Sašo in Japan!

A blag about my exploits in Japan
A Guide to Vulcanus: The Application Process

About applying to Vulcanus in Japan, there’s one thing I’d like to get through quickly, because it’s just so important. If you’re interested, start preparing your application immediately. This thing takes a while and definitely can’t be done in only a couple of days. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some things I found to be important while applying.

There are a lot of resources to consider if you want to learn more about Vulcanus, including the application process. First is, of course, the official site and the application guide/form there. It’s the first thing you should read through (multiple times), but unfortunately a bit vague in some details, because it aims to be a general guide for everyone. Different countries have different systems, and, in my experience, it’s best to ask a previous participant from your own country to explain what that means for your situation.

The second thing is the unofficial forum. It’s extremely helpful and likely already contains the answer to your question. Other blogs from other participants (see the list) are also a very nice resource to get the information from a different point of view.

There is something else I think deserves mentioning, and that is the general overview of the Vulcanus application process. There are 4 stages:

  • the application stage,
  • the post-shortlist stage,
  • the selected stage
  • and the hooray-I’m-in-Japan stage.

This means that there are two filtering boundaries: first one that filters initial applicants (around 1000 every year) into the shortlisted group (over 100) based on the application you submit. Then, you’re required to write motivation letters for potential companies, and you go through another selection, performed by the companies themselves, the criteria of which really depend on the company and the specific situation they require interns for.

So far, the only date you need to be aware of is the application deadline, which is in the middle of January (20th January 2017 this year). Waiting to apply until after the new year is risky, because there is quite a bunch to do to actually apply. Let’s start with them, in approximately the order I have them noted down from my own application.

The medical certificate

This is likely the thing that varies most between countries. For me, it was a matter of going to my personal doctor, explaining the situation (and getting a few weird looks as to why I’d even need anything), then getting a paper which states nothing’s wrong with me. I had this in Slovene, then translated it myself into English. No trouble there.

The letter of recommendation

Depending on the relationship with your professors, this may be very easy or a bit hard to obtain. I’ve never written such a letter myself so I can’t give any first-hand tips about it, but professors have likely written a couple. This isn’t supposed to be anything special, but it’s good if it highlights your academic, professional and leadership achievements, which then complement and support what you write (brag) about in your motivation letter and CV.

The motivation letter

Fact: I don’t know what factors come into play when people are being shortlisted and/or selected. Opinion: the motivation letter is very important. You really should work hard on this. Start early, correct often. Everyone writes a different motivation letter, which is kind of the point, so it’s pointless for me to give any specific guidelines on what to write. Think about what sets you apart from others, what you’ve achieved, what motivates you to go to Japan and live on your own for a year, in a country whose language you don’t speak and with a culture completely different from what you’re used to. There are also some guidelines in the official application guide, I guess it’s best to include those things too.

The Curriculum Vitae

Maybe you’ve already written your CV, maybe you haven’t. There are a lot of templates for this, and something like Europass is just fine in my opinion. I used moderncv, a LaTeX package for CVs, because it looked more professional. More in this in the next section.


There’s a lot of small pieces of advice that just don’t fit anywhere else, so this section will possibly be a bit long.

First is something I see being asked a lot: you have the option of sending the application through your university or by yourself, does one option increase your chances? No, it doesn’t. At all. No-one cares how you sent your documents, they’re the same in either case. Just be sure to not use registered mail, because that’s what’s written in the instructions.

Something that is very important to me personally is the general appearance of your application. It’s clear that you have to put the documents in a correct order, label them properly, and in a folder that doesn’t look like it would fall apart if you breathed on it. The more important thing is what you do with your motivation letter, translations and other compositions you have to do yourself. Again, I have no facts to back this up, but giving off a professional feel is really important, because it affects the evaluator’s subconscious opinion of you. Therefore, no using any dumb things like Comic Sans, instead use LaTeX or, at least, Word properly. Don’t have any typos. A common characteristic that all (well, almost all, let’s just leave it a that) Vulcanus participants share is a great command of the English language, and I don’t think that’s either coincidence or applicant’s bias.

You don’t need to speak any Japanese to apply. That’s what the course is for. However, having a feel for the language is really important and I strongly recommend you watch some (subbed) anime before you go to Japan. No, I’m not kidding. You won’t really learn anything, but you’ll get a feel for the language and it will seem less foreign to you.

And in order to sound even more like a broken record, please do start doing your application as soon as you can.

I guess that’s about everything I want to say right now. There are no doubt a million other pieces of advice to give, but I think I covered the things that were most important for me. It’s just another guy’s opinion on this, read other sources to get more information.

Have fun applying!

This is part 2 of a multi-part series on Vulcanus. Read the other parts to learn more: