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International Graduates' Experiences: Their Academic Journey in Universities in Malaysia

May 29, 2024


international graduates

Malaysia stands out as a highly sought-after educational destination for international students. This is largely due to its affordability in tuition fees, strong academic reputation, and cultural diversity.

The idea of such an appealing package might seem too good to be true at first glance. Is Malaysia really a good destination for international students to pursue their tertiary studies?

To dispel any doubts, this article provides evidence through the real-life experiences faced by international graduates from different universities in Malaysia. We will also address common misconceptions that you might have heard of.

These personal stories will give you valuable information about what these international graduates actually experienced during their time studying in Malaysia. So, let’s explore their stories!

Let's hear real experiences from international graduates of various universities in Malaysia

The personal stories of international graduates are categorized into topics, such as English language proficiency, reasons for choosing Malaysia as their destination, and cultural diversity. 

1. English language proficiency among university students

Before we get into the experiences of international graduates, let's address a common misunderstanding about higher education in Malaysia, which is the use of English.

Some international students come from countries where English is a second language (ESL), so they may not struggle much with speaking English. However, for those from countries where English is considered a foreign language (EFL), such as China, mastering English can be more challenging.

ESL individuals use English more frequently, despite it not being their native language, for academic, professional, or everyday purposes. They must acquire English proficiency to navigate academic and professional settings and engage in interactions effectively. 

Conversely, EFL learners study English outside their home country to enhance fluency or prepare for studying abroad.

However, how challenging is it to speak English with Malaysians?

Malaysia is one of the countries where English is regarded as a second language. Consequently, it is natural for Malaysians to be proficient speakers. But, fluency here does not imply flawless English. Being fluent in English means they can speak it, albeit with occasional grammatical errors.

Additionally, Malaysian university students do not mock others’ English proficiency. To them, as long as the message is clear and understandable, it is acceptable.

This experience is exemplified by an international graduate from China named Shafia Zhan, who completed her Political Science program at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).

Shafia Zhan, now employed in the IT industry, recalls her university English-speaking experience positively, as her Malaysian friends supported her without mocking her English proficiency. 

Although initially struggling to speak fluently, she gradually improved with their assistance. Over time, she became proficient in speaking and understanding English.

When asked about her language improvement, she attributed it to participating in extracurricular activities such as debate tournaments.

"In IIUM, I participated in debate clubs and numerous tournaments. I even won the title of one of the best EFL speakers during the Malaysia Debate Open in 2019. This success fueled my passion to speak English more frequently and enhance my speaking skills."

"My engagement in extracurricular activities like debate tournaments enriched my overall study experience in Malaysia, enhancing my communication abilities and teamwork coordination," she elaborated.

2. Reasons for choosing Malaysia as their destination

reasons study in Malaysia

Khadijah Hafeel, an international student from Sri Lanka who graduated from Albukhary International University (AIU) with a Bachelor's degree in Media and Communication.

When asked about her reason to pursue her studies in Malaysia, she expressed, "Malaysia seemed like the ideal place for me to complete my tertiary education."

"I found studying in Malaysia to be quite familiar; the culture, cuisine, and local community were all easy to adapt to, reminiscent of my hometown in Sri Lanka."

Following her graduation, Khadijah has been actively seeking employment opportunities while also enrolling in online courses to further develop her skills and knowledge.

Reflecting on her time at AIU, she remarked that the institution provided a well-rounded educational experience with a strong emphasis on both theoretical knowledge and practical application.

In addition to her academic pursuits, Khadijah actively engaged in extracurricular activities, including being a member of student council and participating in the Hult Prize as a committee, an international entrepreneurship event. 

These experiences enriched her academic journey in Malaysia, fostering cross-cultural interactions and invaluable learning opportunities.

3. Cultural diversity in universities in Malaysia

Another international graduate we interviewed, named Lama AbdelZaher, recently graduated from SEGi University, Kota Damansara. She pursued a Bachelor of Mass Communication, majoring in Broadcasting with a dual degree from Uclan. Lama's journey of studying in Malaysia differed slightly from that of the other interviewees. 

She began her overseas education with online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Adjusting to life in Malaysia after a year of online classes in her hometown proved challenging for her.

However, she explained that she eventually adapted to Malaysia, as her educational experience there was well-rounded. 

Lama also praised the diverse and inclusive campus life at her university, finding it easy to fit in and participate in various student activities.

"The campus life at SEGi University was very diverse, welcoming, and lively. As an international student, it didn't feel difficult to fit in. From day one, I was welcomed and encouraged to participate in many student activities."

Regarding diversity, Lama expressed her fondness for Malaysian culture at her university during her time studying in Malaysia.

"I found Malaysian culture and society intriguing. I love everything about it, especially the fact that there are many races and cultures here in Malaysia, each with their own celebrations and occasions. It feels heartwarming to see everyone enjoying their festivities and embracing their culture," she said.

She also mentioned her plans to pursue a Master’s degree.

"Studying in Malaysia has prepared me for my future plans of pursuing a Master’s Degree. It has made me more independent and exposed me to multiple opportunities to learn new skills."

So based on these narratives from the international graduates, it becomes apparent that they have found their academic journey in university in Malaysia to be instrumental. 

These institutions offer a comprehensive approach to education, emphasizing the development of both practical and theoretical expertise, and the cultural diversity and inclusivity have made them to feel welcomed and appreciated while studying in Malaysia. 

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