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MEXT Scholarship 2012

I was not planning to reply further to this thread, but occasionally I receive private mails from people who are looking for advice on how to choose their Research topics, or other questions about how to prepare their documents. I appreciate that they are sincerely trying their best to move on to the next phase of their careers, but at the moment I simply do not have the time to give a detailed reply to each of them. Also, my help DOES NOT guarantee that you will get the scholarship. I've helped 4 people in the past. 2 of them got the scholarship, but also 2 of them failed.

For example, I just got a question about Mechanical Engineering in Japan, which I know absolutely nothing about, although I study in a graduate school of Engineering. But there are so many different fields in this building that it is impossible for a student of a given field to know much about other fields.

But I will say that it's not hard at all to get an idea of what is being done in the Japanese academic world. Go to the Cinii website and simply read the abstracts of the most recent publications in your field of choice. A simple google search and a couple of clicks will get you there.
http://ci.nii.ac.jp/vol_issue/nels/AA119...62_en.html

Also, each university usually keeps a page in English detailing the research interests of each professor and its laboratory. Tokyo Institute of Technology is one of them. The University of Tokyo is another:
http://www2.mech.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/eng/people/

Find a teacher within your area of expertise, copy his name into the search function of Cinii, read the abstracts of their papers. The lab webpages usually have student member names and their fields of interest and publications.

The golden rule of a research topic is that you have to be absolutely interested in it. IF not, you will either fail to convince MEXT of your worth, or fail to conclude your degree in the scholarship period of 2 to 3 years, or fail to get a good job at the end.
Then, your research topic has to be of interest either to Japan, or to your home country. You don't need a revolutionary topic. Think of the major challenges affecting Japan now (earthquake and disaster recovery, nuclear decontamination, fuel costs, lack of natural resources, renewable energies, infrastructure renewal due to the olympics and fukushima reconstruction, strengthening of structures, aging population, etc), and read academic journals about what steps are necessary to achieve those goals. Then, make your research proposal about ONE of those steps. Or even one important part of that one step.

But, once again, you HAVE to read at least abstracts in japanese journals or even Western journals (your university should have some access to online journals). Cinii is one of those journal aggregators. You have to read Japanese news and debate sites such as Japan Echo, Nippon.com, Japan Foreign Policy Forum or Opinion 3/11 to better understand major issues in Japanese society.
It is perfectly ok to be familiar with the work done in Western academic journals, as long as you believe that your research would be useful to Japan.

But if MEXT candidates don't even bother to do this basic research on current academic journals, both Western and Japanese, their chances of making it through are slim.

P.S. someone asked about research period before PhD. It's very common to have a research student period of 1 year when you first come to Japan, whether that is for a Master or a PhD. It's merely for getting used to Japan, but you are usually not allowed to attend Master or PHD classes in that period unless you obtain permission from the teacher of that class to attend it as a research student.[

Also, MEXT SCHOLOARSHIP ONLY LASTS 2 YEARS FOR MASTER and 3 YEARS FOR PHD!
It is possible to get a 6-month extension if your teacher puts out a good word for you in a recommendation letter, but after that, if you haven't graduated, the scholarship will stop supporting you, and you're on your own.
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Re: Research. it varies. I was surprised to see how lax everyone is about everything around here. We have people switching grad schools mid-research period. Some people switched their research topic about 5 times already, no one really cared. Some of them have 6 months research period limits, some have no limits, some don't have to do any research during the 6 month language course, some are at school from 8 am to 8pm.
No one here has the same interests, so there's no favored research topic; the people in my country who got the scholarship were in the fields of architecture, Japanese culture, comparative literature and history. One knew absolutely no Japanese, the rest were n3-n1 level. Over here, out of 30 people we're pretty evenly spread out language-level wise, with quite a few absolute beginners and about 6 people in the advanced class (out of 30); there a few who skipped the language course, but I don't know anything about them.
Everything you research, the hours you are expected to put into your research, whether you have to write a dissertation or publish something in a journal, how many classes you attend, etc. are mostly up to your advisor and, depending on the advisor, to you. Over here you can attend classes and you get credit later on when you've started your MA/PhD, but that also depends on the advisor and the student (I technically don't have to do anything research-wise until next semester but I insisted on attending a class and writing a mini-thesis; other people were told which classes to attend).

During the application:
-> the english exam matters, a lot. I was 2nd in my year with 96/100. The person who was last probably got around 90. Most people don't notice their score on the certificate so they don't know it >.> but you only find it out if you've passed the first screening.
-> the interview is totally random. In theory it's the ones who scored highest at the exam who move on to the next phase and the interview basically looks out for weirdos/people who have no idea what they're doing/people whose research proposal is chaotic, etc.
-> how quickly potential advisors respond, whether they accept people, etc. is completely random. All my professors responded within 24 hours, 2 accepted me instantly (one noting the fact that he never refuses a monbusho student) one said he can't take me because my Japanese level is too low (keep in mind that I was at N1 level by then, so this was basically due to small mistakes in my research proposal). One of the girls here did not get an answer from any of her advisors, went through bureaucratic hell, and it in the end just signed up with a random professor. Another girl had been communicating with her professor before. One of the girls who got rejected had been in contact with her professor for a year, and had already made research plans together, but she failed the embassy interview.
-> the second screening is totally random and depends mostly on luck, I think. At least, there is no way of knowing if you're passing or not so you might as well assume that the MEXT just throws half of the applications out the window. Out of 5 people who passed the interview, 4 people got admitted here. But that varies by country.

Basically, luck is an important factor. English level is an important factor. Luck is a *very* important factor. Being in Humanities can make the whole thing quite a breeze, whereas everyone I know in medicine and bio-chemistry hates their life (we have one former mext scholar who just quit everything because she was researching 80 hours a week and her professor still wasn't happy with her). There is no right or wrong. =) You can only try.
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JapanesePod101
There's always luck in any academic funding proposal because either (a) you are lucky that there are so few qualified applicants, or (b) you are lucky that out of the many qualified applicants they got, you were picked.
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I think luck is *the* most important factor... Experience in Japan-wise, at least.

Aside from what yudanteiki said, there is a huge difference between what each of us have to do here depending entirely on our advisor. I can focus on my language classes and took up extra Japanese related courses (no pressure, not mandatory, no credits... I just get to improve my Japanese) since I have so much free time. We have this one girl in Biochemistry who leaves the dorm at 8 for her language class and usually comes back around 21-22 from her mandatory classes+time with her advisor (who is absolutely crazy, by the way; the girl barely learned hiragana and he made her translate a medical text from English to Japanese). Different field requirements aside, your advisor's expectations pretty much dictate your life here.

Also, tbh, after having talked to most applicants who passed the exam, and knowing how poorly I did during the interview, luck is the only reason why I got the scholarship in the first place Tongue. As for the Japanese test, it varies; in Romania the Japanese test is not taken into consideration at all. The research project plan is also not really taken into consideration, just skimmed during the interview to see if you can talk about it (I couldn't).
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So that everyone gets an equal chance, I guess?
2 of my programs were in Japanese, but one was in English (for the record, at no point did they ask me whether I'm going to attend classes in Japanese or in English), and that's where I ended up. My application and interview were in Japanese, but that was me being overtly cautious, apparently. No one seemed to mind that I was barely handling basic sentences at the interview.

There is lots of talk about what is important, what matters, how a final grade is calculated, etc. on the internet but I think that's just all the students being panicky about a system that doesn't explain much about how it works and overthinking things + hearsay and rumours spreading about.
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Arupan Wrote:Why would I be lucky if I got the highest score on the test and the research project plan, and I had a better resume compared to the others of the same field, for example?
There's no "score" for a research project plan or an interview, and your resume isn't always clearly better than someone else's.
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I guess each country handles its selection process differently *shrug*.
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I noticed that the original post was from 2011. I wonder if the guy is still studying in Japan.
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bebio Wrote:There is an additional problem for people in countries where the Licentiate degree is given. Japanese people have no idea what a licentiate (licenciatura) degree is. Make sure that when translating the contents of your diploma into English, it is CLEARLY written that you have a Licentiate degree (add a explanatory note in Japanese saying what it is), or that you have a Bachelor. If not, you will get into serious trouble (I did.
bebio, I'm portuguese as well, and next year I'll be applying to the scholarship but I didn't even think about that issue at all. Do you know what the equivalent of a licenciate degree is in Japan? Also, if a professor asks you about your academic background, should you explain that you have a licenciate degree that is equivalent (I suppose) to an undergraduate degree?

Thank you so much for giving such informations!!
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I was thinking of starting a new thread, but maybe asking here is better, because my main questions now are not related to the application process (there are a plethora of pages on diverse blogs and forums about this), but about study/life in Japan. People who have been in the mext for 1+ years may have answers for me. My questions are related to the graduate scholarship, at one university in Tokyo.

Is it practically possible to just do the 2 years as non-regular research student? I've only seen people advancing to a regular course, and I was wondering if universities actually prefer applicants who wish to be regularized, or if they are willing to accept also people who just want to remain non-regular students.

Has any of you encountered problems with the amount of money received, and did you need to find support from elsewhere, too? For instance, did you have to work during vacation, or do part-time jobs, or receive money from parents, etc.? In order to manage the money, I was thinking about a counterintuitive solution: spend a little less than 100.000 yen on a full board dormitory. Would the remaining 43-46.000 yen cover the rest of expenses?
Edited: 2017-05-17, 3:43 am
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I know plenty of people who only stayed as research students, it's not a problem. You probably won't be doing much, tho.

If you live like a monk, the money is more than enough. If you don't live like a monk, then maybe don't go to tokyo. Part times are quite easy to get tho.
Edited: 2017-05-17, 5:22 am
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(2017-05-17, 5:21 am)Zgarbas Wrote: I know plenty of people who only stayed as research students, it's not a problem. 

If you live like a monk, the money is more than enough. If you don't live like a monk, then maybe don't go to tokyo. Part times are quite easy to get tho.

Ugh! Sad
Thx for the honest reply. Is it easy to live comfortably with a little part-time job, and 1 month of full-time work during holidays? Don't want to work too much, or that would take time from study, which is a priority.

I've read on other websites that to live comfortably in Tokyo one needs 250.000 yen per month. Since as a student one doesn't have to pay taxes, about 200.000 would be enough. That would be rougly 50.000 yen per month, in addition to the scholarship. Maybe, since food is included in the dormitory fee, one would just have to consider the money when eating out on weekends.

I'm just asking to plan as good as possible.
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