Malaysia is the third-largest island in the world, made up of two parts: peninsular Malaysia and island Malaysia (part of Borneo). Filled with exquisite coral reefs, beaches, and the largest flower in the world, Malaysia is a tropical paradise. This multi-ethnic, multi-religious country is an ideal place to study abroad and explore the wonderful harmony between Islam, Christian, and native populations. Studying abroad in Malaysia is also a very affordable option!
There are three main locations for studying abroad in Malaysia. Each of these locations have distinct qualities and allow for diverse experiences:
Johor Bahru. If you’re looking to learn about the environment or development, this city is an excellent choice. Right across the border from Singapore, this city used to be a small fishing village but now is focused on the tourism industry.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, is a sprawl of bright lights and urban opportunity. Many people throughout Malaysia look to it as the land of opportunity because there are many educational and employment possibilities in Kuala Lumpur. The city is filled with the typical characteristics of Asian cosmopolitan life, from large shopping malls, to nightlife, to delicious Asian cuisine.
Borneo. With incredibly diverse ecology and animal life, study abroad programs in Borneo will most likely take you outside the classroom and into your natural surroundings. Borneo’s rainforest is the oldest in the world and is the only place you can find apes in Asia (the orangutan)! This is also where you’ll find Southeast Asia’s highest peak, Mount Kinabalu.
Subjects & Courses
While studying in Malaysia, students can expect most courses to be taught in English and to have access to a wide variety of course options. With English as the second office language, students do not have to have knowledge of Malay, Chinese, or Tamil to successfully study in Malaysia. The country is closely monitored by the Ministry of Higher Education making the country’s higher education system well-attuned to international standards.
Curriculums in business, engineering, and information technology are common, along with biological science and the arts. The typical academic year begins in early September and runs until mid to early June, with two mid semester breaks in November and April. Students can expect an exam period to last three weeks at the end of each term. Any time of the year is a great time to study in Malaysia, however, semester study abroad programs, or full year programs, are more popular than summer programs. The weather in Malaysia is fairly stable with rainfall throughout the year, however in the states of Sarawak and Sabah the heaviest rainfall can last from October to March.
Scholarships & Costs
Although Malaysia is a very affordable location, there are also a variety of scholarships for study abroad in Malaysia available for international students. The cost of living is low relative to most locations within the United States, and in relation to neighboring countries like Singapore. On average, a meal at a nice restaurant will cost approximately $8 to 15, and street food is even cheaper. A Coke will run you about 60 cents, and if you shop the local markets and cook on your own you can save a great deal. However, if you are purchasing luxury items or alcohol, these can be more expensive due to higher sales tax.
Accommodation & Visas
Students can expect to have the option of living on or off campus while studying abroad at most universities in Malaysia. Homestays are also a possibility, but tend not to be the norm for students studying in Malaysia.
In terms of visas, everyone visiting Malaysia via air typically receives a 60 day visa. However, for students wishing to study in Malaysia for a longer period, the visa process is quite straight forward. Malaysia encourages international students to attend study abroad programs, so the visa process is as student-friendly as possible. Sometimes visa requests will go directly through the academic institution hosting the study abroad program in Malaysia, such as in the case of direct exchange programs.
Benefits & Challenges
- Academic Difference. Instead of a one week finals period that is typical in the United State, students will instead have three weeks to complete their final exams. This unique change is typically a surprise for students studying abroad in Malaysia.
- Easy Communication. English is the second language in Malaysia, so most international students are able to get around fine in the country with minimal knowledge of Malay, the official language of Malaysia.
- Cultural Mix & Stability. Malaysia has healthy populations of Filipinos, Chinese, Christians, and Muslims, all interacting and living together harmoniously. After all you hear in the media, and learn about the differences and history between these groups, seeing them live well together is extremely insightful. Even with the variety of religions and gap in wealth between different populations, the country maintains political stability.
- Safe. Malaysia ranked 33rd in the global peace index for 2014, and has held even lower spots throughout the years.
- Learn about Islam. This is a religion and way of life that is mysterious to many people in the Western world. The Islamic population in Malaysia is incredibly welcoming and loves to share their religion with you. Take the opportunity to visit some mosques and learn more about Islamic beliefs while studying in Malaysia.