A series of islands filled with sparkling cities, tropical terrain, orangutans, and one of the friendliest cultures in the world – who wouldn’t want to intern abroad in Malaysia? This country consists of both a peninsula and an island, divided by the South China Sea and brimming with some of the world’s most diverse cultures and coral reefs. Beyond the thick jungles, beaches, and mountains are the booming metropolitan centers of the country with growing tourism, industry, and thriving international business. As the third-largest island in the world, Malaysia is a major, influential presence in the Asia Pacific, making it an excellent location for internships abroad.
Malaysia is a federation made up of 13 states, each of them with its own distinct cultural influences and customs. From the indigenous Malay people to recent Chinese immigrants to years of Dutch colonialism, every city and region has a distinct way of life that has been shaped by their geography, history, and people. In recent years, these cultural hubs have also grown to provide numerous internship opportunities in various professional fields. The most popular cities for internships in Malaysia include Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, and Penang Island.
Kuala Lumpur. Located on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur boasts far more than the title of federal capital of Malaysia. It is also the largest city in the country with a young population of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures. Kuala Lumpur combines modern innovation and ages-old tradition with its iconic, stainless steel-clad Petronas Towers and numerous Hindu temples, lush parks, Mosques, and bustling street food vendors. Aside from the city’s endless amount of entertainment and history, it is also a hotbed for international business.
Kuching. The largest city on Borneo Island, Kuching is one of the top destinations within the state of Sarawak. It is known for its vibrant streets, filled with shopping, open-air markets, and Asian cuisine, perfect for strolling and for immersing oneself in Malaysian culture. Aside from city life, ecotourism is a major draw to Kuching due to its close proximity to jungle and coastal conservation areas. The Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower, alone attracts thousands of visitors each year, as well as the elusive orangutans.
Penang Island. More specifically, the state capital of George Town, is one of the most economically important and developed regions of Malaysia. Originally a colonial seaport, the city is now most commonly known as “Silicon Island” for its high-tech industries and flourishing population, making it a hotbed for tech internships in Malaysia. The area is also sprawling with beach resorts and historical sites, as well as unparalleled cuisine.
Internships in Malaysia
Internships in Malaysia may be part-time, but most are full-time commitments that can last anywhere between six weeks to six months. With the diversity of Malaysia’s economy comes internships in nearly every field. However, there are a few areas in which the nation is particularly noteworthy.
As Malaysia continues to grow and develop, one of its largest fields of work is in international business and finance, particularly in the capital of Kuala Lumpur. The city’s financial district is lined with multinational banks and corporations, such as IBM and HP, offering interns an excellent opportunity to work and learn in an Asian business world, a growing market that is becoming increasingly important in global affairs.
The field of tourism finds a home in Kuching, where travelers from all over the world flock to the city for its beautiful streets and its close and easy access to some of the most incredible biodiversity on the planet. As such, hospitality is a crucial aspect of life on Borneo Island. Interning in tourism in Malaysia is vastly different from other tourism internship opportunities typically found in Europe, and will give you hands-on experience in a fast-paced and labor-intensive field.
Due to the biodiversity of the region, ecological conservation is also an excellent field to explore for internships in Malaysia, as the federal and state governments struggle with habitat destruction and the loss of crucial species throughout the region.
Malaysia can also lay claim to expansive industrial and digital electronics developments. Penang Island’s booming economy has created a playground for companies such as Intel, Dell, Motorola, AMD, Bosch, amongst others. For those looking for internship experience in a steadily growing economy, interning in Malaysia is an excellent opportunity for young professionals.
Salary & Costs
Paid internships in Malaysia typically provide interns with around $280 per month (around 1,000 RM in the local currency). This may seem to be on the lower side, however the cost of living in Malaysia is extremely low in comparison to countries such as the United States. A meal at an expensive, fancy restaurant will cost you a maximum of around $15 and street food or groceries found at the open-air markets will cost considerably less as exchange rates are very favorable.
Accommodation & Visas
Like most countries, Malaysia provides a wide array of housing options; this is particularly true in the city, where apartments, condominiums, and houses are all available for purchase or for rent. Many internships in Malaysia will include accommodations in packaged programs, where interns typically share apartments with other interns. For those who are not provided with accommodations while interning in Malaysia, renting an apartment is the most typical form of accommodation in most Malaysian cities.
Homestays are rare for those who intern in cities, but much more common the further into the country you go. Online expat networks are very helpful in finding living arrangements with other international students or interns, although your internship provider should be able to assist you as well. Overall, rent is very affordable in Malaysia, as the exchange rates allow for much more luxurious living.
In order to intern in Malaysia, you must obtain a Professional Visit Pass. This visa is typically issued to foreigners employed by an overseas company, but working with a company in Malaysia. It allows you to stay in the country from anywhere between six months to a year. Applying for a visa to intern in Malaysia can be a lengthy and complicated process, so be sure to start the process as early as you can.
It is also important to note that the eastern Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak (on the island of Borneo) have their own immigration authorities and special entry requirements. If you are interning in Sabah or Sarawak, it is recommended that you contact the Malaysian Embassy to find out how to proceed with acquiring a visa.
However, no matter where you intern in Malaysia, it is important to always carry your passport with you, as this is the main form of identification in the country and having your passport on-hand can assist you in any encounters with Malaysian bureaucracy or authority. At minimum, a copy is best if you don’t want to carry your actual passport on your person.
Benefits & Challenges
- Widespread English. The second most commonly spoken language in Malaysia (after Malay) is English, so you’ll find that communication with locals is not too challenging. However, trying to learn the native language while interning in Malaysia will not only gain you more appreciation from your Malaysian neighbors and coworkers, but will also open more doors to immersing yourself in Malaysian culture.
- Be Mindful of the Local Religions. Although freedom of religion is widespread throughout the nation, it is important to arrive in Malaysia with knowledge and respect of the Islam, as it is the state religion and is a fundamental aspect of Malaysian culture. However, other religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity are also very prevalent throughout the country. The plurality of both the religions and cultures coexisting together in the same country of Malaysia is an impressive example of equality and acceptance, which is extremely rewarding while interning abroad.
- Extensive Cultural Differences. Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy and much of its politics mirror western governments, however the lifestyle of Malaysia is vastly different from your home country. It will take some adjustment living in such a diverse environment, but what you can get out of such an experience both personally and professionally.
- Springboard For Your Global Career. Interning abroad in Malaysia can assist you in your career by expanding your resume and skill set, providing you with hands-on knowledge of working in the world. Choosing to intern abroad in Malaysia takes you slightly off the beaten path of other typical internship positions, but the country’s relevance in Asian politics and its growing industries makes it an excellent location to launch your global career.