Studying Abroad: All You Need to Know as an International Student Coming to Malaysia

Planning to further your studies in Malaysia? Wondering how to maximise your experience? We’ve got you covered.

As much as it’s a fun and exciting experience moving to another country for the next few years, there are definitely certain things you’d have to keep in mind to make sure you’ve the best experience possible. Here are some of my tips to prepare for a smooth transition to Malaysia as an international student.

A. Before Coming to Malaysia

1. Pack efficiently and don’t forget items important to you

Ever sat on a flight and have that nagging feeling like you forgot something? It’s not a great one. It’s especially worse when you’re packing to another country to live in for the next few years. That’s exactly why packing in advance is really important based on my experience. 

While you could buy most of the things that you missed out on upon your arrival, there are just some things that need to be truly yours like bedding, if like me, you want that little piece of home with you, things to decorate your room with to make it feel more homely and, of course, your clothes and essentials to get you going once you’re here.

The most effective way to pack is to create a detailed list of all the items you want to take with you. This is the best way to ensure that you don’t forget anything.

Remember to weigh your luggage so you’d know if it’s necessary to add on any extra check-in baggage according to the airline’s policy. The last thing you’d want is to leave any valuable items behind or be charge a bomb for on-the-spot additional luggage.

A luggage packed with clothes and other essential items.
2. Settle your accommodation for international students in Malaysia

It’s super important to have your accommodation booked prior to your arrival. There are a few hostels located in and around the campus.

On-campus accommodation

There are two accommodation located right on campus for all of you looking to have easy access and convenience. Ruemz has smaller rooms for those who prefer to live alone or with only one other person. On the other hand, U Residence houses larger groups of people (up to 6) in a single apartment. Staying on campus could be your perfect solution if you’re looking for a convenient, and safe accommodation that’s literally a 2-3 minute walk to your early morning classes as well as hanging out after classes in the U-lounge with friends.

Off-campus accommodation

Staying off-campus is also a popular option for Taylorian international students. Here are some nearby accommodation that’s easily accessible on foot and through public transport: D’latour and DK Senza condominiums, USJ7 landed houses, and Sunway Geo residences.

Off-campus accommodation, from our experience, can be better value for money in terms of the cost-to-space and quality proportions but be careful when booking these through agents. It’s always best to get an agent referred to by someone you know or has students that have experience to ensure it’s reliability and that your money is safe.

Sometimes, the best options are given by people who’ve experienced it. Chat with one of our Unibuddy ambassadors to get real experiences and feedback.
3. Prepare the necessary documents and apply for your visa

If you’ve already started your application to study in Malaysia, then I’m sure you’ve heard of EMGS. Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) has implemented a simplified application process for international students entering Malaysia through a new pre-arrival checklist available on their app, EMGS Connect Mobile App. 

Through the app, you’ll be able to apply for your student visa and upload your COVID-19 vaccination certificate and flight information for approval. Find out more here about what needs to be done for a smooth transition.

A flight ticket and passport from the netherlands to kuala lumpur.
4. Apps you should download prior to your arrival

Now, free up some storage on your phone because there’s more than a few useful apps that you’ll be needing when you start your journey at Taylor’s. Here’s a list that has become super handy for me:


MySejahtera is Malaysia’s contact tracing and COVID-19 management application. Although it’s no longer compulsory to use the app to check-in to places, you still need to upload a copy of your vaccination certificate into the app as proof that you’re fully vaccinated!

PS. You’d have to ensure that your account is set up and documents uploaded even before coming to Malaysia. So remember to get it sorted early!

Taylor’s mobile app & TIMeS

The Taylor’s mobile app is a handy application that’ll help you with life on campus. Through this app, you can check your timetable and refer to the map of the campus grounds to ensure that you’ll never get lost when you’re looking for your classroom.

Taylor’s Integrated Moodle e-Learning System (TIMeS) is where you can find all the information related to your modules. Your lecturers will upload your module materials and activities here for you to refer to easily.

Grab (and Touch ‘n Go)

Grab is one of the most common applications for transport, food, and also acts as an e-wallet. It’s a good idea to have this app on hand in case you want to go somewhere that isn’t easily accessible by public transport or if you just want to order in and treat yourself. Plus, you get points whenever you spend through the app!

Touch ‘n Go is another popular option used in Malaysia. Most places on, around, and even outside of campus accept Touch ‘n Go as a mode of payment as well.

5. Prepare a budget for your monthly expenses in Malaysia

There’ll be a point of time in the month (for me, it’s usually around the 5th) when you sit and think, “Where the hell did ALL my money go?” 

It’s for this reason that it’s super important to budget effectively and ensure that you’re well-prepared for all expenses such as accommodation, food, phone bills, and laundry costs. Decide on a sum that you can spend monthly and plan.

Remember to plan your budget before your arrival instead of when you arrive as it’ll make sure you have just enough so get going when you arrive and start your student life independently while making sure that you’re not going overboard with expenses, because trust me, when you get here, it’ll be easy to get carried away… especially with food.

Budgeting tools used when forming a monthly budget.

Having said that, stick to your budget, be responsible and don’t forget to save some for a rainy day!

6. Learn a few simple Malay phrases

You’d probably get by if you ONLY speak English when coming to Taylor’s. In fact, most Malaysians are well-versed in English. However, it’s wise to learn some basic Bahasa Melayu (There’s even a module for international students teaching the language!)

This will help you break the ice amongst locals you’ll meet as you go around, it’ll help you make basic conversations with vendors in the more ‘local’ shops and you’ll also be able to order food way more easily in restaurants.

While the best way to learn the language is by communicating with those who speak it, it’s still a good idea for you to learn a few simple phrases in Bahasa Malaysia before your arrival. Use Google Translate to teach yourself important phrases like ‘Terima kasih’ and ‘Mana tandas?’ which means ‘Thank you’ and ‘Where’s the toilet?’ respectively.

B. Arriving in Malaysia

1. Keep printed copies of your documents with you

As much as we want to go paperless and advocate for digital copies, it’s best for you to keep hard copies of any important documents in case you’re unable to access them online, just to be on the safe side. 

Here’s a list of some of the documents you should print before your flight:

  • Student visa
  • Vaccination certificates
  • Flight ticket
  • VAL (Visa Approval Letter)
  • 2-3 passport copies
2. Purchase a SIM card at the airport

Before leaving the airport, you should sign up for a mobile plan so that you can stay connected. Many mobile plan carriers have shops set up in the airport.

I’d recommend buying a temporary prepaid line at the airport to get by for the first few days before you weigh your options and get opinions on the local carriers and the plans they offer. 

But don’t worry if you can’t get the best plans, this plan should be sufficient to last you through the first or second week.

Then, you can take your time finding a plan that will best suit your time here for the next 3 to 4 years.

Having a temporary prepaid plan upon arriving at KLIA would be useful for your first few weeks in Malaysia.
Got question about what you need when coming to Malaysia as an international student? Join your questions answered at our Digital Open Day here.

C. Settling in Malaysia

1. Schedule a health checkup

It’s compulsory for all international students, regardless of your country of origin, to undergo a medical checkup within 3 days of your arrival.

This check includes a blood test, urine test, eye test, and chest x-ray. Most tests will be done at the clinic on campus however you’ll be taken to SS15 for the x-ray.

Don’t worry though, the cost of the medical test is covered in your application fees! Taylor’s Student Welfare Centre will offer you support regarding this and take you through the process step by step.

A doctor conducting a medical check-up on an international student.
2. Open a bank account

As soon as you’re settled into your accommodation, it’s recommended to set up a bank account at a local bank such as Public Bank, Maybank, or any others as they’re the most easily accessible and won’t charge your a fortune in conversion rates as opposed to having accounts in your home country. For convenience sake, I’d recommend to set up an account with Maybank as there’s a store set up in Syopz mall (which is located on-campus!) 

Pro Tip: Go to student welfare to get a letter showing you’re a student at Taylor’s to help your bank application process. Remember that you can only open an account once your visa has been endorsed in your passport, so be ready to keep some cash on you for the first few months.

3. Attend orientation on campus

Don’t. Skip. This.

You may be tempted to go around and explore Malaysia immediately without attending orientation but you’d miss out big time! Ready to make friends? Learn about the campus? Experience what campus life is like? Orientation IS the best place to start.

The orientation activities and briefings, organised by Taylor’s Orientation Leaders, give you an opportunity to meet and mingle with your new course mates. You’ll also meet many important people, such as your Programme Director, who’ll be there to give you support with regards to your academic life and settling into your new lifestyle in Malaysia.

4. Join clubs and societies

Continuing from that, during the orientation session, you’d also be introduced to the many and various options of clubs and societies that Taylor’s has to offer. 

From student bodies, such as Taylor’s University Student Council, to special interest clubs, such as Taylor’s Barista club, to cultural societies, with the 70+ clubs and societies, you’re guaranteed to find one suitable for your needs and interest. Plus, joining a club is a great opportunity for you to meet new people with similar interests.

5. Immerse yourself in the Malaysian culture

After arriving here and experiencing it firsthand, I can, undoubtedly say, that this claim of Malaysia being a food haven is TRUE and let me tell you, you won’t be disappointed. 

Spicy, sour, sweet — Whatever your palette (and heart) desires, there’s definitely going to be food for you. Explore, be adventurous, and try the food Malaysia has to offer. This is also a great way to make friends by joining clubs like Taylor’s Wine & Dine that regularly go food hunting and explore hidden gems, both within the city and outside. 

That being said, Malaysia isn’t just about food. It’s also its culture and tourist attractions. The Petronas Twin Towers and Batu Caves are the top 2 places that I’d recommend you to visit during your stay in Malaysia which you can easily access by different public transportation. 

A view on the landscape of KL including KLCC and the park.

There are scheduled buses from Taylor’s that can take you to the nearest LRT station. In my opinion, using the LRT is one of the cheapest and most scenic ways to explore Malaysia so you should definitely travel on them at least once while you’re here.

The Reality of Being an International Student

Let’s be real for a second. If there’s one thing for sure, it won’t be easy managing between settling down in Malaysia on your own. That’s the reality of an international student

From dealing with homesickness to experiencing a new environment, remember that you’re not alone and if you ever need help from a certified counsellors, Taylor’s can help you with it. Simple steps like, creating a schedule to manage your time between your assignments, household tasks, as well as embracing the different activities can also help.

These are just some of the things to consider before making that giant leap to Malaysia based on my experience. Hearing about others’ experiences really helped me when I was in your shoes. So if you’re considering studying abroad, chat with our Unibuddy ambassadors to hear about their real student life experiences which will help you make better, informed decisions or join us at our Digital Open Day!

Ali Moossajee is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Quantity Surveying (Hons) at Taylor's University. He is currently the president of Taylor's Unibuddy Ambassadors as well as a Senior Taylor's Global Ambassador. He also enjoys cultivating connections with others and hopes to inspire others to grow and develop their purpose.

Rehana Godrei is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science (Hons) Actuarial Studies at Taylor's University. She is currently a Unibuddy Ambassador and an Orientation Leader. She enjoys socialising with new people and helping them in any way she can.