In the winter semester 2014/15 I was in Malaysia at the Swinburne University of Technology in Kuching, Sarawak. Overall, I enjoyed the semester very much. I am studying for a master’s degree in Germany and have also attended master’s courses at Swinburne. Since I had been living abroad for a long time before my semester in Malaysia, in different countries, and had also done several semesters abroad in Europe during my bachelor’s degree, I was initially not entirely sure about my decision whether or not to do another semester abroad. But Asia is a completely different experience than Europe and it was definitely worth it.
Kuching, Malaysia, Southeast Asia
Kuching is generally not a big city, but it is still a beautiful city. I basically felt safe at all times and almost everywhere. In general, the Malaysians are super friendly and especially in Kuching, where only a few tourists get lost, the locals are very open to foreigners and also very interested. During my time in Malaysia I still went to Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and Australia, and have seen pretty much every place in Malaysia that is worth seeing. Nowhere were the people as friendly as in Malaysia, and especially in Kuching. Malaysia in general is very developed for a Southeast Asian country and one shouldn’t think that one is going to a third world country. In general, you can fly anywhere in Asia very cheaply with AirAsia from one place to another. Since Kuching is on the island of Borneo, you almost always have to fly to get from the island. But with AirAsia it is definitely very inexpensive. Otherwise you will find a lot of jungle and rainforest around Kuching. This is great for making beautiful hikes. But if you want to do something different, you always have to fly off the island.
I went to Kuching with two other girls from Münster. We also lived together. Accordingly, we unfortunately spoke a lot of German during that time. Of course, that can be avoided if you don’t move in together in the first place. Otherwise, the students in the Swinburne MBA program are very international. In addition to Malaysians, especially Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis, Nigerians,… study full-time at Swinburne. However, there are only a few exchange students in the master’s program. Besides us three Germans, only one Dane was still an exchange student in his master’s degree. The fellow students are all very friendly and help you everywhere.However, we were only really friends with them a few times. You are very different. They also learn a lot, and since it is an MBA program, many also work during the day and then use what little free time they have to study. But every now and then you did something with them. Among other things, they showed us the city from the perspective of the locals, showed us where to eat well, brought the culture closer… Otherwise we did more with the internationals from the Bachelor’s degree. In the Bachelor’s (starts in September) there are significantly more internationals, mainly from Europe and Australia, with whom you can then do a lot.
In Kuching there is a landlord (Joseph) who owns various houses that he rents to internationals, so about 5-6 people share a house, everyone has their own room. We had already contacted Joseph from Germany and reserved three rooms in a house. Joseph is very kind and helpful. Among other things, he picked me up from the airport. However, I only stayed with Joseph for a short time. The houses he rents out are nice and relatively cheap, but I didn’t feel completely safe in his house. In addition, mainly Germans live in the houses. So it’s hard to mix with other students. On the first day we were lucky enough to get to know the Dane who was with us in the master’s degree. He lived in a condominium that has several furnished apartments for three people. These are a bit more expensive than the rooms at Joseph’s (rent approx. EUR 200 / month / person). This is quite expensive for Malaysia, but there is a pool, security guards at the entrance so that you always feel safe, a beautiful apartment, a fitness center and parking spaces included. Mainly the Danish and Swedish exchange students (many from Bachelor’s degrees) live in the condominium. So you mainly speak English with them. So after a few days I moved. We were also lucky enough to get an apartment on the 19th floor with a view of the whole city and the mountains. Of course, you can’t know that beforehand. The rental runs through Christina. A somewhat super nice woman who takes care of everything you need. She also organized a car for us. To get to university, you either need a car or a scooter. Individuals also went by bike or on foot, or by taxi. But you are more flexible with a car or scooter.
- Learn more information about the country of Malaysia and continent of Asia on existingcountries.
The workload at Swinburne, compared to Germany, is rather low. Since you are in an MBA program, lectures are always held in the evenings, sometimes on Saturdays as well. The whole day is free for this. One semester corresponds to two terms in Malaysia. It looks like this: The first term begins at the end of July. Then there are three weeks of lectures, then one week “Study Week”. It is intended that all students who normally work during the day and attend lectures in the evening have enough time to study and to write homework. But if you do this during the rest of the day, you have plenty of time to travel. Then there are again three weeks of uni, then one week off to study for exams, then one week of exams, then two weeks off “Term break” and then the next term begins, which runs the same way. So a lot of free time to travel. During the courses, you can still see that you are choosing courses without exams. That means a little more work during the lecture period, through homework and presentations, but then even more free at the end of the term.
In general, you don’t have to plan a lot of money in Malaysia. If you like Asian food, you don’t need to spend more than one euro per meal. Traveling is also cheap. The only cost are the tuition fees if the university in Germany does not cover these costs.