Welcome to the first in a four part series of entries about my experience applying for a Monbusho Research Scholarship (aka the “Monbukagakusho” or “MEXT” Scholarship). If you don’t know what the Monbusho is, I’ve previously written a couple other entries about it which could serve as an introduction of sorts, which can be found here.
I wanted to write about the application process because of the confusion and uncertainty I encountered when I was applying for one. The process is extremely long (about seven months went by from when I turned in my application until I finally found out I had been accepted), and the application guidelines could be maddeningly vague. Countless times I wished I could have access to a couple successful applications, just to give me some idea if I was on the right track on not. But despite tireless internet searches, I could never seem to find anything like that.
So I decided that if I got a Monbusho Scholarship, that I’d write a detailed account of the application process in the hopes that it might be of some use to future Monbusho applicants. I’m pleased to say that I did get it, and so here is my account.
Being the cautious person that I am, I want to start off by inserting a few *Disclaimers* here.
Disclaimer #1: I assume that those interested in applying for the Monbusho Scholarship would have carefully gone over the official guidelines provided by MEXT (which can be found here, among other places), and the information found on the very useful studyjapan.go.jp website. I won’t go into detail about things that can be easily found from those two sources.
Disclaimer #2: I applied for a Monbusho Research Scholarship for arts-related research via Embassy Recommendation in the USA in 2007, so this account will be about that specific experience. Be aware that this account is anecdotal. It represents my own personal experience and nothing more. I have no experience or knowledge about applying via University Recommendation or Domestic Selection, or about the application procedures for other countries, or about applying for to do research in other fields. Procedures are bound to be different from year to year, country to country, and embassy to embassy.
And finally Disclaimer #3: I’m not a representative for the Japanese Government or an expert on the Monbusho Scholarship, and as such, my opinions about the “right” way to go about applying are by-and-large speculative. If someone in a position of authority offers you advice that runs counter to my own, you’d probably be better off listening to them. Everything in here should be taken with a very large grain of salt.
All that said, I did manage to get the Monbusho Scholarship, so I must have done something right. So while it’d probably be a mistake for Monbusho hopefuls to emulate my approach to the letter, as their set of circumstances is bound to be different from my own, I hope that this account can be of some use to those going through the lengthy application process.
But before I get any further, I should probably introduce myself so you know where I’m coming from. As the masthead of this website says, my name is Lars Martinson. At the time of my application in 2007, I was a thirty year old American citizen residing in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I did my undergrad at the University of North Dakota, and graduated magna cum laude with a BA in graphic design.
Prior to my application for a Monbusho Scholarship, I had lived in Japan twice. Once for seven weeks as a short-term high school exchange student, and once for three years as an assistant English teacher through the government sponsored JET Program. At the time of my Monbusho application, my Japanese level was between that monstrous gulf between level 3 and level 2 of the JLPT; probably leaning towards level 2, but by no means quite there. (The JLPT is a standard Japanese proficiency test—more info about that can be found here.)
Since I was in junior high, I have wanted to be a cartoonist, and have devoted the last fifteen odd years of my life to the pursuit of that dream. I have recently published my first graphic novel entitled Tonoharu: Part One, based in part on my experience teaching on the JET Program (though at the time of my application for the Monbusho, I was still unpublished).
If you want to know more about me or my comics, click around this website; it’ll tell you more than you’d ever care to know.
Okay, that’s probably enough for now. Check back next Friday for Part Two.