Daiwa Scholarships 2019: Language Learning, Homestay And Work Placement In Japan

Wondering what to do after graduation next year? How about an amazing opportunity to study and work in Japan? Here’s the experience of Andrew Jones, a former Daiwa scholar who studied at KCL…

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to undertake a Daiwa Scholarship; a unique 19-month scholarship programme awarded by the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and designed to give recipients a solid understanding of Japan’s language, culture and people, intrinsically tied to their own particular area of academic and/or professional expertise. As part of the programme Daiwa Scholars commit to an intense year-long language immersion at one of Tokyo’s premier Japanese-language institutes, a month-long homestay with a Japanese family and a 6-month work placement with a Japan-based institution of their choosing. The experience was an incredible and life-changing one which, suffice to say, it is hard to do proper justice to in a few short paragraphs. That being said, I hope that the thoughts below might prove useful to those individuals currently considering applying.

My experience at KCL was one of the main factors in my application for a Daiwa Scholarship. Prior to King’s, my academic background had been primarily China-oriented however the MA in Geopolitics, Territory and Security gave me a much greater appreciation of the complex regional and global factors shaping modern East Asian security. After focusing on Sino-Japanese territorial issues for much of my MA, a desire to understand better the many and varied factors contributing to these issues from the Japanese perspective ultimately led to my application to Daiwa.

With not inconsiderable effort (and at times a considerable quantities of the best sake my local 7-11 had to offer), over the course of the Daiwa Scholarship I developed a strong grounding in the Japanese language. Such a grounding, coupled with the many friendships and professional contacts I developed during my time in Japan opened up a whole new world to me that would have otherwise have been inaccessible from the relative comfort of London. As well as having a truly brilliant (and, it strikes me now, scandalously privileged) time in Japan, amongst the all-you-can-drink karaokes, cherry blossom viewings and sojourns into the Japanese countryside, I managed to develop a solid, if imperfect, understanding of “Japan”; both its past (and indeed ever-present) traditions and its attitudes to the future. Such an understanding will long stay with me and, it is my hope, help me to engage more effectively with the country and its politics in my professional career.

Though immensely enjoyable, the Scholarship is no walk in the park. Aside from the rigours of being dropped, a mere babe, into what often felt like a strange and foreign (and at times painfully bureaucratic) land, Daiwa scholars are expected to commit themselves to rigorous study of the Japanese language before undertaking an internship with a Japan-based organisation which will more often than not stretch ones linguistic and professional capabilities. That being said, it has been my experience that Daiwa scholars come away from the experience so much the better for being pushed outside of their comfort zones. My fellow scholars and I all had moments of immense frustration where it felt as if we were banging our heads against a brick wall – be that linguistically, socially or professionally – but ultimately it is such moments in which the most invaluable and enduring experience lies.

Though there are too many great memories to mention, my month spent living with the Yoshida family in Okinawa is one that will stay with me forever and one which I think sums up the Daiwa experience perfectly. Aside from spending a wonderful month sailing around on traditional wooden sailing boats on one of the world’s most beautiful seas, the Yoshida family welcomed me into not just their country but their family, and, through the experience, taught me a huge amount about the Japanese language, people and culture.

It may seem a tad trite, but I cannot recommend the Daiwa Scholarship enough. For those students or professionals who have a genuine interest in Japan and wish to contribute in their own way to the mutual understanding and engagement between our two countries the Scholarship offers unique opportunities and experiences not to be found anywhere else. Ganbare and yoroshikuonegaishimasu.

For more information and to apply please visit the Daiwa Foundation’s website. Please note that the application deadline for this year’s programme is 6th December 2018. You can read Andrew’s original case study here, along with other scholars’ experiences going all the way back to before some readers of this blog will have been born!