There are many reasons why people go to community college. Many wish to transfer to four-year universities, some want to further their education in their trade, while others do it simply for the pleasure of learning. There are a handful, though, whose reasons lie closer to their heart. They are those who follow their dreams.
For many international students in GCC, this is the case. They travel across oceans to America, the land of opportunity, where these dreams can be fulfilled. Against all odds, these students follow the call of a dream that they must heed.
For Kei Tsuruharatani, to dance is to live. Tsuruharatani, 20, is a dancer from Osaka, Japan, who felt uninspired and lost and itched for adventure.
At the young age of 17, Tsuruharatani flew across the world to Indiana to spend the last year of high school as a part of an exchange student program. It was there that he learned to speak English, and where he decided that he wanted to go to continue school in America.
Although he had fun in Indiana, it was California that Tsuruharatani wanted to experience. Already a dancer in Japan, it was a trip to California that made him decide to go to school here. “Our dance troupe [from Japan] went to Hollywood, and the dancers there were really good,” said Tsuruharatani. He just needed a school to attend.
Tsuruharatani did not know anyone in California, but remembered that his dance teacher’s dance teacher lived in Glendale. Once he found out about GCC’s venerated dance program, he applied and was enrolled in the fall of 2004.
“He hasn’t been here that long, but Kei’s already one of the top male dancers in GCC,” said Jacques Reyes, a fellow dancer who has shared the stage with Tsuruharatani in more than a dozen dance productions, including this semester’s production of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.” The two are members of the sailor singing quartet.
He plans to finish his studies and earn his Associate Degree in dance and hopefully transfer to Cal State Long Beach to further his education in dance. Still, there may be changes in his plans, because with the arts “you can never be sure [where you go] in life,” said Tsuruharatani.
Wherever life may take him, there is one thing Tsuruharatani is sure of: “I know what I want to do. I want to dance…I can’t think of anything else I would do.”
As Satoru Araki has learned, it is never too late to follow a dream. Araki, 35, was already a college graduate, working in the marketing department of a travel agency in his native country of Japan when he realized that he was not happy with his job. “I wanted to study graphic design,” Araki said, “and it was my dream to study in the United States.”
Araki felt unfulfilled with his previous occupation. “I like to create, through craft. I want to be creative,” said Araki. His job in the travel industry did none of these things, and Araki felt he needed a change. And he changed everything.
In January of 2004, against his parents’ wishes, Araki packed his things and moved to Glendale. He chose GCC because of its cheap tuition, the graphic design program, and because he believes Glendale is a safe area, he said. In the spring of 2004, Araki enrolled himself in GCC’s graphic design program.
“They have good Macintoshes and software, and the teachers have lots of experience,” said Araki of the program. At GCC, he gets to pursue his dream as an artist. “Right now we’re only doing posters, compositions [and] small things,” he said. Araki still finds it difficult to be back in school and learning in English, but he is taking ESL classes and currently has a 3.54 GPA
“He is a very serious student,” said Mariah Ribeiro, a counselor in the International Student Center. “He is very dedicated to his major and is a very motivated student.”
He hopes to finish his final year and transfer to Art Center in Pasadena or Cal State Long Beach. Afterward, he wishes to stay longer in the United States. “I want to have more experience,” he said.
Looking back at his past decisions at and experiences, he has nothing to regret. “In my age, it’s a little bit hard. In Japan it’s hard to change your life, your career, especially when you’re over 30,” said Araki. “I’m chasing my dream.”