Ray Nobuhara


photo by Anju Lukose-Scott


When my parents, who left Japan with one suitcase, looked outside the window, they saw a sparkling city that seemed like treasure spilling out of its box. Twenty years ago, my parents moved here to New York, United States of America. 

As time passed and my parents got used to living in NY, I was born in a NY hospital. Since my parents are Japanese, I lived without any obstacles in a life of only Japanese until I started going to school.

However, since I still did not understand English when I started going to preschool, I did not speak at all at school, and my school counselor called my parents and told them everyday that I might have a disease that would render me unable to talk and would require treatment. Since I could not make any friends, I always laid down on the bench during recess and stared up into the sky. Every time I saw classmates who were very friendly with others, I always thought, “I wish I had a friend as close as that.” Once, I tried to stand up for myself and I asked in Japanese if I can join them and play, and they looked at me, thinking that I was weird. 

My English did not improve even after entering elementary school, and I just listened to my teachers through nuance and I was trying very hard to arrange words that I knew into incomplete sentences. I did not catch up with classes, and I cried everyday after school. I started to blame myself, thinking that I might be weird. 

However, one day, something life-changing happened. That was when I was in second grade. I tested my IQ with the help of a translator. Since the result was high, I was able to get into a “gifted” program for smart students. I was proud that I finally was able to be a normal student like everyone else.

When I joined the new class, my teacher held a reading test to understand the level of reading the students were at. The book that my teacher handed me was so challenging that she told me that my level was much lower. This was because there was never before a student that had a reading level as I had. Then, my teacher told me to borrow books from the next class. My class did not have books with a reading level as low as mine.

As tears fell out of my eyes, I felt mortified and embarrassed about having to go to the next class alone. This was the start of my effort. From then on, I studied English hard. I memorized new vocabulary each and every day with my mother. I promised myself that I would read one book per week. I started watching American children shows like Goosebumps and Adventure Time rather than the Japanese ones like Doraemon and Sazae-san. I started attending tutoring in a Church nearby, and I read my homework and books out loud. Although time passed- a half year, then one year- it did not appear in my grades. However, I did not have the option to give up.

The results of studying came about after a year and a half without giving up. Then, soon before I graduated, my grades rose until I became the top few in the special class. I think that I learned from this experience that education is fun and that overcoming obstacles are necessary in life.


I am here. Now, I want to help others. I am passionately looking forward to college with the dream of becoming a doctor.

To make my dream come true.