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Student Life

6 Hacks for International Students Studying in Malaysia

Published by Afterschool.my on Dec 24, 2018, 11:39 am

Being an international student is expensive. There’s the tuition fee, which is higher than what local students pay, and the student visa which you pay for at the start, and then every year following.

All that aside, there’s also the additional cost of living in another country. With Malaysia being ranked as the 2nd most affordable city to live in by the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Ranking, we decided to put that to the test, and came up with six hacks on how you can stretch your ringgit as an international student studying in Malaysia.

1. Food

When we spoke to many international students on what they chose to eat here, many answered, ‘mamak’! Yep, just like us Malaysians, our fellow international friends spend their time at the mamaks nearby campus, with UCSI students citing Gading as their go-to spot. With how it operates at late nights and the cheap food served, it’s no surprise that students like Duha Allawi prefers mamak food, which is Indian Muslim cuisine.

The song of broke college kids everywhere. Turn on the subtitles!

“Here, the salaries are not as high but the living expenses are not high either. Gas here is cheap, and for food you can just eat at the mamak,” says the Palestinian, who can get a meal at the mamak for USD1.20 (RM5).

For a more non-halal, but similarly priced option, Jacklyn Soetjipto recommends chap fan, which is Chinese mixed rice where you can choose the dishes that you want to add to your rice. Jacklyn, who is Chinese Indonesian, usually goes there with her Chinese friends, and to the mamak with her Muslim friends.


2. Personal expenses

Personal expenses would be as toiletries and social outings, which would probably include movies or trips to the mall. Yes, it would be possible to survive on less, but Malaysia is filled with places to visit and sightsee- some of which will incur a cost.

A lot of students that we spoke to said that they spend most of their time at home resting and hanging out, like Ke Zia. “I don’t really go to clubs or anything like that. I just rest at home, go to the mall with my friends, or hang out at a friend’s house.” These are activities that cost close to nothing, food and transport aside.

Ke Zia usually spends her time with her boyfriend or her friends

To further experience the country, some have even travelled to places like Langkawi or Melaka! “Sometimes, [my friends and I] rent a car and travel to different states. All you need to do is request for an international license.” says Frisca Simbolon, a Batak-bred Indonesian. However, this might cost more, so maybe Netflix and chill is the way to go.


3. Laundry

Laundromats -or the dobi as it’s called here- are abundant, especially around universities. More often than not, student accommodation sometimes provides self service laundromats of their own too.

A cross check with a couple of laundromats revealed that a 10kg load of laundry, which is enough to last you about two weeks to a month, costs around USD1-1.20 (RM4-5), with drying prices being about the same.

If you still want to be cost efficient and save on that, you can save a lot by washing your own clothes. It costs more initially, but the things that you get to wash your clothes with can last you way beyond a month. A clothes scrubbing brush is about USD1.20 (RM5) and detergent is about USD3.50 (RM15), with water chalked up to your rent bill, and the sunshine to dry your clothes with are free!

Of course not like this, but you know what we mean.


4. Public transport

The Klang Valley is pretty well connected with buses and trains, enabling anyone in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur to get around at a low cost. Across Malaysia, there are buses, taxis and ride hailing services like Grab in certain states to help transport people to where they need to go.

Jacklyn finds that going to places that are easily accessible saves her a lot of money. “I go to places like Pavillion because it’s easy to go there with the LRT. When I have more friends with me, then we Grab somewhere together. So if the ride is RM8 (USD2) and there are four of us, one person only needs to pay RM2 (USD0.50).”

Jacklyn only goes to places that are accessible via public transport- which are usually the best places!

Ke Zia is also a fan of public transport. “It’s so easy to take the LRT to Leisure Mall, or sometimes my boyfriend will drive me places with his motorbike.” said the Indonesian Chinese.


5. Phone bill

Most of the students we chatted with had local handphone numbers, which meant that a lot of them had swapped over to local telcos. We decided to look up postpaid plans to see which one can stay within the EMGS estimate- and which ones can’t. Here’s a helpful table:

Telcos below RM100. Click to enlarge - Image from SoyaCincau

That being said, the pricier the plan, the better the coverage and the network as a whole, so it really depends on what matters to you more.


6. Lodging

The rental aspect is one of the more costly aspects of living in Malaysia, and depends on how comfortable a student would want their lodging to be. The students that we’ve talked to have placed rent prices from USD150-USD180 (RM650-RM750).

“My parents moved to Malaysia a few years ago, so I’m blessed that I can stay with them,” said Duha, who lives with her parents and drives herself around daily. However, for most international students, this luxury is not accessible, but student accomodation is usually available from the university itself.

Duha has been living in Malaysia for six years now

One of the people we interviewed also talked about how she lives with her boyfriend, which also manages to help her save on rent. Having roommates is also a great way to make friends and save on rental as well!

All this being said, it looks like surviving on a budget is more than doable for the average international student! Do you find that living on a budget works out? Let us know in the comments, and if the budget life in Malaysia makes you think that you might want to study here, let us help you out here!

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