Playing a collegiate sport while balancing classes is difficult enough, but add to that that you are new at the game and new in the country, makes the fact that Aya Nakano is the volleyball team’s leading hitter all the more remarkable.
Aya Nakano, 20, is a freshman outside hitter for the Glendale College Lady Vaquero volleyball team. She is an aviation major and an international student from Japan.
Nakano was raised in the small, countryside town of Nye, Japan. She started playing volleyball in junior high school and played all throughout high school.
When she came to Glendale she enrolled in the college without the thought of playing a collegiate sport. She enrolled in the volleyball physical education class, where her instructor told her that she should try out for the volleyball team. It was a perfect match.
Taking five classes is a difficult task, but doing it in a foreign country requires Herculean effort.
“I’m an international student so I need more time to deal with my studies compared with other students, so I’m always fighting sleep in class,” says Nakano.
Off the court Nakano is just your typical student. Social Science is Nakano’s favorite class. She says, “I’m enjoying social science during this semester because I can look at different prospective then my own country.”
Nakano says that her favorite things to do outside of school and volleyball are hanging out with friends, listening to music and watching television.
Nakano is also a fun player to watch on the court. With all the negative headlines in the world of sports it is refreshing to be able to watch someone who is clearly having a really good time playing a game.
Athletes in America seem to live and die with how they play or whether their team wins or loses. Whether Nakano makes an amazing play (a regular sight) or if she has a miss-hit, she always has a smile on her face.
For Nakano, who didn’t know any English before coming to GCC, volleyball is all about having fun with her teammates. “[My favorite thing about playing is] my teammates and the team play,” Nakano says.
“[Nakano’s] tenacity and positive attitude always shine through,” said volleyball Coach Yvette Ybarra.
“[She] brings a positive attitude and a strong will. She wants to give it her all and when she is having trouble in one area she finds another area to contribute. She has a good sense of the court, which I think helps the team.”
Playing volleyball in America seems to fit Nakano very well. Although she faces many difficulties not normally experienced by American students, such as a language barrier, she has done a great job facing them.
Nakano says that her favorite thing about going to school in another country is “that I can learn a lot of new knowledge from the people who have a different culture, race, or religion.”
After her time at Glendale, Nakano is not entirely sure of her plans. If she has the opportunity to take her volleyball skills to a four-year institution that would be something that she would really consider.
“I want to keep playing volleyball at a university in this country if I get the chance because I just love playing,” Nakano says enthusiastically.
However, she is unsure if she wants to continue her education in this country or go back home to Japan after her studies at Glendale. “I’m studying aviation because [I was thinking] I was going to be a flight attendant; however, now I’m thinking about transfering to Japanese University after I graduate from GCC,” Nakano said.
It is very refreshing in this day and age to see someone who not only enjoys the challenge of playing a sport in another country but also plays the right way. Nakano is a role model despite her language challenges.