As of the 2015 academic year, some 102,000 students from approximately 160 countries and regions around the world have studied in Japan under the Japanese Government (Monbukagakusho) Scholarship program established in 1954, according to the Embassy of Japan in the United States of America. There are currently 9,223 foreign students studying in Japan as Japanese Government Scholarship students.
One 2016 Ball State graduate and former Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship recipient will be expanding his education as a graduate student in Japan.
Jesse Taskovic will be attending Tokyo Gakugei University, a sister institution of Ball State University, as part of the MEXT Scholarship.
Monbukagakusho, known as MEXT, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, offers different scholarships and supports foreign students who study in higher education institutions.
Recipients are selected on the recommendation of Japanese Embassy/Consulate General, University or Authority, according to mext.go.jp.
Taskovic received the research student scholarship, which will allow him the opportunity to spend 18 or 24 months conducting independent research under a Japanese professor.
In addition, the scholarship pays full tuition, provides grantees monthly with 143,000 yen, which is equivalent to around $1,000, and provides two years of training in the Japanese language.
“In the year of 2016, I was the only nominated student among every applicant who applied to Tokyo Gakugei University who in fact did receive the award from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in the Japanese government,” Taskovic said.
Not only is this a big deal for Taskovic, but also for Ball State University.
“[Taskovic] was the only candidate with the scholarship Tokyo Gakugei University received from the Japanese government for this time around,” Sadatoshi Tomizawa, a professor of Japanese, said in an email. “This is a big thing for our Japanese section and the department, as well as Ball State University.”
Taskovic was the first student in Ball State’s history to receive this award.
While the scholarship is one of the biggest accomplishments for Taskovic, he said the application process was not easy.
Applications for the MEXT Scholarship opened up in December of last year with the deadline being January 2016, but Taskovic started preparing for the application process in early September due to the heavy amount of documents that had to be collected.
“It was very difficult to get all the documents because of the cultural differences and because I was the only student in Ball State history to apply for this scholarship. The lack of education was a barrier,” Taskovic said. “I had a lot of problems with people helping me.”
The answer “no” became a recurring one during that time.
“Because people are so undereducated about this scholarship, I had so many people tell me no or tell me that I can’t have this certain piece of information because 'that compromises this policy,'” Taskovic said. “The whole thing was just really hard because I had so many people flat out tell me no in the process of me submitting my application.”
But he wasn’t taking no for an answer.
Taskovic's motivation came as he came back from studying abroad at Tokyo Gakugei University in Japan on an exchange program funded by a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship.
“When I came back from study abroad, I was feeling reverse culture shock like no other that triggered depression,” Taskovic said. “It was really hard being a Gilman scholar and being on a virtual high and being able to accomplish everything I ever dreamed of in high school in terms of traveling and seeing places I have always wanted to see, and then coming back to America to not really know what was next after graduation — that was a heard pill to swallow."
Upon coming back, he told himself he was not going to be one of those people who, when asked what they were going to do after graduation, just said, "I don’t know."
Another influential motivator that kept him going throughout the application process was the fact that he went through school as an independent student.
“I am an independent student at Ball State University, and what that essentially means is I fill my FAFSA out slightly different than other students do when it comes to parent information,” Taskovic said. “I come from a background of child abuse. Coming to Ball State and leaving high school, I was literally coming out of a domestic child service investigation and was essentially told at 18 that I needed to leave the situation I was in.”
For the longest time, he thought he wouldn’t be able to go to college without including a parent’s information on the FAFSA, but through the help of his high school and university with special filing, Taskovic pursued to further his education.
“I do take out a lot of loans, but compared to the crisis I was going through and the education that I needed to be successful, it was worth it,” Taskovic said.
Just taking that step changed Taskovic and kept him pushing for success, which led to his receiving the MEXT Scholarship.
“That was a huge motivator for me because I think what is really special about what I did and the process of getting this scholarship ... [is] I was born and existing in an environment where a whole system was put up against me since day one,” Taskovic said. “I think independent students and the stories they come from and the hard background and circumstances that they are in prior to college is something that really goes untalked about. It’s something to be conscientious of.”
Even though it wasn’t easy, Taskovic said he is extremely thankful for the ones who helped along the way and for the opportunity to continue studying in a country that is very special to his heart.
“[Independent students] are trying really hard to accomplish our dreams, and I am thankful to be one who has,” Taskovic said. “I never thought or dreamt while I was sitting in my Japanese class in high school that I could pursue an education as a graduate student in Japan.”
Taskovic will be leaving for Japan on September 29. He plans on studying sociology and conducting research that blends diversity more into Japanese curriculum.