Alimiyao Sayaou Karamatou from Benin Republic is presently pursuing her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Anthropology at the International Islamic University Malaysia IIUM. She tells us about her experience studying in Malaysia so far.

Why did you choose Malaysia as your study destination?

I chose to come to Malaysia because I was not given any other option by my parents. Before they decided to allow me to further my studies, they only gave me two options which was either to get married or continue my studies. I chose to continue my studies without hesitation. I successfully got admission to International Islamic university Malaysia (IIUM) and made my way here to further my studies which until today, I do not regret a thing about the decision of coming to study here and I can say choosing Malaysia as my study destination was not a terrible idea.

 What institution do you study & what’s your speciality?

I study at the International Islamic university Malaysia specializing in Development Studies at Faculty of Human Sciences IIUM Gombak

 Why did you choose the institution?

Studying in this Institution is great because of the environment and the courses they offer. Most of the courses are pretty interesting and of great benefit to Muslims students so I was determined to accept this as my destiny and learned to love it.

What do you enjoy most about studying in Malaysia?

The studying environment or the study culture which is very conducive and enabling. What I mean by this is that almost everywhere in Malaysia have places and facilities which students can go to if they need to study outside their university. Places like, outdoor Libraries, Fast Food, coffee shops and restaurants; the interesting part is that most of these place are opened 24 hours and it is really convenient for students to study and or work on their assignments and projects. I have personally spent a night at a McDonald’s with my group mates to finish up a project we needed to submit early the very next day. These places have free hi speed WI-Fi, coffee and air condition which makes it super convenient.

Are there any negatives or things you wish you had known before coming to study here?

To be honest I did not know much about Malaysia before coming here. All I knew was that it is an Islamic country and also because back then I had an uncle studying here. My first visit to Malaysia was in mid-year 2011 and I had little or no idea on what the the people, language and weather were like. The first thing I experienced landing at the airport was the weather, I found it extremely hot and had to ask my uncle why it is so hot. Another thing I observed was that there are Fast Food, restaurants and out door eating area in every nook and crannies of Malaysia. I would say this has both its positive and negative effect on students like me. Firstly, in the positive light most students do not find time to cook after a long day studying and attending lectures, so they have opportunity to go into any of the food places and get something to eat. In addition, food in Malaysia is very pocket friendly for everyone.

The negative aspects of this is the fact that, relying on these fast food restaurants has made many of us too lazy to cook home food, the availability of food at anytime of the day is encouraging an unhealthy eating lifestyle leading to the increase in the rise of obesity and other health challenges in Malaysia.

 Do you think Malaysia is safe for foreign students?

Generally I think nowhere in this world is safe. Malaysia therefore is one of the countries where you must take care of your belonging all the time wherever you go and also make sure your doors are securely locked at all times. Even the Malaysia authority advises this. There are some places you might feel a bit safe as they are equipped with surveillance cameras, and security but don’t be fooled by them; there have been a lot of cases of pick pocketing and people on bikes snatching bags and phones from unsuspecting victims in and around Malaysia. Also, the authorities do not really put so much efforts in retrieving some of these stolen items, so my advice to students and foreigners out there is to always put your belongings inside a bag and hold securely especially when you’re outside.Stay safe at all times!

So many people are concerned about immigration related issues. What type of visas do students get and how often do they need to get it renewed?

Students coming to study in Malaysia are issued a student visa or students pass as they call it here. This student pass is renewed every year. Renewal of student’s visa before now used to be a very simple and easy process but that is no longer the case these days. Prior to now, visa renewal normally take about 2-3 weeks to complete, but with the new system introduced by the government, the process of renewal now take a much longer time. Students are required to submit their visa renewal application 3 months before their current visa expires.

 What happens to the student if their visa isn’t renewed?

When a student visa isn’t renewed within the specified time frame, they will have overstay issues which is not something anyone wants to face because it is very stressful to resolve and it involves spending a lot of money. The student must pay a fine for overstaying here.

What would happen if foreign students exceed their stay in Malaysia?

If a foreign student exceed their stay in Malaysia, they will be penalized for overstaying and ask to leave the country once overstay is settled and possibly get blacklisted as punishment. I once had a case of overstaying before, but because I was still a student, I was asked to pay a fine for overstaying and also applied for a special pass before i was cleared to remain in the country. Students who over stay are required to apply for special pass, this special pass is usually valid for a month after the total amount of fine is determined. In a case where the special pass is declined or exhausted, the students are allowed to apply for an appeal. I don’t advice any student studying in Malaysia to overstay, it is not a pleasant experience.

 What kind of places do you think foreign students should avoid guaranteeing their safety?

Once you are here and confirmed you are a student, there is pretty much nothing to worry about as far as you have a student pass and it is valid so there should not be a problem. Therefore, every foreigner here should know their rights. It is also advised to not walk alone in suspicious dark alleys.

How do you commute to school and how would you rate the transport network in Malaysia?

The transportation here is good especially the LRT line service. Malaysia has so many public transport services. There is Monorail, MRT, LRT, KTM KLIA Express, KLIA Transit and so many bus lines going to different places in Malaysia. I personally stay on campus so I do not have to worry about transport but my institution has its own buses that transport students from hostels to campus daily. Many institutions in Malaysia have bus services from the institution to train stations, accommodations, malls and bus stations.

What is the cost of living in Malaysia compared to your home country and what are the things you consider cheap or expensive?

The cost of living in Malaysia compared to my home country is significantly different, mostly because the currencies are different and the Malaysian Ringgit is higher compared to that of Republic of Benin which means the cost of living and things are cheaper in Benin than in Malaysia.

How are you able to meet up with the cost of living in Malaysia? And what options are available for foreign students?

It is hard to survive here as a student especially if you do not have a strong financial support. The options that are available for foreign students are to find part time jobs, freelance jobs or create business. Financial supports are offered in some institutions so I suggest students to make inquiries about that in their institutions.

What are the local students like? In your opinion is it easy to make local friends?

I personally find that most Malaysians are reserved people which is why you need to approach them with caution. Some may not be very welcoming but some are extremely welcoming especially if you speak the language. I personally find it easier to make local friends when you can speak the language speaking from experience. I also show interest in their culture and food.

On a scale of 1 – 10 how diverse is your institution? Not diverse = {1   2   3    4 5 6 7   8 9   10} = extremely diverse.

On a scale of 1- 10, I will rate my institution 7 because it is with no doubts very diverse, we have students from different countries of the world like Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, Saudi-Arabia, Libya, Iran, U.A.E etc.

Now that you are already here, what do you think about studying in Malaysia?

I am very positive about studying in Malaysia even though things are no longer what they used to be. Before now, the cost of education used to be very affordable, but now due to the changes made by the Minister of Education the cost of studying in Malaysia has increased which has discourage many students from continuing or even completing their studies.

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 What advice can you give to a prospective international student who desires to come to Malaysia for studies?

My advice to international students who desire to come to Malaysia to study is firstly, to come here financially stable for at least for the first 2 years so while they are here, they can try to search for scholarship or find a part-time job to keep sustaining their study until they graduate. Secondly, they must be psychologically stable as this country is different from their country. Malaysia has 3 major races which makes it so diverse. Some of the local people are not so friendly or approachable, but once you get to know the locals, you will surely enjoy their hospitality speaking from experience.

Personally, I have experienced their hospitality, culture, and food and I find them to be very unique. Another thing a prospective student needs to know before coming to Malaysia to study is to familiarize themselves with the do’s and don’ts of  Malaysia which are as follows;

See Also:

Caution!!! 10 things to lookout for before choosing Malaysia as your study destination

  • It is polite to call before visiting someone at home.
  • Shoes must always be removed when entering a Malaysian home.
  • When drinks and food are offered to guests, it is polite to accept.
  • Always use your right hand when eating, giving and receiving objects.
  • You cannot use your right forefinger to point at places, objects or persons. Instead, you should use your thumb of the right hand with four fingers folded under is the preferred usage.
  • Shoes must be removed when entering places of worship such as mosques and temples.
  • All mosques in Malaysia provide robes and scarves for female non-Muslim visitors. Taking photographs at places of worship is usually permitted but it is better to always ask permission beforehand.
  • public display of affection is frowned upon and not a common practice in Malaysia so you might want to avoid doing that.
  • The country’s large Muslim population does not drink alcohol so there are some places drinking alcohol is not allowed.

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