Culture & Education


The MEXT scholarship – The scholarship that changed my life - Sean McLaverty (Undergraduate, 2021)

Cherry blossoms beside my new dorm in Yokohama
Me looking over Yokohama
The MEXT scholarship… where do I begin? 

When I first arrived in Japan, I was the only Irish person in sight, so I naturally felt out of place. It was also my first time living alone, never mind in a country on the other side of the world and at the young age of 18. I had been to Japan twice before but living there is a completely different experience as you must adjust your way of living and thinking in order to adapt to the culture and environment around you. 

After quarantining in a hotel for approximately two weeks after arrival in May due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, I moved into the dormitory which Tokyo University of Foreign Studies assigned me to. It was at that moment that I realised that the majority of the people living in the dormitory were fellow MEXT scholars, a bunch of people in a very similar position to myself. Therefore, what I did was go out of my way and started talking to people. Who knew that speaking to these strangers would lead to the best year of my life?

Throughout my year of preparatory education at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, I not only managed to learn a wide range of subjects in Japanese and improve my Japanese academically, but I also managed to make friends with fellow MEXT scholars from all around the world and many Japanese students, some of who I would now call some of the best friends I've ever had and will remember for the rest of my life.  I even went on a trip to Okinawa with three friends for a week after finishing my preparatory year. 

My scholarship experience wasn’t only shaped by the people I spent it with. Japan is an outstanding country with many different landscapes, cities, towns, and things to see and enjoy. Almost every single day I have spent here has been an eventful one. Oh, and the food is awesome too… especially ramen.

Now I have relocated from Tokyo to Yokohama so that I can officially start university. Cherry blossom trees are blooming all around me, which are to the Japanese, and now to me, a symbol of the next stage of one’s life beginning. I would consider myself lucky if the next four years of my life here are even half as good as the first one has been.

I now feel like a brand-new person, living my life to the fullest. There has not been a single day that I have regretted applying for this scholarship. I believe that applying for this scholarship was the best decision that I’ve ever made.
In Tokyo, beside the Sky Tree
The ocean in Okinawa – taken from the trip I went on with friends