Who or what inspires you to strive for a higher education?

I watched my mother raise the hand that held the knife to wipe the tears falling down her cheek. “It’s just the onions,” she said, and then she continued chopping. Though I was only at the tender age of seven, I already knew better.

I am a hybrid of the Japanese and Filipino; however, for the most part I would call myself pinay. I was born and raised by my Filipina mother in the Philippines, the Third World country I call home. At seven years old, it came as a shock to me that I had to move to Japan. That undiscovered half of myself was finally going to be “unraveled.” Needless to say, calling it “unraveling” -- much like how a child tenderly untangles the ribbon of a present, gently picking at the taped edges of the wrapper to finally reveal an innocent porcelain doll -- was a bit of an understatement. My change of address was a ticking time bomb of culture shock wrapped deviously in origami paper.

Somewhat predictably, it exploded in my face upon my arrival. To put it simply, I didn’t fit in. I struggled through a year in a local Japanese school with merely three words of nihongo to communicate with -- although I did learn one more word from my classmates: gaijin. One day, my mom decided to cook sinigang soup on a cold night...

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