Japanese Government (MEXT) Undergraduate Scholarships in Japanese Studies


MEXT Alumni Personal Experiences

Sophie Grant
Japanese Government (MEXT) Undergraduate Scholarship in Japanese Studies
Kyoto University, September 2017 – September 2018

I was absolutely thrilled to hear that I had been given the opportunity to spend a year at Kyoto University to continue my study of Japanese language and culture alongside other international exchange students. It was the first time I had studied abroad for a long period of time, away from friends and family, so initially I felt a mixture of excitement and nervousness. However, as soon as I arrived in Japan and felt the hospitality of everyone around me, I knew that I would settle in fine.

My one-year course comprised of a wide variety of classes, ranging from Academic Presentation to Japanese Cultural History to Psychology. What was really special about this course was not only was I able to attend classes for just exchange students, but I could also choose four electives across the year aimed at ordinary Japanese students studying at Kyoto University. This, of course, was daunting at first, especially considering I had little confidence in my Japanese abilities at the start of the year. As the year went on, however, I could sense a real improvement in my Japanese, to the extent that I was beginning to comprehend the majority of what my Japanese lecturers were explaining, even when it came to quite complex subjects. This was a real confidence booster and demonstrated to me how quickly your linguistic skills can develop when you are placed in that kind of environment.

I also feel truly lucky to have met so many incredible people there from all across the world. There were in total 18 people of 13 different nationalities on the Japanese Studies Program in Kyoto University. As we all attended most of the same classes and lived in the same international student dormitory, we formed a tight bond immediately. I also wanted to make as many Japanese friends as I could, so I joined a ‘Kyoto culture’ club at the university and tried to go to many events in the region in order to meet Japanese people from other universities too.

I found that Kyoto was the perfect place for me to live. On the one hand, Kyoto is a lively city, filled with young people studying at universities there, good food and shopping. On the other, Kyoto is said to be the historical and cultural centre of Japan, filled with beautiful historical sites and natural scenery. In addition, Kyoto is very close to other cities in the Kansai region, including Osaka, Nara and Kobe. Due to the efficiency of railways in Japan, within an hour I could be in a completely different city with a very different vibe, which was refreshing.

Of course, my time was not just spent travelling around Japan and eating good food. The course at Kyoto University was very demanding at times, especially with regard to a 20,000-character ‘course completion report’ I had to write at the end of the year. I chose to write about Anglo-Japanese trust relations between 1902-22 focusing on the role of race. Before this, I had never completed a long, dissertation-style piece of writing before, let alone in Japanese, so it was very time-consuming and required a lot of hard work. However, when it was done, I felt an immense amount of achievement.

My year in Japan was an incredibly exciting time, full of new experiences every day. Because of this opportunity given to me by MEXT, I was able to challenge myself and grow as a person in many ways. I cannot recommend the MEXT scholarship enough.

Please note:
- The programme is for British Japanese Studies students
- Applications for the 2019 programme are scheduled to open in December 2018