[What is JICA?]
Hi all! I’ve decided to post in a weekly basis or as possible my journey as a JICA trainee. This post includes an overview of my own process while applying to this scholarship and where I stand right now.
I’ve met some people who’d joined this program in the past but I’m not sure if they have some info posted somewhere and how what’s been told to this generation differs from them. Anyways, to whom may concern:
ジャイカは何ですか(What is JICA?) Well, JICA stands for Japan International Cooperation Agency is a Japanese non-profit organization that promotes cultural relationship between Japan and other countries. In this Mexican edition the purpose of JICA is to develop experts in certain areas: computer, electronics, arts, quality, and intellectual property. You can find more information about the courses here. There’s an annual announcement for people who have developed expertise and want to work with Japanese experts (yeah in Japan!). This is a worldwide thing, but I am limiting to what the process in Mexico involves.
Usually are 34 trainees in total but I’ve been told some dude couldn’t make it so we’re 33.
I am 29 years old, female Electronics and Communications Engineer and god knows if I ever graduate from my Masters (Electronics Design). I was a Test Engineer for 3 years at IBM and a Hardware Engineer for the past 5 years at Intel and brief time at Continental. I enjoy learning other languages although I’m not really fluent I speak English and French (really intermediate) but Spanish is my native language. I started studying Japanese in Guadalajara 2015 about 4 months and last year as I transitioned from one company to another I decided to go on vacations by myself to Japan, fortunately a good friend of my mine was in Shanghai by that time he flew to Kansai and we spent the second week touring together (both Mexicans BTW). I really enjoyed my time in Japan so in September 2016 I decided to resume my Japanese studies. Enough about me!
I knew about the JICA programs since 2011 but I never put myself into applying and then I started my Masters, I let it linger thinking “I don’t think they’ll choose me I don’t have the expertise, what if the project I’m assigned to is too damn hard, I don’t want to stop earning money” stuff like that.
I finally decided to apply to Computer accepting 5 applicants, I was aiming for Electronics Control and Measurement but the limit was 2 applicants so I thought my odds to be picked were lower if I’d applied to Electronics. The Computer course has some other sub-courses but I am hoping I’ll be assigned to the IOT program or the FPGA one that I believe are more oriented to what I know rather than Quantic Computing or the other data-mining courses (not even sure what those are about).
This is the 45th edition of the JICA program, the announcement in Mexico was made by CONACYT and it was opened from July to September 2016. Here is the calendar, the final announcement was actually done in December 9th >_<
I had no more information than what was posted by CONACYT and what my friends and acquaintances told me about the courses. I guess my major concerns besides not being chosen were:
- What are these courses about? Mostly the electronics circuit measurement and control description sounded really vague to me, I tried contacting JICA in Mexico and CONACYT many times but the one time they responded they sent the same information that was posted on CONACYT website. Another reason why I chose Computer instead 🙁
- I need to quit my job? What’s the allowance in Japan? Would it be enough? How much savings do I need? I talked with some friends from previous generations (I think one of them was 2011) “well I don’t remember the actual amount but you shouldn’t be worried about it!” I got other similar responses so I decided that I’m going to use my savings in Japan, that and the amount of money I spent the first time I was there (a lot!).
- What is expected from Mexican trainees once we got back to Mexico? From CONACYT it seems they need nothing back except when Japanese trainees come to Mexico we may be contacted. But in a future post I’ll describe what the responsibilities of a JICAの件首位 (JICA trainee).
If you are planning to apply, this is what CONACYT asks in the first place: being Mexican, minimum average 8.0, experience in the desired area, good mental and physical health, fluent English. All these only to be chosen by CONACYT for your interview. The final decision is actually made by JICA Japan (or at least that’s what I’ve been told by JICA Mexico).
A 6 week course in Mexico City!! I actually had to quit my job, there is no cost for the Japanese course but there’s no allowance yet (not until you get to Japan). So right now I’m crashing at my friends apartment. If you don’t have anyone at Mexico City I highly recommend airbnb in Coyoacán.
If you think you meet all the above, go through the following process:
- Create your CVU such a pain in the ass >__< but you need to be signed up at CONACYT.
- Apply online at CONACYT webpage. I think the link is down but is usually available in September.
2.1 When you apply online to the scholarship you need to include:
- Online application with a photo (color).
- JICA application format (English).
- Grade certificate (copy) something official remember you need a at least an average of 8.0/10.
- Translation of your certificate. I actually attached a spreadsheet hehe.
- Bachelors Diploma (copy).
- A 3 page essay with your reasons for applying to this scholarship. This is a tricky one, I actually e-mailed this to JICA because there was no attachment field to upload the document in the online application. What you need to do is use the “MOTIVOS” text box in the online application so you can copy-paste your essay here.
- Recommendation letters (3) use CONACYT template.
- Passport and USA visa (if you have it). So another thing, I actually have a USA tourist visa, if I knew, I should had said I didn’t so I could get a direct flight Mexico City-Japan. Instead I have to go through Atlanta >_< and wait 20 hours (more about this further on).
- TOEFL ITP, I did TOEFL ITP scored 600 points ^_^U you need 490. There are some equivalents they accept I think.
- Attach your CURP.
- A health certificate. You can do IMSS or private institution as long as they say you are OK to travel and being in Japan for whatever the length of you stay is. You are actually going to go through a medical examination once you get in Japan (at least if your stay is longer than 6 months). This said, take care yourselves and do not ingest any funny substances hehe.
2.2 This is what you need if you apply to Computer:
- Being an Engineer -_-
- Include the JICA ANNEX choosing you preferred sub-course.
- And of course all the other docs.
3. The interviews were in October, CONACYT actually posted the CVUs the first week of October.
The interview process is a teleconference with people from JICA in Mexico City, I was in Guadalajara by that time so I had to go to CONACYT offices to join the teleconference. The interview took 25 minutes in which they ask you aspects as: “why do you like Japan, why won’t do a Masters instead of this program? What are your expectations?”. What remained in my head after the interview is that JICA team (at least in Mexico) is concerned about the cultural shock and the homesickness you could suffer far away from Mexico more than what your actual experience is, by that time I assume they had read my resume thoroughly otherwise I wouldn’t hadn’t been called in the first place. So if you are planning to apply in the future, take into account that you should know your reasons and expectations and firmly explain them during your interview.
4. Wait for CONACYT to post the results. I had to wait another whole week for them to post the results. My former manager was at the edge of his seat, he already knew I had applied to the scholarship we were just waiting for the results.
I think I should mention you don’t need to know any Japanese. You will learn some during the Mexico City Japanese course, I am actually in Mexico City. The school is at Coyoacan is the Instituto Cultural Mexico Japonés. I will post more about the Japanese course further on.
An there’s a 2 month intensive course in Nagoya as well, after this (around May) you will be assigned to your course. Computer is in Kanazawa, others are in Kyoto, Kobe, etc.
What is covered by Japan goverment 😉
Air ticket! Monthly allowance, transportation within Japan (training), lodging, course materials, health insurance, Japanese intensive course in Nagoya.
I hope this clarifies, I sure asked a lot of questions to former trainees (thank you guys!). There are many scholarships you can take if you are interested in going to Japan but this is an amazing opportunity if you want to improve your technical skills as well.