Before I start, Inas, Sara and Valerie, thank you so much for replying!
Ok, on to the questions! They're all mostly about studies and MEXT, but to be honest, if you have questions about living (and to a smaller extent travelling) in Japan, feel free to ask me. I'll probably turn the questions into Part 3.... next year (looking at how I procrastinate :p)
MEXT Scholarship Questions
What are the chances of furthering my studies after MEXT?
From what Sara and another senior told me, it is possible to further your studies under MEXT. For example, if you're in the undergraduate program, you can study to a Masters degree. For a graduate, you can go to a PhD. I'm not too sure about the details though, so please check with the embassy/university.
What happens if you fail the December exam?
Oh no! Ok, this is a matter of how badly you've failed. If there's a university that will take you in, you will go there. If no university wants you (which means you must have skipped all your lessons or something), then I think you'll have to go home. The school will do its best to help you get in.
Related Question: What happens if my first choice university rejects me?
The school will help you find another university. I'm not sure how this is done though.
How do you pick your university?
There are a few stages (this is TUFS specific. If any Osaka people could chime in, that would be awesome):
Stage 1: You get back your results (and then you celebrate or mope around - no prizes to the correct guess for my experience)
Stage 2: You go for a consultation with the teacher (In TUFS' case, Tani Sensei) as to which universities you can probably get in.
Stage 3: You apply and wait for MEXT to give it's approval.
Stage 4: If MEXT gives the green light, you either go for the exam/interview (if there's any) and then continue waiting for the official university letter.
How are the students divided? Can you choose your language school?
I'm not too sure, although we're divided pretty evenly between Osaka and Tokyo. And no, we can't pick our language school.
How many people get in overall?
There were about 60 people in my year, so I'm guessing about 120 people worldwide. This is for my batch (those that came in April 2012), so I'm not too sure about the latest numbers.
What kind of language test do you get when you first arrive?
For TUFS, it was a general Japanese language test. Gosh, I just realised I forgot :O
I'm pretty sure reading, writing, speaking (like conversations with the teacher) and listening are all tested though.
Life in Japan (Language and other stuff)
How good should my Japanese be?
Erh, erh, you're asking me? My Japanese friends still have to help me check every single one of my papers for grammar mistakes *blushes*. Just rest assured that by the end of the one year, you should be good enough for university. And the language schools will teach you from zero, so there's absolutely no need to worry.
Osaka people: is Kansai-ben very different from Standard Japanese?
I'm not sure why I was asked this, but let's just say it's different. It's not like Chinese, where knowing Mandarin doesn't help with Cantonese or Hokkien, but you will have a few problems understanding. At least, that's my experience with Hakata-ben and Kita-kyushu-ben.
Are there any student mentors when you first arrive?
Yes! There's an advisor on each floor of the dorm, and he/she will help you settle in, bring you to get your yuuchou bank account set up and all that. In fact, my advisor was the person who helped me find a doctor when I was sick and checked up on me.
Should I bring my laptop over? and Is a laptop necessary for the first year?I
It's up to you. It's not that necessary for your first year, although I'm using it for school assignments a lot more since I entered university. If your laptop is new, it may be worth using an adaptor for at least the first year. If your laptop is old and you were thinking of getting a new one anyway, wait till you come before you buy a laptop (and there are normally lots of student discounts in April, when the new school year starts).
Is it expensive to live in Japan? Do I need baito?
Living expenses vary from region to region. Kyushu is actually pretty ok, I managed just fine without baito for my first year. I just started teaching English, but that's because I made a few extravagant purchases this year. It's pretty normal to have baito though.
What can you buy at the 100yen stores?
EVERYTHING. Notebooks, snacks, drainage nets (get those, they are insanely useful if you hate scrubbing the plastic draining thing in your sink), little boxes, house slippers/house socks, etc. The only thing I would caution you against buying there would be cooking utensils, because I heard a horror story (from my senpai) about them melting under heat.
How do you cope with homesickness?
It probably varies from person to person, but I find that going outside and doing something helps immensely. The whole point of this is to leave your house/room and get some fresh air. So at the very least, walk to a nearby store/conbini (you don't have to buy anything). Better yet, go do something, like kendo practice. Be warned, you will not feel like going out, but you should force yourself to do so. I normally feel this sense of inertia before kendo, but I never regret going.
I hope this was useful! Let me know if there are any other questions that isn't covered in this FAQ or the previous one.
Also, I'd love to do an FAQ for Kyushu University, to try and convince more of you to come here. So ask away in the comments or email me with your questions!