In our increasingly globalized world, many students and professionals seek to study abroad to broaden their horizons and to prepare for the challenges of our times. Luckily, governments and organizations around the world also recognize the importance of providing support to international students who wish to study abroad. In Japan, the Ministry of Education Culture, Sports, and Technology (MEXT) in Japan grants the MEXT Scholarship.
The MEXT scholarship grants full scholarships, including tuition fees and stipends, for international students who want to study in higher education institutions in Japan. There are six categories of MEXT scholarships, and funding is available for both Undergraduate Level and Graduate Level students. The Graduate Level students receive ¥143,000 – ¥147,000. This includes an additional monthly allowance of ¥2,000 to ¥3,000 if the student is studying in a major city like Tokyo where prices are higher than the rest of Japan. Meanwhile, undergraduate level students receive ¥117,000.
Information about the technical parts of what the scholarship is easy to find. The full coverage of the scholarship is published yearly in the website of the Embassy of Japan in several countries. As a MEXT Scholar myself now living and studying in Tokyo, I’d like to share with you some insights from actual scholars about MEXT scholarship benefits based on our experience.
MEXT Scholarship Benefits: Learning Japanese in Japan for free
MEXT scholars are given the opportunity to study Japanese language or Nihonggo for 6 months to 1 year as an official part of their scholarship program, even before they start classes for their degree programs. Scholars already receive their scholarship allowance during this period. Hence, scholars are not only studying Nihonggo for free, we also receive financial support starting from this time.
Undergraduate scholars usually study Nihonggo for 1 year while Research Students, Master’s Students, and PhD students study for 6 months. Depending on the degree program that you will enroll in, your department or adviser may allow you to opt out of this Preparatory Japanese Language Education. I have met Doctoral MEXT Scholars who are doing their research in robotics and neurogenetics laboratories that are highly multicultural. Hence, these institutions mainly use English for their research and their work.
However, most scholars take the Preparatory Japanese Language Program. There’s a placement test that determines which level of Japanese you will be taking so whatever you language level may be, you will still benefit from this opportunity. I personally wanted to opt out of this program because my Master’s course will be in English anyway. However, now that I’ve finished my 6 months of studying Nihonggo, I’m really glad that my adviser insisted that I take part in the program. Living abroad is not easy. Moving to a new country involves a lot of adjustments in your daily life. Living in a country that speaks a totally different language will make things twice as hard. The six months that I spent focusing on Nihonggo classes only before starting my Master’s was a precious time where I could focus on adjusting myself to life in Japan as a whole. Upon arriving in Japan doing simple tasks like going to the store to buy shampoo took a long time because I couldn’t read Katakana. When I finished the classes, I could read and write Hiragana and Katakana, as well as read, write, and identify meanings of more than a hundred Kanji characters. This alone has made my life in Japan much easier.
MEXT Scholarship Benefits: Receiving a stipend throughout the scholarship period, including school holidays
As mentioned above, MEXT scholars receive a monthly allowance of around JPY117,000 to JPY148,000 depending on their program and where they are studying. One benefit of MEXT scholarship is that we get the same allowance even during school holidays. In Japan, some universities observe quarterly academic calendars while others have semestral academic calendars. Scholars don’t have to worry about their expenses during holidays such as Winter and Summer holidays. Moreover, the allowance is automatically transferred to their bank accounts. The only catch is that MEXT scholars need to sign a document in their university at the beginning of each month to ensure that they will receive their stipend at the end of the month. The reason for this is that in principle, the allowance from MEXT is intended for expenses that students incur while they are in Japan, under the supervision of their university. If scholars fail to sign this document at the beginning of the month (because they are overseas or they went to another part of the Japan), scholars need to sign the document during another period and they will receive their allowance at the end of the following month.
Aside from the MEXT scholarship allowance, note that scholars are also exempt from Tuition and Admission Fees and Entrance Exam Fees. Check out this article that I wrote about the MEXT stipend to learn more: Is the MEXT Stipend Enough for Tokyo’s Cost of Living.
MEXT Scholarship Benefits: Extending the period of scholarship to pursue further education
Finally, another benefit of the MEXT scholarship is that scholars who already finished their programs may apply for an “Extension of Period of Scholarship” when they want to pursue further studies. Hence, an undergraduate student pay move forward towards a Master’s and even a PhD as a MEXT scholar. The only requirement is that the scholar must be admitted for enrollment to the “next” level of their education during the current period of their scholarship. Hence, an undergraduate students must be admitted to their master’s program while they are still undergraduate students, and master’s students must be admitted to their desired PhD programs while they are taking their master’s. Note that there is no guarantee that the application for the extension of scholarship will be automatically awarded. MEXT Scholars still need to work hard and prove in their application for extension that their scholarships deserve to be extended.
MEXT scholars are also allowed to take their next program in a different university. Hence, scholars are not limited the programs that are offered within their current university. Undergraduate students may take their Master’s Degree in a different department or a different university altogether, given that the field of study is still within the same area of interest. The same rule applies to Master’s students who wish to pursue a Doctorate Degree.
The MEXT Scholarship is indeed a great option for anyone who wants to study in Japan. These are just some of the benefits that we MEXT scholars have identified. Beyond these, the ultimate benefit of the MEXT Scholarship is that it gives opportunities to several students, like myself, to live and study abroad and experience life and culture in Japan. If you would like to ask more about my experience as a MEXT scholar feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mata ne!