Below is our first post regarding "additional opportunities" in Japan! Our goal is to provide students and recent graduates with information on how they can come to Japan and work, intern, study or enjoy other special opportunities and programs!  We hope you enjoy this blog and we look forward to adding more soon! 

 

HOW IT MIGHT HAPPEN

On exchange in Japan, during the summer between sophomore and junior year of college, I was able to make a crucial decision about how I would focus my studies and thus what opportunities I could hope for post-grad. I wouldn't have been able to have such a valuable experience abroad if it hadn't been for my school's Center for Japanese Studies or Center for Global and Intercultural Studies.

 

So, I happen to be a post-grad student currently living in Tokyo and getting my Master's in International Security at Waseda University. The great luck of my life right now is that I was somehow able to acquire a scholarship which pays for my expenses while I finish my program. Rent, food, travel- it's all covered by my monthly stipend. You may think that I was some sort of prodigal student who specialized super heavily in some aspect of Japanese history or literature, or that I became a virtually fluent speaker of Japanese over the course of four years of college-level language study. Neither are true. I started out as a confused freshman like most of us do and eventually managed to find a more narrow focus of study within the International Studies department at my university. That focus became, in a word, Japan. 

Halfway through my sophomore year, I became aware of a class offered by one of the more prominent Asian Studies professors at my university, Professor Jon Zwicker, who is now at UC Berkeley. The class was about contemporary Japanese literature ( link to Zwicker's book about 19th century Japanese literature ---> http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674022737). I became obsessed. Actually, at first, I was hardly even showing up to the class... because I was an idiot. Zwicker's first-class-of-the-semester game was weak. He came off as a really bland dude, mostly because he was just so laid back; little did I know that he would come to be one of the most interesting, insightful, and helpful educators I ever had. Once I finally sat down and decided to take the class seriously, I realized that the authors Zwicker was assigning and the way he presented them was actually fascinating to me. I became academically preoccupied with Japan as a nation. After that semester, I made it a personal mission to study Japan as much as possible and in a multidisciplinary fashion until my graduation while still fulfilling all my other credit requirements. 

In my senior year, I had exactly zero awesome job offers from any impressive companies lined up, but Zwicker had helped nominate me for a scholarship with a Japanese organization called the ITO Foundation (http://www2.itofound.or.jp ). Somehow I managed to receive the scholarship, and now I am in Tokyo as a sponsored graduate student until at least August 2018. I officially started my residency in September, and I couldn't have been luckier. 

I guess that's sort of what I'm trying to get at here though- that you don't need luck. You don't even need to be some sort of prodigal student if you want to seize opportunities to study or work abroad in Japan or wherever it may be that you hope to go. I definitely wasn't one, at least. I just had a genuine interest in the country I was studying, and made use of the resources at my disposable- often, the internet, in terms of just doing raw research about all of the opportunities that may have been available to me. However, more importantly, I also made use of the Japanese Studies department at my school and tried to build somewhat of a personal relationship with those who had more knowledge of work, internship and scholarship positions and whose job it was to help students like me.

Though this blog will aim to be another tool for you to stay updated on this kind of information regarding Japan, the biggest piece of advice I can offer someone who wants to study or work abroad after college is to do what I did. Get in close with those at your universities who are most able and most informed in terms of being able to help you. Try to form personal relationships with professors who may have personal experience or connections relative to the field or area of the world which you are hoping to immerse yourself within or become an authority on. It may sound like kissing ass, but it's not. If you are genuinely interested in and driven towards achieving these types of opportunities, these are the kinds of things you should be naturally inclined to do. There will always be less options and even less sympathy for those who don't get out and actively pursue what they want. Additionally, your professors and departmental advisors could be crucial in helping you find and achieve opportunities even if said opportunities are not offered directly through your home institution. For example, the illustrious "Monbukagakusho" scholarships which we will discuss a bit in this post.

 

JAPANESE GOVERNMENT "MONBUKAGAKUSHO" SCHOLARSHIPS

The "Monbukagakusho," or "MEXT" scholarship, as it is often referred to, is probably the most commonly received scholarship to study and live abroad in Japan for foreigners. MEXT scholarships are provided directly through the Japanese government and are available to a wide range of students with a wide range of interests and goals- research students, undergrads, graduates, students of Japanese language, students who know zero Japanese, "special training students," and so forth.

In order to officially apply for a MEXT scholarship, you must be either recommended by a Japanese embassy or consulate general or recommended by a Japanese university directly. This doesn't mean that you have to be some standout who somehow gains the attention of their local embassy or consulate or of an overseas university. In many cases, this type of recommendation comes as a result of simply getting in touch with relevant officials and making your desire known. Portray yourself as a determined individual with a plan concerning what your time in Japan would consist of. If you've built an academic record or resume which reflects well, then it will speak for you once contact is made. 

The details regarding inner workings and later stages of the application processes for a scholarship opportunity like MEXT are quite vast and are best handled chronologically in step-by-step fashion. It can be confusing to know where to start, but for MEXT in particular, it should be the website of the actual consulate, embassy, or university that you'd hope to apply through. For example, the consulate in Detroit provides the actual application forms on the MEXT webpage part of their website ( http://www.detroit.us.emb-japan.go.jp/en/culture/mext.htm ). Similarly, Japanese universities, like Waseda University for example, which are able to be studied at as a MEXT student should have parts of their own websites which instruct readers on how to apply via the MEXT scholarship. Check this page out for specifics ( https://www.waseda.jp/inst/cie/en/to-waseda/short ).

In the meantime, if you are interested in MEXT or other opportunities like it, my advice is to, again, do your homework electronically and also get in touch with those at your home university's  relevant departments- for Asian Studies, Japanese Studies, study abroad initiatives, and so forth. If you're already graduated, then perhaps it would be best to directly consult your local embassy. However, here is a webpage which will be most helpful in discerning more general information about MEXT ( http://www.studyjapan.go.jp/en/ ).

Look forward to future posts from us and rest assured that we are here to help answer your questions should you have any, even if your plans don't necessarily include an internship with us here at Come On Out! Though we'd love to have you.

 

-Jordan Roth

 

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