Japanese Government (MEXT) Undergraduate Scholarships in Japanese Studies


MEXT Alumni Personal Experiences

Melissa Holt
Japanese Government (MEXT) Undergraduate Scholarship in Japanese Studies
Sophia University, September 2018 – July 2019

I cannot even begin to explain how excited I felt when I found out that I would be spending a year in Tokyo at Sophia University. I have admired Tokyo ever since I was young and have always dreamed of studying in such a modern and exciting city. Being away from home for a year seemed like such a daunting challenge at the time but now I am so grateful that I faced it head on because it helped me grow and improve as a person. Sophia University turned out to be the perfect fit for my personality with a large variety of ‘circles’ (Societies or clubs in English) available to join and many chances to mingle with the Japanese students for language practice. I made many irreplaceable friendships during my time at Sophia and I am eternally grateful to this scholarship for providing me with the opportunity to go.

My study abroad at Sophia University was comprised of two terms, Autumn and Spring. Firstly in the Autumn term (which is when most international students join) I registered for the ‘Intensive Japanese’ language course. This course taught me many new kanji and gave me much more confidence in my Japanese level. I was in a class with people from all over the globe, Italy, America and even Belarus. In the Spring term I then went on to focus on ‘Business Japanese’ and even completed an internship at a Japanese company which was both challenging and rewarding.

My favourite memories however are those shared together with my Homestay families. I searched around via contacts in Japan for any families available and had the pleasure of staying with four lovely families throughout my study abroad. Each Homestay varied in length, the first being 1 month and the 2nd being 6 months. I feel that the Homestay experience really allowed me to improve my language ability and learn about Japanese culture first hand. Many of the families had young children and so I found that I felt less homesick as I felt accepted as one of the family by the little ones. My final homestay even offered to take me on a trip to Nara and Biwa-ko to spend time with their relatives which was one of the best trips of my life. I cannot recommend doing a homestay highly enough!

Outside of University I also took on many new challenges. One of my goals for my study abroad was to try out my everyday hobbies in Japanese. For example, I signed up to my local hot yoga studio and found myself practicing yoga in Japanese and meeting and becoming friends with many of the neighbourhood ‘obaa-chan.’ I also signed up for Korean classes in Tokyo’s ‘shin-okubo Korea Town.’ This was extremely rewarding because I met many young Japanese girls who had a similar interest to me in Korean music and culture. I even went on a group trip to Seoul with a few of them!

Overall my year abroad was an irreplaceable experience. It was one that helped me grow as a person and I would not be who I am today without it. Spending a long period of time such as this in a foreign country invites new challenges and experiences but meeting those experiences head on will help you grow and reach your full potential. I hope anyone who is interested in the MEXT Japanese scholarship applies, I cannot recommend it highly enough!