💼 Master's Student
⏳ Aug 2021 — Aug 2023
🗣 English, Japanese
✅ Student Visa
🗣 English, Japanese
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I moved to Japan for my Master's Degree in July 2021 after graduating from the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Moscow State University. But my story began in November 2019. It was then that I decided to apply for MEXT scholarship through the joint office of Hokkaido University in Moscow.
MEXT is a Japanese government scholarship that covers tuition (undergraduate and postgraduate, depending on the program) and living expenses. I will not dive into the details of this scholarship, as this is not the main purpose of this article. Today I want to share my experience of applying for and receiving a scholarship through the joint office of (Japanese + Russian) universities.
First part of my story will be devoted to how I passed the selection process for this scholarship. In September 2019, Hokkaido University opened a joint office with Lomonosov Moscow State University and announced that it was accepting applications for 2 types of scholarships:
Scholarship of the President of Hokkaido University
Both scholarships have approximately the same conditions: the first one also covers all your tuition and living expenses, but I thought it was more valuable to get MEXT (I knew that it also covered flights, and in general was more recognized internationally).
At the selection stage you cannot indicate which scholarship you want to get, the allocation is done by the admission committee and experts. But I had one advantage: international Japanese language exam (JLPT) that I passed at N2 level (it’s the minimum requirement for studying for a Master’s degree in Japan in the humanities field).
To participate in the selection, it was necessary to:
Fill out the application form
Write a motivation letter
Provide research proposal
Describe my academic path (or career path) step by step, compose a so-called “autobiography”, in Japanese 履歴書 (all 4 documents need to be provided in Japanese if your major is in humanities).
The decision to award a scholarship is based only on these 4 documents, as opposed to applying for MEXT through the embassy, where you also need to pass several exams and a serious interview in Japanese. Therefore, I recommend highlighting all your achievements (especially academic), internships, work experience, etc. I also strongly advise you to work on a thorough translation into Japanese. If you have friends or teachers who are native speakers and willing to help, feel free to ask them, it’s not cheating! I think it's completely fair and legitimate because we don't get a second chance at making a first impression. And you might not get a chance to apply for MEXT again.
Tips on Research Proposal
In my opinion, the most important document from the list above is your research proposal, so let me share a few tips for drafting it. First, try to keep your new topic related to the topics of your previous research - this way you show that you are seriously interested in the topic and already understand it a lot.
Second, state why your research should be done in Japan and nowhere else. It will be even better if you narrow it down to a specific region or university, so it becomes clear how valuable your research will be for the university itself. In my case, I focused exclusively on the activities of Hokkaido University and emphasized that I wanted to explore Hokkaido, and not all regions of Japan. The more specific and clear your plan is, the clearer it will be how it can be applied in the future and how the Japanese side will benefit from your research activities.
Third, spend timing thinking about research methods. In Japan, the research work is given an important role: students create questionnaires, conduct interviews, case studies and analyze data. Describing in detail how you will conduct your research and collect data in advance will be a great advantage.
What to do if your university doesn’t have a joint office
It might seem to you that my way of obtaining a scholarship is quite unique, as only Moscow State University has a joint office with Hokkaido University. It is indeed true, and I am very grateful for such an opportunity. But on the other hand, this once again proves that MEXT can be obtained not only through the embassy, and you can contact universities directly in a variety of ways. Even if your university doesn’t have an official joint office with a Japanese university, most likely there are some agreements or partnerships!
Even if there is no official application form for a scholarship, find out about your university's partner universities and try to contact professors about the possibility of being recommended for MEXT. If your topic is similar to their field of research and you fit into the profile of students that the university can recommend for MEXT, your chances are just as high.
Let’s sum it up!
Step 1: Learn about agreements between your university and Japanese universities
Step 2: Look out for applications for scholarships (if there is no official application, we take matter into our own hands!)
Step 3: Pass JLPT at N2 level
Step 4: Diligently prepare documents, paying special attention to the research proposal.
I sincerely believe that by following all these steps, the likelihood of success is greatly increased. At least, I am convinced that it was these steps that influenced the fact that I ended up received a scholarship. I hope that my experience will help those who really need it. I believe in your success!