Architecture Student Misaki Sano Has a Design on Life

Architecture Student Misaki Sano examines model.
Architecture Student Misaki Sano examines shelter model.

(Chula Vista) Twenty-one year old Misaki Sano’s life has been full of unexpected twists and turns. Yet, she says, “it has led me to the place I need to be.”

Sano is one of the top students in Southwestern College’s Architecture Program, “Misaki is a hardworking young lady dedicated to academic excellence, leadership and achieving her goals,” said Professor Diana Arredondo.

Her road to those accolades has not been a straight one. She was born in Kawasaki, Japan, raised in Tijuana and is now a legal U.S. resident and a grateful Southwestern College architecture student.

“My story really started before I was born,” Sano says. Her father, Masayuki, was born and raised in Paraguay, but his parents were Japanese citizens. They emigrated to South America during World War II. They were not alone. A large contingent of Japanese farmers settled in Paraguay during that time.

Despite feeling more Latin than Japanese, Masayuki Sano felt a longing to investigate his Asian roots. He set out to see the world. Initially, his travels lead to relatives in Los Angeles. He fell in love with California but still had a yearning for Japan, so off he went. Once in Japan, he met his Filipina bride Maria and they had a son, Bryan. Three years later Misaki was born.

Life was not easy in Japan because Masayuki was not a Japanese citizen and the opportunities for his young family were limited. When Misaki was three he moved the family to Mexico, but his real goal was to realize a California dream. “He had three dreams, to immigrate to the United States, to own a home in California, and for his children to have a chance at a college education,” Misaki said.

Misaki’s father’s plan was to be in Tijuana for a year, two max. It ended up taking more than a decade to get approval to cross the border legally. “I saw my parents struggle all those years, working in manufacturing jobs to keep me and my brother in private school.” She said one day she came home to find her parents emotional. Her father told her that after 12 long years of waiting they were approved for permanent residency in the United States.

The Sano’s moved to Chula Vista and Misaki began attending Otay Ranch High School. After a lifetime in small private schools in Tijuana, Otay Ranch seemed huge! “It was a culture shock and overwhelming because I was not great with the language and there were so many people,” Misaki said. “In Mexico, I stayed in one class all day with the same students. At Otay Ranch, we moved to a different room for each class and there were different people in every course.” It was a challenging adjustment, but one she says prepared her for Southwestern.

Sano’s experiences led her to realize that she is creative by nature, but also practical, “With architecture, I can still be creative, but the work is, in my opinion, more stable,” she said. “I also like the deeper aspects of architecture, something I learned here at Southwestern. For example, in designing a house one must remember to think of it as a home that represents someone’s dream come true.”

Misaki says thinking more about the human aspects of design allows her creative side to kick in. In Spring 2017, Misaki led a group of students in designing and constructing a structure they had to live in for three days at the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Design Village Conference/Competition. Misaki’s commitment to the project earned her respect from faculty and peers. “She listened to her group and worked to integrate their ideas to develop a strong design,” Arredondo said.

Misaki knows that strong design can help make dreams come true. “With all the trials and the struggle, I’ve learned that hard work and perseverance does pay off in the end,” she said. “You can’t just say I want to do this or that, you have to go out and work for it!”

Even if the road is long with unexpected stops and starts along the way.