But before that, I'm so excited! And that's not because I went to the zoo today (but that was great too). No, it's because the letter that I've been waiting months for has finally arrived today:
Although I got an acceptance email way back in December, it's still very nice to have actual paper in my hands. Now, my sisters (and parents and extended family) can't keep asking me if it's a hoax because I have an official letter(: Now, I just need to get them to stop making those rather insensitive coments about whether I'm going to turn Japanese (the hidden subtext being that I'll betray my race).
Now, I realise that there aren't many posts on the Monbukagakusho (MEXT) Undergraduate Scholarship process, and also for my rather-short-term memory, I think it'll be really helpful to write down what I went through.
Stage One: Submitting Documents
This should theoretically be the easiest stage. But, since I didn't have many of the documents, I spend a fair bit of time worrying. That's because I applied before I graduated from school, which meant I didn't have any documents about my final scores and whatnot. All I had was a letter from the school saying that I was "expected" to graduate.
And even that letter was trouble. The first time it was written, they referred to me as "he". And keeping in mind that it typically needs three working days to be written, I was very near panic-mode. All I can say is THANK YOU FRONT OFFICE STAFF. Especially for bending the three day rule for me.
Later on, I heard that some candidates (who made it pass the Document Screening), that they made some mistakes, like choosing Private Universities for direct placement. If nothing changes, MEXT only allows you to apply for public universities. I'm a very cautious person, so I'd rather make no mistakes in the documents, in case it reflects badly on you.
Lesson learned: Make sure you have plenty of time to finish and submit the right documents.
Stage two: Examinations
For the humanities side, I had to take three exams in English, Maths and Japanese. (Did I mention that I'll be studying Business Administration?). The main difficulty with this stage is the lack of time. If I remember correctly, I had about a week to prepare for this. So, I ended up doing past year papers every night.
If English is your native language, the English paper shouldn't be a problem for you. And it probably won't be a problem for many of the candidates. In fact, I think the scores should be the same.
Maths on the other hand, was tough. Even though I take Higher Level Maths (Not that I'm very good in it, since I only scored a 6 in IB), it was still really really hard. I took a few problems to several maths teachers (all of them brilliant) and even they had trouble solving them. But thankfully, I managed to finish more of the questions, although I heard there were candidates who handed in blank sheets.
Finally Japanese, is pretty hard to cram in a week. All I can say is to study regularly, which is why I was so thankful that I've been taking regular lessons. It's supposed to be very important, so some basic knowledge of kana and kanji is essential.
Stage Three: Interview
Again, I had about one week's notice for the interview dates, so you should arrange for that day to be free as early as possible (they do give out a schedule). Other than that, there are only two things:
1. Be Honest
2. Have someone practice your answers with you. I am so blessed to have my Business and Management teacher, who spent the time to give me interview questions so that I wouldn't ramble (too much) at the actual interview. Note however, this doesn't contradict number 1. Thinking about and Practicing explaining your motivations and background does not mean that you make up stories to tell the interviewers.
[EDIT] I've been getting so many questions about the interview, so rather than make another post and have you guys click and click and click (although it would make the blog stats look good), here's what else I can remember after two years:
a. The interview won't be as bad as you think. Honest. The questions aren't tricky, they're the normal kind - "Why do you want to study ______?", "Why do you want to study in Japan?", "What do you plan to do after graduating?". Of course, they may vary the questions from year to year, but it should stay roughly the same.
b. Yes, the interview is very important. It's the last stage of the embassy selections, so do your best.
c. This is just a recommendation but I think it would make a good impression if you went for the interview either in a suit, or your school's formal uniform. If in doubt (perhaps where you live, everyone dresses in a suit or something for interviews), ask a teacher (I asked my business teacher, who also coached me).
Stage Four: Medical Tests
If I learnt anything from the interview process, it was that the Japanese are efficient people, so like the other stages, I had about a week. This time, things like blood tests and X-rays were needed, so if you can, pay extra to get the results ASAP. It really helps if your doctor writes a note to the technicians there (if you go to outside facilities) to explain why, because they might have policies on that. Of course, tell your doctor the deadline for submission, so he knows why you're rushing him.
This might be a good time to mention that I hand-delivered all documents to the embassy. Although the Singapore Postal system is very effective, I still feel safer knowing when the documents arrive at the embassy, and of course, knowing that they have arrived!
Stage Five: Waiting
This is the most difficult part, because the waiting is the longest. Keep calm and have hope.
NOTE: I think many of you lovely readers find my blog through this page, so if you do have any questions, I'd really appreciate it if you look at these pages first:
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions (II)
Frequently Asked Questions (III) Please do NOT ask me these questions.
NOTE II: It seems like Google has stopped notifying me about comments. Please search the archives and read through the FAQs first, and if I left out something, email me using the widget on the right. I'll definitely get that message(: