Japanese Government (MEXT) Undergraduate Scholarships


MEXT Alumni Personal Experiences

Megan Gouw
Japanese Government (MEXT) Undergraduate Scholarship
Preparatory Education at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies 2019-2020
Bachelor student at Faculty of Art and Design, University of Toyama 2020 - present

Towards the end of my undergraduate degree in Japanese Studies at the University of Edinburgh, I was looking into what options I had to pursue my dream of studying art in Japan when I came across the MEXT scholarship. It seemed too good to be real. After sending off my forms and finding out my interview/exams date I faced my first challenge. I would have to sit not only language (Japanese and English) exams, but also a Maths exam. With only a month to remember all of high school level maths, which I had forgotten over the last four years. That month past in a blur.

When I arrived at the Embassy in London, feeling relatively confident I had done all I could to prepare, I was thrown another curve ball. During my research about the interview, all the accounts stated that it had been held in English, with a small portion in Japanese. Yet, my interview ended up being entirely in Japanese. I remember coming out at the end of the day, certain that there was no chance I could have got the scholarship. You can imagine my surprise then when I got the news!

I completed my preparatory education at the Tokyo location. We had intensive language classes for 3 hours every morning (split into 6 levels of proficiency), then in the afternoon classes in culture, politics, economics, and history for the humanities students, and in maths and sciences for the science students. Of course, all in Japanese. It was tough, studying ten hours a day or more was the norm. Particularly in the second semester, when the exams for university selection were held. I remember that year feeling harder than even my fourth year at Edinburgh. However, there was also a great spirit of comradery. We were all MEXT awardees, so there was a strong sense of community. Overall it was a great experience.

Our universities were decided over the course of several months. We had to write down our preferred options, first to fifth, and hand in a personal essay explaining our choice of major. Then based on our results in a standardised test in all the subjects we covered throughout the year in December, as well as our preferences, which university we were to apply for was decided. From early January till March, depending on the university, interviews/entrance exams were held. In my case, for the University of Toyama, I had to travel to the campus for an interview. If you failed the university`s exam or interview, there was then a second round, where you could pick from Universities that had not been chosen in the first round.

Due to the current COVID-19 situation, all my classes for the first semester at Toyama have been online, so I hesitate to compare it to my experience at Edinburgh. However, due to the University of Toyama’s general education system, I have been free to take classes in a broad range of subjects, from physics and medicine to one on Harry Potter and British culture, that I feel would have been hard if not impossible to do at Edinburgh. In addition, taking two foreign languages (I am learning German and Korean), and a PE class is compulsory, which I think are great things to promote.

For anyone considering applying the best advice I can give is to work hard at learning Japanese. All the humanities students in my preparatory course had the JLPT N2 level or higher, and many of the science students did too. But, taking class in Japanese was hard even with the N2 qualification, and there are no subtitles here. While some universities offer some classes in English, they are rare. My course will be fully in Japanese, and I am expected to be able to cope with that.

It is an amazing opportunity and well worth the effort. The MEXT scholarship is allowing me to pursue my dreams, but in the process it is pushing me hard. I feel like I have grown so much in my time here, and I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that the future will present.