I don’t know about your parents, but mine, being the typical Asians, always go for the best bargain, and by ‘best’, I mean ‘cheap and easy’.
Shattered after not receiving a full scholarship to UK universities, they had decided to send me to Malaysia to study. After all, it would be affordable, and I’ll still be able to get Quality Education (hello, Monash, you who have a 33.4% failure rate—second best!). But there were a few things that they’d miscalculated. Studying in Malaysia is not as straightforward as it sounds.
So here are the three biggest misconceptions [Mauritian/my] parents have about studying in Malaysia:
1. Everything is cheap
From a Mauritian point of view, Malaysia is the #1 shopping hub in the world, because clothes and electronics are usually cheaper there than in Mauritius (thanks, Berjaya Times Square). Besides, in Malaysia, you get to go to ‘mamak’ places which are like ‘hawkers’ restaurants on the side of the road’, where you can sit, get a drink and choose from a variety of cheap meals.
Any Mauritian you’ll meet might say something like: “In Malaysia, you can get a full meal for RM5!” So technically if you don’t eat breakfast, you can survive a whole week with only RM70!
Well, the reality is… it’s more complicated than that.
Firstly, living in Kuala Lumpur or even in the Subang area (where Monash and other universities are) is not as cheap as compared to other parts of Malaysia. So if nasi lemak ayam costs RM3 in Penang, it’ll probably cost RM6 in KL (I pay RM7).
Secondly, taking the minimum cost of food and multiplying it per day to ration your child’s allowance when he/she studies abroad… is a VERY BAD WAY TO ALLOCATE A STUDENT’S BUDGET. If you think no parent would ever think of doing this… think twice, because my parents did, at first.
Moreover, if an expert (the director of the Study Abroad agency) tells you that an international student’s recommended expenses allowance to study in KL is RM1000, IT IS RM1000. Not RM500. Please, follow people’s advice, especially when they know what they are talking about.
Because you live on your own, you can’t only account for what you’ll eat, but also for any emergency and miscellaneous expenses, as well as… A SOCIAL LIFE.
A social life at university doesn’t mean going to parties and spending on booze; it means things like going out for dinner with your friends (which end up costing RM20~) or going to the movies, etc.
Student budgeting involves a lot of trial and error, I admit, and it all depends on your circumstances and what kind of life you would want to live abroad. Make sure your parents know that.
2. You can work while you are in Uni
Usually, international students are not allowed to work while they are studying. They can officially get an internship during their school holidays, but there is a limit of the number of hours they can work.
Although this doesn’t prevent students from finding a part-time job or work just like any other local, it does place limitations. My dad always used to praise those Mauritian students in Australia who would earn so much from their part-time job that they’d be able to sustain themselves without their parents’ aid.
Well, not in Malaysia. Even if you get a part-time job, it’s hard to earn enough to support yourself independently. But if you do, your grades will likely suffer… (especially if you are in Monash) and be careful because you could draw the attention of the Malaysian Immigration Department!
A part-time job or an internship is an excellent way to get on-the-job experience and get some pocket money, but no more than that. It can’t replace your parents’ allowance. Not even your rent.
Unless if, of course, you are among the lucky few. There are always exceptions to every case.
3. It’s easy to get a job after you graduate
Is it? Not so fast, parents. Of course, studying in Malaysia opens many opportunities for a Mauritian student, without having to break the bank. But Malaysia is not as open as other countries regarding employment for international students. In fact, it is only if a company is willing to sponsor you that you stand a chance to stay in Malaysia to work after your studies.
However, it’s not easy.
Firstly, not all companies in Malaysia are entitled to hire foreigners.
Secondly, it is expensive for companies to hire a foreigner even from the application process. And you’re not even guaranteed a visa yet because the Immigration Department has to review your case.
Thirdly, some companies do hire foreigners, but they often have specific demands, for example, you have to be from one of the ASEAN countries (Mauritius is not), or you need to have at least two years of experience in the field or a Master’s degree.
I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but it is VERY HARD.
Some international students get lucky, but others… Well, many of my friends just found it easier and better to go back to Mauritius. After all, going through so much trouble to get hired is not worth their time, when they love their home country so much.
It’s just not for everyone; parents, please understand that.
Now it’s your turn:
What is the biggest misconception your parents have about where you’re studying/you want to study? Please comment below!
D. K. Waye.
P.S.: For students in China, I found this interesting article: The 6 Biggest Misconceptions About Studying in China.