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Essential Tips for International Students Studying in Malaysia's Big and Suburban Cities

April 21, 2024


big cities in Malaysia
Whenever a student plans to move out of his hometown to study abroad, he usually considers the well-recognized cities of the country of his choice. This may include a capital city or any other major city in the country.

There might be a question popping into his mind: “What should I know about this place before moving there?”

Therefore, we will share a guideline for future international students who will be studying abroad in Malaysia's major and suburban cities, such as bustling capital Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Johor Bahru as well as other urban center like Subang. Each of the place offer a vibrant and diverse environment for international students.

To help international students make the most of their experience, here is a list of essential tips and insights tailored to navigating the challenges and opportunities of living and studying in Malaysia's big cities.

What are Malaysia’s major cities and suburban areas?

Malaysia boasts a diverse range of major cities and vibrant suburban areas, each offering its own unique blend of culture, lifestyle, and opportunities. Join us as we explore these fascinating places with the following information:

1. Kuala Lumpur 

Malaysia's big and urban cities

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's bustling capital city, is a vibrant metropolis celebrated for its diverse culture, modern infrastructure, and lively urban atmosphere.

You will discover iconic landmarks such as the Petronas Twin Towers, along with numerous shopping malls, museums, art galleries, and other attractions.

Moreover, you can also explore recreational areas like the Perdana Botanical Garden, which offers free entry. This lush green space is perfect for spending time with friends, engaging in various leisure activities, and enjoying the scenic surroundings.

In addition to its cultural attractions and lively city life, Kuala Lumpur is also a major educational hub, with a variety of universities and colleges offering a wide range of academic programs. Prominent institutions in Kuala Lumpur include Asia Pacific University (APU) and HELP University, which offer academic fields such as Engineering, IT, Psychology, and more.

Despite studying in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, you don't have to worry too much about expenses, as the cost of living in the city is still affordable. With reasonable prices for food and transportation, you can enjoy student life without breaking the bank in Kuala Lumpur.

2. Johor Bahru

Located at the southern tip of Peninsular Malaysia, Johor Bahru is a rapidly growing city with a thriving economy and a dynamic cultural scene. Known for its modern infrastructure, shopping malls, and entertainment options, the city is definitely one of the best options for international students looking for both educational and leisure experiences at an affordable cost of living.

One of the tertiary education institutions in Johor Bahru is Sunway College, which is part of the Sunway Education Group. The institution offers various levels of academic programs such as pre-university, certificate, and others. 

Moreover, Johor Bahru's proximity to Singapore makes it an attractive destination for international students to visit during semester breaks. However, for those planning to visit Singapore, it's important to conduct research to gather important information such as passport checks and transportation options for traveling between Johor Bahru and Singapore.

Another factor international students should consider when planning a visit to Singapore is its cost of living. Singapore offers a stark contrast in terms of living expenses, with costs for food and transportation significantly higher than in Malaysia.

3. Penang

Penang, often referred to as the "Pearl of the Orient," is a captivating island state located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Renowned for its rich cultural heritage, delicious cuisine, and stunning natural beauty, Penang is a popular destination for tourists and students alike.

The capital city of Penang, George Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasting a unique blend of colonial and traditional architecture. You can explore iconic landmarks such as Fort Cornwallis, Kek Lok Si Temple, and Penang Hill, offering breathtaking views of the island.

In addition to its cultural and historical attractions, Penang is also a thriving educational hub, home to several universities and colleges such as INTI International College Penang and SEGi College Penang that offer a wide range of programs such as Business, Accounting, engineering, and more. 

4. Subang

Subang is a suburban city located within the Petaling District, in the state of Selangor, Malaysia. Well known for its educational institutions, including Taylor's University, Monash University, and Sunway University, which attract students from across Malaysia and around the world.

This suburban city boasts a wide range of recreational facilities, including parks, sports complexes, and entertainment centers such as Sunway Pyramid and Subang Parade, providing students with convenient access to a variety of amenities, including restaurants, cinemas, and retail stores. These facilities offer students ample opportunities to relax and unwind after a day of studying.

Also read: Studying Abroad Tips: What Should You Do Before Coming to Malaysia?

Are there any safety concerns for international students living in Malaysia's big cities?

Safety is a significant concern for international students living in Malaysia's big cities, but overall, Malaysia is considered a safe country for students. 

Like any other urban area, Malaysia's big cities have their share of safety concerns, such as:

1. Emergency contacts

As an international student in Malaysia, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with the country's emergency contact numbers, including those for the police, ambulance, and fire department. Save these numbers in your phone and use them only in case of an emergency.

In addition to these emergency numbers, ensure you have the phone numbers of family members (if any of them have been living in Malaysia for an extended period), university staff, or close contacts saved in your smartphone. For added convenience, consider placing these emergency contacts on your lock screen. This makes it easier to promptly inform trusted individuals about any news regarding you.

2. Accommodation safety

In Malaysia, you have the option to choose between on-campus and off-campus accommodations. Regardless of your choice, practicing safety measures is essential. If you opt for on-campus living, it's important to abide by the university's regulations, including any curfew imposed for returning to your dormitory. Returning before curfew is necessary to avoid potential issues with security or hostel authorities.

Meanwhile, living off-campus offers greater flexibility and independence, allowing you to come and go as you please. While this freedom is appealing, it's important to remain vigilant in your residential area. Ensure that the locks on your house and room are functioning properly to prevent any unwanted incidents.

3. Cultural sensitivity

While Malaysia is known for its hospitality, it's important to respect local customs and traditions. During your time in Malaysia for higher education, you will interact with both local and international students.

In such instances, it's crucial to be mindful of your behavior and language, as they can inadvertently lead to misunderstandings among your peers. It's advisable to seek an understanding of others' cultures through open dialogue rather than relying on stereotypes or assuming that every culture shares the same social norms.

Are there any student perks available in Malaysia's big cities?

One of the advantages of being a student in Malaysia's big cities is the availability of discounted prices that can help you save money and make the most of your student experience. Here are some ways you can take advantage of student perks:    

1. Transportation

Malaysia's big & urban cities

Many public transportation systems in Malaysia offer discounted fares for students. For example, the RapidKL public transport system in Kuala Lumpur offers a 50% discount on fares for students with a valid student ID card. 

2. Dining and Shopping

Many restaurants, cafes, bookstores, and clothing shops in Malaysia offer student discounts, providing an excellent way for students to save money. Additionally, students can explore websites that list student discounted prices, offering additional information about exclusive deals. By taking advantage of these discounts, students can stretch their budget further and make the most of their time in Malaysia's big cities.

3. Entertainment

You can also enjoy discounted tickets to movies, museums, and other attractions by presenting your student ID card. Many entertainment venues in Malaysia offer special rates for students, making it affordable to explore the cultural and recreational offerings of the country. 

Whether you're interested in catching the latest blockbuster movie, visiting a museum, or exploring local attractions, be sure to take advantage of these discounts to make the most of your time in the big cities.

What are adaptation tips for international students studying in Malaysia?

Adapting to life in Malaysia's big cities can be an exciting and enriching experience. Here are some tips to help you adapt and make the most of your time studying abroad:

1. Embrace cultural differences

Malaysia is a multicultural country with a rich tapestry of customs, traditions, and languages. Take your time to learn more about the local culture and customs, and be open-minded and respectful of cultural differences. This will help you integrate into local  society and build meaningful connections with locals.

2. Learn the local language

While English is widely spoken in Malaysia, especially in urban areas, learning a few basic phrases in Bahasa Malaysia (the official language) can help you communicate better and show respect for the local culture. 

One of the initiatives that you can make is taking a language course or practicing with local friends to improve your language skills. Additionally, learning basic phrases in Bahasa Malaysia can enrich your cultural experience and make your stay in Malaysia more enjoyable.

Also read: Language and Communication Tips for International Students Studying in Malaysia

3. Make friends with locals and other international students

Building a social network is key to adapting to a new environment. Make an effort to connect with locals and other international students through social events, student clubs, and cultural activities. This will not only help you feel more at home but also provide you with a support system during your time in Malaysia.

4. Explore Malaysian cuisine

Malaysia's big and urban cities

Malaysian cuisine is renowned for its diverse flavors and influences, reflecting the country's multicultural heritage. Be adventurous and try local dishes at food stalls, markets, and restaurants. Exploring Malaysian cuisine is not only a delicious experience but also a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.

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