If you’re like me, coming from a low-income family and paying for your own education, the idea of studying abroad, in Japan, may seem impossible. Not only do you have to cover the price of tuition and ordinary living expenses, but there is the cost of traveling overseas as well. To make things worse, with a student visa, you’re only allowed to work for 28 hours a week, making it unlikely that you can work to pay off your expenses. Nonetheless, don’t give up hope! It is possible, and here’s how:
As students, we tend to think of scholarships as something that only the best-of-the-best can get. They’re highly competitive, typically require you to submit an essay, and the deadlines always seem to be during times in which you’re already busy with midterms or finals for the current semester (if you’re a university student, that is).However, that isn’t always the case. Many scholarships (especially one’s aimed at students planning to travel abroad) look at a variety of different factors, in order to allow a wide variety of students the chance to pursue their academic goals. Take for example the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, a Congressionally-funded scholarship which helps low-income students, in the United States, who are planning on studying abroad. It does require that its recipients agree to complete a service project (of your choosing) which promotes awareness of the scholarship and check in with the United States Department of State, but the benefit far outweighs the work that is necessary to receive it.
More importantly, apply for every scholarship you can. Nobody will receive every scholarship, and even scholarships which don’t provide much money can be beneficial. To do so, check with your financial aid, academic, and study abroad advisers (if you are a university student), because they will likely be able to tell you about which scholarships you can apply for through your school. In addition, there are numerous websites which help students to find scholarships, and many local businesses offer them as well. Be sure to ask some of your professors/teachers to look over your scholarship essays for them too. Chances are, they’ll be more than willing to critique them for you, and it’ll greatly improve your chances of getting the scholarships you’re hoping for.
Yes, I said it, student loans. The biggest nightmare of anyone trying to pay for his/her own education. For most students, it’s not likely that you’ll get a full-ride scholarship, and in those cases, they’re almost always a necessity (Unless you’re from one of those awesome countries, like Finland, which pay for your schooling. In which case, why are you even reading this? No, seriously… Why are you reading this?). They don’t have to be an unbearable burden, either. Again, this will require a lot of time and research, but it is possible to find student loans which won’t require you sacrifice your first-born child or sell your mother into slavery to pay off your debt. It’s true that no matter what, they’re not going to be the most ideal way to pay for your education, but as long as you start paying off the interest while you’re still in school, they shouldn’t become too overwhelming when you graduate and have to pay them back.
Typically, people start planning where and how to study abroad at least a year before going, so it gives plenty of time to save enough money (if you manage your finances properly). In my case, I created a strict budget and limited nearly all unnecessary spending. At the time, it was quite painful – I couldn’t go to the movies with friends or buy any of the new things I wanted, and I even created a strict food budget. I probably didn’t need to be as hard on myself as I was, but looking back, it was completely worth it! I not only saved enough money, that way, to cover my plane ticket and some of my living expenses, but I got to enjoy all of the things I deprived myself, when I got here to Japan.
Come on a working-holiday visa
For those of you in Norway, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or the UK who can’t afford to go to school in Japan and aren’t students (I wouldn’t recommend dropping out of school or even taking a break, to go overseas, since that’ll likely cause you a bunch of problems down the road), you should aim for a working-holiday visa. It’s a great way to come to Japan to find work, and while you’re here, you can either do self-study or take some lessons. Actually, quite a few of my friends are doing this, and things seem to be going really well for them. Their Japanese isn’t improving as quickly as my friends who are enrolled at a university or language school – since their main reason for being here is work – but you can definitely notice a difference, since they first came here!
All-in-all, there are actually hundreds of different options you have for studying abroad in Japan and just as many ways to acquire the money that is needed to do so. The best thing to remember, though, is to be patient. Even if you can’t afford to study abroad right now, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to in the future. Just put some money aside, do some research into which options work best for you, and plan ahead. If you do that, you’ll make it here to Japan in no time!
Specified which countries are eligible for a working-holiday visa, thanks to information from Patricia Bowden.