With Japan’s picturesque cityscapes, unique culture, and natural wonders, Japan has become one of the top tourist destinations for Malaysians. But did you know that a lot of Malaysian students don’t just visit the land of the rising sun but stay longer as international students? In fact, in a survey of where international students in Japan come from, Malaysia nabbed the 10th spot, with at least 2,897 Malaysian students in higher education in 2018. 

Scholarships for Malaysians to study abroad in Japan are also available, such as the Japanese Government’s Monbukagakusho Scholarship, also known as the MEXT Scholarship. This scholarship, awarded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, and Technology, is open to all fields of study, for both undergraduate and graduate programs. Even better, is that the MEXT scholarship can be applied through the Embassy of Japan in Malaysia. Furthermore, because this scholarship is not just given by one university or a private foundation, MEXT scholars are not limited in how they will choose their university because the scholarship applies to all legitimate higher education institutions in Japan. And this is particularly good news, because not only is Japan home to some of the best higher education in Asia and in the world, its top universities are spread out all across the country.  So let’s hear from Malaysian scholars who are going beyond their comfort zones and exploring what Japan and its universities have to offer–from the stunning snow-capped mountains of Hokkaido, to the fascinating temples of Kyoto, and the relaxing coasts of Kyushu.

Studying in Leading Research Institutions

Kyoto University. Photo by Jiazhen Yap.

One of the main reasons why international students choose to study abroad is their desire to study in institutions that are paving paths for interesting and innovative research. This is particularly true for professionals who are already working but choose to go back to school again. For instance, Malaysian scholar Jiazhen Yap majored in electrical engineering for his bachelor’s degree and was already working as an engineer when he applied for the MEXT scholarship. He was interested in making a change once he found a field that he was passionate about. “My major is energy economics, which researches a broad field of topics such as sustainable development, energy system, and socioeconomic issues,” says Yap. “It is a very interesting field due to its diversity of issues and topics shared with other academic disciplines. My undergraduate degree is electrical engineering so it was quite a challenge for me to jump into a new field. The biggest reason for me to select this major is because of my desire to help shape a sustainable future and address the global climate change issue.”

After receiving the MEXT scholarship, Yap is now studying in Kyoto. And while most people think of Kyoto as the picturesque imperial city with its fascinating temples and gardens, Yap’s decision to study in that city was driven by his desire to study at Kyoto University. “Energy Science is a relatively new field and is considered multidisciplinary research. Thus, not many universities are offering this course at a postgraduate level,” says Yap. “While I was reading journal papers to prepare for my proposal, I discovered Kyoto University has published many papers in this field and has a well-established energy science program for international students. In addition, Kyoto University is one of the top universities in Japan so it was an easy choice for me to select Kyoto University to pursue my postgraduate studies.”

Exploring Japan beyond the classroom

Photo by YT Loke

Another exciting aspect of studying abroad is the opportunity to explore places and experience another country’s culture more deeply. YT Loke lives on the island of Kyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture. Loke is majoring in Civil Engineering at Kyushu University. While studying engineering at a top university in Japan sounds hard, Loke made sure that he is making the most of his time in Japan by taking part in the trips and activities that the Kyushu University Foreign Students Association. Through the association, Loke was able to visit popular destinations like Takachiho, Beppu, Oita, Kokonoe, Aso, Kurume, Kumamoto and Karatsu.

Through his university, Loke also became a tourism ambassador of Itoshima. The program was an opportunity for Loke to experience Japan in unique ways that tourists can only dream of. “I visited Itoshima’s famous red rice paddy field, Himejima island, and many local product shops,” Loke says. “Beside places, I am also involved in making mochi, wooden and ceramic handicrafts. The experience I had from this program is valuable.” His role as an ambassador was to promote Itoshima through online platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Aside from these, Loke also looked forward to big events in Fukuoka such as the Yamakasa festival, fireworks displays, and the international hot air balloon festival.

Opportunity for Personal Growth

Finally, while studying abroad opens a lot of possibilities, scholars also talk about being prepared for the challenges. Study abroad applications are long and complicated and adjusting to new environments is not easy. Thus, these scholars from Malaysia advise aspiring scholars to really prepare, mentally and emotionally. Keng Wee Goh, who is studying medicine for seven years in Hokkaido University, talks about how crucial this period of studying abroad was for him by giving advice to incoming students, “Know that you will be spending most of your youth in a culture that is probably very different from yours. And that your life in the future will depend a lot on what you have learnt during the college years.”


Successful applicants of MEXT Scholarship 2018. Photo from Jiazhen Yap

If you’re like these Malaysian scholars who have a keen interest in studying in Japan and have accepted the challenge of studying abroad, then why not take this adventure of a lifetime and study in Japan! There are a lot of scholarships for foreign students including the MEXT scholarship. There is a lot to learn and opportunities for personal growth, not to mention the new friends you can make, the experiences and places that you can explore. The possibilities are endless!