically transform into a dream version of who we want to be. We want to be a better person, a healthier person, a person that doesn’t slump around the world unmotivated. The way we become a healthier person is obviously one of the biggest struggles that people deal with every day, and that we vow to change on Jan. 1. However, becoming a new you — while it may seem sort of impossible — is doable, and if you want it bad enough change is possible if you allow it to be.

In order to figure out how to accomplish our fitness goals for the new year, we didn’t speak to trainers or health nuts. We spoke to real people, with real lives, who are not consumed with fitness 24/7 but are somehow doing it. They are staying fit, eating better, making time to work out all the while holding down a full-time job, raising kids, and living life.

So here are 21 tips from real people about how to stay accountable and motivated about your fitness goals.

1. Write down your fitness goals.

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Before beginning any project, it’s important to tell yourself what your intentions are. It’s even more important if you write them down. Taking time to visualize your goals and journaling what you want in life will show you how important making changes is. If you’re not taking it seriously, you’re never going to be able to stick to goals. Be intentional and write it down.

2. Set short term goals.

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If you try to pursue your health in extreme ways, such as saying you’re going to lose 50 pounds in six months, you’re only going to disappoint yourself. Be realistic in the sense that you will tell yourself “this week I will workout three times, and only have one cheat day.” Make your bigger goals smaller so you can accomplish them. You can also give yourself a goal of feeling better in those tight jeans. You’ll get far within your goals if you remain practical.

3. Stay away from toxic people.

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Before you read this as a judgment call not to drink, let us explain. For a second, just think about people in your life that love to have not one or two, but three or four drinks, sometimes every night. The person that loves to see you at Happy Hour, or that friend that loves getting a quick meal in the drive-thru lane, may not be the kind of people you want around on a daily basis if you are trying for certain goals.

If there are people around you that don’t mind making unhealthy choices and are totally okay with taking you on their journey, ask yourself: is that the path I want? If the answer is no, try to distance yourself from going to that Happy Hour, perhaps suggest bowling or karaoke, some kind of activity that doesn’t revolve around drinking.

Having a glass of wine or beer isn’t harmful, but it’s all about moderation and understanding that each glass carries loads of calories. If you’re going to go out to dinner think about what you rather have: a drink or dessert. Try opting for one indulgence instead of two.

4. Limit your social media time.

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People have replaced being lazy on the couch to spending time on their phone. If you cut back on screen time and instead take a walk at the mall or around town, not only will you be more active, but you also won’t get bogged down with images that can sometimes be damaging to your self-esteem.

5. Be good to yourself: Leave inspirational notes around your house.

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Since you have already journaled what your fitness goals are, remind yourself of what they are by making notes and placing them around your house. You don’t want to force yourself to go for a run if you’re not feeling it, but it would be nice to read a note that read: “you love the feeling of your hair blowing in the wind” or “that J.Lo song will really push you to get out there and do it.” It’s important that you stay motivated by being kind to yourself, not feeling bad if you didn’t work out, but know that you will try again tomorrow.

“Keep those sneakers by the front door, instead of in a closet, so they are ready to go,” a friend told me once. “It will remind you of your goal and keep you from procrastinating and losing momentum by searching for them.”

6. Don’t do exercises that are too difficult. Be active by doing activities that you enjoy.

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Don’t believe that 2 months at Barry’s Bootcamp is going to change your life, although for some it might. The last thing you want is to cause harm to your body. We know plenty of people that push themselves to do CrossFit training and end up getting hurt.

If you love to dance, join dance classes or Zumba. If you love to walk but find it boring, go somewhere that it’s scenic. You can easily adjust your activity by doing things you like to do.

7. Follow inspirational, fitness-minded people on social media.

CREDIT: Instagram/@robinnyc

There are so many incredible people on social media that are great to follow, simply because they can provide tips and inspire you to be healthier. Robin Arzon is one of those people that knows how to balance her fitness account with a lot of fun and educational posts.

8. Be practical about your fitness goals.

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Find what works best for you. Maybe self-motivating is tough and you need some accountability. Find a personal trainer that you can check in with once or twice and week and use what they teach you to continue your fitness journey for the rest of the week. Don’t worry about the number on the scale. Muscle weighs more than fat so the number will fluctuate depending on what exercises you are doing. It is all about how you feel in your own skin.

9. Think of that gym membership as a real investment in yourself.

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“Another thing that’s been motivating me is how much I’m paying for my membership,” a friend, who’s recently lost weight and kept it off, told me. “I work out more often to make sure I get my money’s worth. I’m also looking at it as an investment in myself and my health instead of ‘damn I’m paying so much.'”

10. Don’t compare yourself to anyone, especially celebrities.

CREDIT: Instagram/@kimkardashian

If you’re following Kim Kardashian and her sisters on Instagram while you’re trying to get fit, you’re only going to be doing yourself a disservice. Your body is yours, and no one else’s, nor should it look like anyone else’s. Figure out the goals you want to meet this year and work out towards those goals and your body.

11. Motivation is the spark but determination is the fuel.

CREDIT: Instagram/@jasondjarrell

Being motivated to work out and eat healthily is key. Being determined takes more energy, and that’s the energy you’re going to need to not lose sight of what you want in life.

12. Measure your foods.

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It seems simple but this is one thing that can quickly be annoying. Remember that without proper balance you will just have a life without structure, and that can be really self-destructive. In order to eat what you want and avoid gaining weight try cutting out the excess. For example, if you’re craving fries, don’t go to McDonald’s and buy a large portion, instead go to the grocery store and buy sweet potato fries.

13. Do not get discouraged if you don’t see results right away.

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You are creating a new lifestyle and eating habit. You aren’t doing something temporarily if you want to make big changes in your health and body.

“Go at your own pace,” a friend told me. “It takes time to see results so be patient. It took me some time to get used to a different way of eating and changing my diet but don’t give up. It’s all worth it in the end because diet plays a big role in achieving fitness goals.”

14. Have cheat days, but don’t go overboard.

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Allow yourself to have some of the treats you love in moderation. Save those treats for a cheat day or cheat meal. We’ve been told that having a cheat day once a week is the way to go. “Sunday’s are the best day to do it,” a friend told me. “Typically when you have a cheat day on a Friday or Saturday it will carry over into the other weekend days.” So sticking to Sunday’s are best.

15. Don’t force yourself to eat healthy foods that you don’t like to eat. Stick to what tastes good.

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Just because some diets require that you eat loads of greens doesn’t mean you have to. If you don’t like spinach don’t eat. If you like kale instead, stick to that. Eating foods that you don’t enjoy won’t make eating a good experience, but if you substitute them with healthy foods you do like, well that’s just a win-win.

16. Plan your workouts around your real schedule.

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Don’t force an unnatural habit that you cannot sustain. Some find that working out at lunch during work is better for them. Some can wake up at 4 a.m. to work out before getting the kids off to school or starting work. It might even be better for you to work out after work in the evening at home. Do what is best for you that you can sustain.

17. Think of staying healthy without an end date: you’re making a lifestyle change.

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If you tell yourself that after a certain date you will have met your goal and then go back to your old unhealthy ways, you can forget the whole thing right now. The point of being healthy is to stay healthy. Yes, it’s hard work, but you will ultimately feel better about yourself and wonder how you could have ever lived in any other way.

18. Name your biggest indulgence and alternate it in a way that will be healthy.

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If you love the Real Housewives or binging on Netflix go right ahead and do it. However, why not watch TV while doing some sit-ups in front of the TV or lunges. Working out while watching TV will make you feel proactive.

If your vice is eating chocolate, try substituting it small pieces of dark chocolate. If you like wine, there are low-calorie wines on the market. There are always ways to take a bad thing and turn into a positive.

19. Take every other day off. If you’re tired, rest.

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A huge part of being healthy is being good to yourself. It’s a great thing to push yourself to reach your goals, but being kind to yourself is sometimes harder than you think. Working out every other day is a good thing; resting and getting a good night’s sleep is also really good for your body and mental health.

20. Measure backward so you can see your progress.

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Take a look at your accomplishments from the prior week and setting your goals for the following week to slightly improve those stats. So, if you’re seeking constant gradual improvement instead of trying to become a new person right away, you are slowly becoming a whole new you. 

Here’s an example on how to measure your progress backward, a goal this week could be to everyday unfold the yoga mat, sit on it and stretch. Then at the end of the week, look back and see if you actually did it. Give yourself bonus points for tracking visually on a calendar or something. If it went well, add two yoga poses to the goal for the next week. If it didn’t, re-adjust to attainable goals so you can follow through on them and celebrate the accomplishments.

21. Remember being healthier is about taking care of yourself so you can feel better.

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You’re not losing weight just so you can impress the world with your new body. Don’t be that shallow! You want to be healthy so you can be happy. Life is too short to just sit around drinking all day, eating bad food, and watching TV. Once you realize how important you are, you’ll want to be out there living it.


READ: The Top Latino Fitness Bloggers You Need To Inspire Your Dieta 

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