Studying on a Japanese Government Scholarship at Kanazawa University

Two of my Japanese friends and I at a shrine in downtown Kanazawa on New Year’s Day
By Sarah Underwood, (MEXT Japanese Studies Scholarship Recipient)

Why I chose to study on a MEXT Scholarship?

My name is Sarah and I was a recipient of the MEXT Scholarship to study at Kanazawa University in Ishikawa Prefecture from Fall 2021 to Summer 2022. For me, receiving this scholarship was quite literally a dream come true. I had a short-term study abroad experience in Japan when I was 16, but was still longing for a longer-term experience in Japan. I have been studying Japanese since I was a freshman in high school, and will graduate with two bachelor degrees in Japanese and Environmental Toxicology in 2023. Studying at a Japanese university was something I was definitely interested in, but I could not imagine having such an opportunity until I received an email about the scholarship from my Japanese professor.
My life in Japan as a MEXT Japanese Government Scholar
The opportunity allowed me to experience living on my own in Japan. I lived in a single dorm room on campus. My room had its own bathroom and even a small kitchen that allowed me to cook meals for myself. Due to the pandemic, most of the rooms in the building were empty, as most international students were unable to enter Japan at the time. However, that did not stop me from being able to make plenty of friends. The evening of my first night in Kanazawa, I went for a walk by myself to see the campus. I was immediately approached by a Japanese student who was interested in foreign culture. He helped me connect to the campus Wi-Fi and even drove me to the supermarket to buy food and various necessities for my dorm room. A year later, he and I are still close friends.

I felt extremely welcomed by those in Kanazawa, despite standing out in Japan as a pale, blue-eyed blonde. I realized recently that most of my contacts on social media are Japanese rather than American. The friends I made in Kanazawa took me to various tourist destinations such as Kanazawa Castle and Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s largest historical gardens. On weekends, I often took the bus downtown to study at a cafe or shop with friends.

First time visiting a cat cafe
Learning Japanese at Kanazawa University
At Kanazawa University, I took classes on Japanese language and culture, as well as classes unique to my program that prepared us to be able to conduct research and write a research thesis in Japanese at the end of the program. All classes and procedures were conducted entirely in Japanese. At the time, I had never formally conducted research nor written a thesis of any kind, even in my native language, so learning to do so in my second language was unlike any challenge I had ever experienced. At the end of the program, I had successfully produced a research thesis on Japanese opinions toward marijuana use, written entirely in Japanese.
I was able to also gain presentation skills through the program. Presentations were daunting enough in my native language, but by the end of the program, I was confident enough in both my presentation skills and Japanese language skills to be able to give a presentation with little to no preparation to a class of a hundred Japanese students I had never met before.
My experience on MEXT leads to a job in Japan and more!
As the program went on, while I was excited to see my Japanese improve more and more each month, I was also sad that the months seemed to pass so quickly, and the time to return home was approaching soon. The November following my return to the US, I interviewed with a clinical research company in Tokyo and received a job offer on the spot. I will be moving to Tokyo permanently in June of next year, and will not have to worry about counting down to the day when I have to leave Japan again.

I attribute my ability to earn a job offer from a Japanese company to my yearlong study abroad experience. Without it, I doubt that my skills would be enough to pass a job interview conducted in Japanese. Not only did the experience shape the future of my career, but it also shaped me as a person. I am so lucky to have had this opportunity, and would recommend it to anyone who is hoping to enrich themselves and is up for a life-changing challenge.

Recommended Information