Master Abroad Q&A

By Anissa Ratna Putri - Mei 24, 2015

Back then before I'm leaving for Japan, some of my friends asked me about the procedure to get enrolled in university abroad as well as the procedure to obtain the desired scholarship. They also asked about specific personal question regarding my master study. I promise them I will write in my blog, so then they could read and get the information they need. I know I should write this in Bahasa instead of English, but assuming Indonesian are good in english (and you guys do, compare to... other people in another part of the world) I will do this in english, because I feel like I want to. So here it goes.

How do you choose your preferred major and your intended university?
Depends on your interest. What do you want to study? I bet at least you have some keywords that related to your interest. If you still not sure, just go googling this keywords. Take a look at various university and read programmes they offer. Some universities may publish their curriculum, some may not. You may also want to consider the track record of the university as well as the track record of the country related to your intend to study.

In my case, I want to learn about Environmental Management because I feel that to understand the environmental issue I cannot see it only from engineering point of view. However, I realise that I am a nerd who will always go back to this solid waste/garbage/trash issue. Thus, I need to find a university that gives me environmental management knowledge while allow me to conduct research at engineering laboratory. Also, I need to learn in a country who already implement a good system of municipal solid waste management. So there it goes, I found my perfect match at Resource Recycling Science Laboratory, Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Japan.

How do you get information about the scholarship?
Browsing! In this modern era, you can find almost everything in internet. So please, people.. do not lazy to browse, browse, browse! There are also information about scholarship spread in the social media like Facebook or WhatsApp.. and there are a lot of Indonesian scholars out there that surely we can contact if we need to ask anything.

There are a lot kind of scholarship, so I will give you link only to some that I applied before:

Is it better to apply for the university first or for the scholarship first?
Anything is OK... in my case. Probably there are some scholarship that require you to get accepted by the university first, or vice versa. I basically done the whole applying process parallel.

To give you an overview, here is my timeline:
Dec 2013 - contact my intended academic supervisor in Kyoto University
Mar 2014 - send my research plan draft to the professor
Apr 2014 - apply for MEXT scholarship (1st phase)
May 2014 - apply for LPDP scholarship (1st phase)
June 2014 - interview for LPDP scholarship (2nd phase)
                 - english/japanese exam and interview for MEXT scholarship (2nd phase)
                 - apply for Kyoto University (1st phase)
July 2014 - announcement of LPDP scholarship (3rd phase)
                 - announcement of Primary Screening MEXT scholarship (3rd phase)
                 - apply for Kyoto University (2nd phase)
Aug 2014 - submission documents for Secondary Screening MEXT scholarship (4th phase)
                 - skype interview for Kyoto University (3rd phase)
Sep 2014  - announcement of Kyoto University enrolment (Final)
Nov 2014 - announcement of Secondary Screening MEXT scholarship (Final)
                 - resign from LPDP (final)
Apr 2015  - start my master study in Spring Semester

What essential documents should be prepared before applying?

  • CV 
  • Graduation Certificate or Letter of expectation of graduation
  • Academic Transcript
  • English score (commonly requested: TOEFL iBT or IELTS)
  • Passport (make sure it's not expired)
  • Photo
  • Letter of Recommendation
  • Research Plan (especially for those who willing to be enrolled in japanese universities)

Do you have to have a clear idea about your future master thesis research?
For japanese universities, mostly they will ask you to submit proposed research plan. So yes, you have to come up with some ideas and submit it even before you start your master study. However, if anything, you can improve your proposed research later after you start your study.

How is the procedure to apply to the university?
Depends on the university. Some university allow you to do the entrance examination from your home country, some may require you to travel to the university itself to take the entrance examination. Others may only need a registration documents without entrance examination. So you have to find out by your own, how is the procedure of your intended university.

Lucky me, Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies (GSGES) allow me to have entrance exam from my home country. My program name is International Environmental Management Program (IEMP). The procedure consist of:

  • Submission of administration documents (passport, graduation certificate, IELTS/TOEFL, etc)
  • Submission of essay on determined topic by intended supervisor and proposed research plan
  • Skype interview for around 30 minutes by 5 professor
For you who interest to enrol in GSGES Kyoto University, you can check the details here.

How is the procedure to apply the scholarship?
I will describe two scholarships here: LPDP and MEXT.

1. Online document submission
Study Plan, Essay, Letter of Recommendation, TOEFL/IELTS score, Statement Letter, Academic Transcript, Certificate of Graduation.
2. Announcement (1): Phase I Passing Candidate
3. Interview and LGD
It was held at Ministry of Finance Headquarter. The interview was conducted by 1 psychologist and 2 professors for around 15 minutes. LGD (Leaderless Group Discussion) was discussing about various current happening issue in Indonesia for about 30 minutes.
4. Announcement (2): Phase II Passing Candidate
5. Pra-leadership training (Pra-PK, Pra-Pelatihan Kepemimpinan)
You will be assigned to a PK-group, and you will be involved in various group tasks, for example choosing your group leader, create your group uniform, etc.
6. Leadership Training (PK)
I cannot tell you much about this because I'm not attending PK. As far as I know, you will be trained for a week, meet various inspiring people as well as doing various physical activities.
7. Announcement (Final)

Primary Screening
1. Document submission
Application Form, Research Plan and Study Plan, Photo, Academic Transcript, Certificate of Graduation, Letter of Recommendation, Abstract of previous research, TOEFL/IELTS score
2. Announcement (1): Document Submission Passing Candidate
3. English/Japanese exam
It was held at University of Indonesia. You will have to working on english and japanese exam, yet the scoring system will choose the best score. For example, in my case, I don't understand japanese, thus I did not working a single number of the given exam. Instead, I focus on working on my english exam to excel my score.
4. Interview
It was held at Japanese Embassy, Jakarta. There were 3 professors from Japan and 2 professors from Indonesia, asking me questions about my research plan, my interest to study in Japan, and my future contribution for Japan and Indonesia. Interview time was around 15-30 minutes.
5. Announcement (2): Primary Screening Passing Candidate

Secondary Screening
1. Document Submission (same as Primary Screening submission documents + Health certificate)
2. Letter of Acceptance Submission (Placement Preference form + Letter of Acceptance from your desired university)
This is a temporary Letter of Acceptance, means if the university require you to take entrance exam, you will be accepted as Research Student, and you will take the entrance exam 6 months later after your arrival in Japan. However, for some people like me who already took the entrance exam from my home country, this Letter of Acceptance means that I accepted as Master Student, and I could join master classes as soon as I arrive in Japan.
3. Announcement (3): Secondary Screening Passing Candidate

Departure Preparation
1. University Placement Announcement
Some people apply to be a research student to more than one university. Thus, their placement will be announced in this phase. This is not applied to those who already enrolled in their preferred university as master student.
2. Decision Letter and Visa
The Japanese Embassy will take care of your visa. No need to queue in a long line with other visa applicants.
3. Orientation (listening to speeches, eat lots of food, meet new friends)
4. Departure (usually at April 1st)

You can also read more detail about applying MEXT scholarship from here. This blog had help me a lot. Thank you, Samy senpai!

How do you choose which scholarship you should take?
For those who lucky enough to get accepted by two scholarship, I guess you will have to choose one of them because most of the scholarship institution will not allow you to take both, no?
To choose your preferred scholarship, there are some consideration you may want to think about other than just comparing the amount of money they offer.

  • What benefit this scholarship offer you?
Other than the tuition fee and the monthly allowance (both of these should be the first priority to consider), is there any other service or allowance they offer you? Some people preference not (only) defined by the amount of money, but also the service offered by the institution. For example, 
Scholarship A: offer XX amount of money with a lot of other allowance (books, insurance, etc), but you have to do all of your administration things by yourself (go to the embassy to apply visa, pay the given tuition fee in your account to the university each semester, and some other complicated administration things). 
Scholarship B: offer XX amount of money for tuition fee and monthly allowance, no other allowance, but they offer you a service in such a way that makes you basically do not necessarily need to think about a lot of administration things - because they had taken care of it. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy your master. 
Please also consider any requirements they mention. Some requirements may define your future. For example, some scholarship may require you to go back to Indonesia  straightly after your graduation, other may require you to work with Company Z for X years.

  • Which scholarship will be better to put on your CV?
Nowadays it seems like going abroad is become more common in Indonesia. In the near future, it will be more competitive to gain your desired job if everyone also has a background education from abroad, no? Thus, the institution that grant you the scholarship do matter. Also, the competition level to obtain the scholarship, for me, also matter. Are you one of lucky 200 out of 2000 applicants? or better, you are one of lucky 20 out of 2000? Both of this point - the institution and the competition level - is something you can put on your CV later and explain as your excellence.

What other knowledge/skill need to be prepared before going abroad? 
Surely there are plenty of things you should prepare - but I think the most important one is to get to know the intended country before you leave. You can browse what kind of food they usually eat, what kind of culture they have, and what kind of life people experience in the city. You should also learn the language. Do not expect everyone - especially local people - will understand english in the same level as you do. I'm not saying you have to be an expert before you leave, but at least please learn the basic for daily conversation. By learning local language, you also appreciate their culture and you can also hangout with local people and make more friends!

I hope I explain all things clearly. Should any of you have questions, don't hesitate to ask me. Goodluck!


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  1. 2 YEARS PREPARATIONNN before going abroad woohooo!!! Bukan Ica namanya kl ngga detail... thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you for information!

  3. thank you so much for sharing, ca! gue pusing baca bagian wawancara oleh 5 profesor. walau via skype tetep keder gak sih :"D terus, I wonder how did you manage every-single-crazy-thing for master program preparation and waste4change at the same time? both also went well. e&! fix banget lo panutan hidup gue, ca ;) please share life management tips a la ica dooong!

    1. sama2 Opi! hahaha nggak seserem itu kok, yang penting lo tebar senyum dan jawab dengan (sok) yakin ;) kalau gw, alhamdulillah waste4change selalu support gw ketika lagi butuh waktu persiapan S2. Jadi pada masa-masa hectic bikin research plan gw akan izin utk kerja dengan porsi lebih sedikit dr biasanya, misalnya masih bisa kontak2an sama klien dan ngerjain on-desk-task tapi nggak bisa pergi meeting. Minta pengertian sama partner kerja untuk sharing tanggungjawab (waktu itu sama Ijul). Soalnya kalau nggak gitu, nggak kepegang research plannya, ketelan kerjaan kantor. Terus gw anaknya moody, jadi biar semangat ngerjain persiapan S2 kadang2 gw cari suasana baru (kafe baru, taman terdekat, apa aja selain rumah/kantor) biar lebih semangat hehe. Selain itu gw emang pengen banget explore Jepang, jadi setiap males atau gak mood coba inget2 lagi kalau udah S2 di Jepang bisa sekalian jalan2 wkwkwk #murah Kalau life management gw masih berantakan pun kok pii *deadliner sejati* jadi agak malu juga kalau dishare :''D Tapi kalau mau ngobrol2, chat aja yah ;)