Studying abroad is a great adventure. It is like a very long vacation, but it also comes with a lot of challenges. Students get to experience various things, meet new people, and go to places they wouldn’t have imagined. At the same time, they face frustrations, experience miscommunication, and confusion along the way-all part of an experience that shapes them. Quite a lot right? And we still haven’t mentioned the part about studying in a university and getting a degree. A great way to take on this huge adventure is by getting a scholarship with a monthly stipend, which allows scholars to study in their dream university in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, Japan. The MEXT Scholarship University Recommendation is one scholarship that provides this opportunity to hundreds of international students.

If you are considering the MEXT Scholarship University Recommendation, you should already have a Japanese university in mind. If not, that’s totally fine. In this article, we’ll share stories from MEXT Scholarship University Recommendation scholars on how they applied for the scholarship, how they chose their university, and what it’s like to study in Japan.

MEXT Scholarship University Recommendation

Photo by Anubrata Nath

The Monbukagakusho Scholarship is a fully-funded government scholarship that covers tuition and school fees and includes a monthly stipend to cover basic housing and living expenses. The scholarship is awarded to foreign students (non-Japanese citizens) by the government’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, and Technology or “Monbukagakusho” in Japanese. The scholarship is also often shortened as “MEXT Japan” or the “MEXT scholarship.”

There are two ways to apply for a MEXT Scholarship. One is applying through the Embassy of Japan in your own country, also called the “embassy recommendation.” Another way is through the recommendation of a Japanese university, also called the “university recommendation.” This article is focused on the MEXT Scholarship University Recommendation. The idea is that prospective students first apply to a specific university where they plan to study. After passing the admissions screening conducted by the university, the university itself will endorse the applicant to the Ministry / MEXT as one of their “university-recommended MEXT scholars.” The Japanese Government then decides whether they will grant the scholarship to the applicant through the university. Since prospective students are dealing directly with the university, the process will depend on each Japanese university. If you are interested in applying for the MEXT Scholarship University Recommendation, make sure to check the website of the university that you are planning to enter.

For the university-recommendation, each university is given a certain number of slots by MEXT. The number of scholarships MEXT gives out to a university depends on how many international students are currently studying at that university. For example, if the university has 0 to 200, the slot for a university-recommended scholarship is 1. If there are around 201 to 400 international students, that university will have 2 slots. For schools with 401 – 700 international students, they will have around 3 slots. For the full calculation, visit Transenz’s article from his research in 2016.  For example, Hokkaido University’s International Graduate Program, which accepts 7 Ph.D. students and one master’s student for university-recommended MEXT scholarship for 2020.

Scholars’ Stories

International Community

Photo by Matteo Giovanelli

Matteo Giovanelli from International Christian University (ICU) who is taking up his master’s degree in Economics has this to say when he was choosing his university “When looking at Japanese universities, it was important for me that they had an international environment, where you could experience the Japanese university life while meeting students from all over the world.” Matteo says. “ICU seemed like the perfect choice in this respect. I ended up choosing ICU because it offered English-taught Master’s programs. It also offered graduate students the possibility of studying Japanese without it affecting the overall graduation GPA; this was a very good selling point for me.”

Japan: Land of Opportunities

Photo by Rachma Kusumadewant

You may know how amazing Japan is, the beautiful natural landscapes, its deep history, unique culture, and cutting-edge technology-a meeting point of the past and future. You may have your own interests in Japan. Rachma Kusumadewant from Indonesia shares her own reasons for studying in Japan, “I am originally from Indonesia and currently I am studying engineering at Tokyo Institute of Technology through the GSEP Program.” She adds, “I chose to come to Japan because I am interested in Japanese culture and see more opportunities for better education. I would like to use the knowledge I will get in Japan to improve the state of my own country when I get back. Before I decided to go to Tokyo Tech, I was enrolled in University of Padjadjaran in Indonesia. I was looking for opportunities to change school at that time and there was not a lot of good choices for me. T.I.Tech was the first one I found through my mother, she’s a professor at Trisakti University. After some research, I found that T.I. Tech is one of the best universities for technology and engineering in Japan. As such, it was quite an easy decision to try to enroll in Tokyo Tech.”

Prestige and Academic Excellence

“Autumn colors in my University” Photo by Shreya Santra

In Japan, National Universities are highly respected. Some of the most prestigious institutions in the country are called the “National Seven Universities” (国立七大学), also known as “Imperial Universities.” These universities were founded by the Empire of Japan between 1886 and 1939, and are some of the oldest higher education institutions in Japan and in Asia. The National Seven Universities are the following: University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Osaka University, Nagoya University, Tohoku University, Hokkaido University, and Kyushu University.

Additionally, several Japanese universities score high in world university rankings. In the QS World University Rankings 2020, five Japanese universities placed in the top 100. Not surprisingly, four of them are National Universities namely, University of Tokyo (#22), Kyoto University (#33), Osaka University (#71), and Tohoku University (#82). Only Tokyo Institue of Technology which ranked at 58 is not a National University.

Because these universities, its professors, students, and projects excel, they become internationally renowned. Shreya Santra from India who studies Space Robotics at Aerospace Department of Tohoku University shares how she came to know about her program, “As a space systems student I was well aware about the Google Lunar Xprize challenge in which the team Hakuto from Tohoku University headed by Professor Kazuya Yoshida were one of the finalists.” she says. “Prof. Yoshida’s Space Robotics Laboratory gained a lot of recognition for the outstanding work and I was eager to be part of this team. I wrote numerous emails to Prof. Yoshida asking for information about PhD opportunities, until he finally replied! He gave me links to the IRP program starting in October 2018 and requirements for the program.”

When choosing where to study in Japan, taking prestige into consideration is a good strategy because like in Shreya’s experience, you will find that these universities have better infrastructures and programs to support international students. These institutions are well-established and most of them are also part of the Japanese Government’s Top Global University Project. Launched in 2014 by the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports, the project provides financial support to 37 universities in the country (including the National Seven Universities) which are spearheading the internationalization of Japanese education.

Pursue Your Passion

“Me, along with other MEXT recipients during orientation field trip” Photo by Anubrata Nath

Finally, Anubrata Nath from India who studying  Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Tohoku University has this to say to aspiring MEXT Scholarship University Recommendation students, “Follow your passion and dreams.” she continues, “Put hard work and effort into realizing your dreams. I believe that hard work never goes down in vain. Hard work always pays off brilliantly. University application might be tiring be it can be exciting and fun if you are applying for what you truly want to pursue. I suggest that you should not lie about even a single thing in the statement of purpose. Rather, try to represent your true self and try to exhibit your real love for the major.”

So, if you have dreams of studying in a Japanese university, why not consider the MEXT Scholarship University Recommendation. Good luck on your next adventure!