The oldest university in Malaysia, UM is recognised as the most esteemed institution of higher learning in the country. Currently ranked among the top universities in the world, it has the distinction of being the best institution in the nation, having topped the QS Quacquarelli Symonds's (QS Rankings) for Malaysia.
While getting in the university is already tough, staying in the university is tougher. “They must accept that this is only the start of the journey,” said Mahadi Sibon, Assistant Registrar for Marketing and Recruitment Centre of UM. “The school will always maintain its academic competitiveness and reputation. It doesn’t mean that they can pay, they will pass the course. The student must meet the academic qualifications,” he added.
With this, we asked students to share their thoughts on surviving UM. Here’s a checklist for your reference.
Mental and Physical Preparation
“Before I came to UM, I prepared myself mentally because I didn’t know what I am going to face there,” said Amal Rhaffor, a Masters in Biohealth Science student. Noor Hafiza Binti Halim, Assistant Registrar, Institute of Graduate Studies added, “Mental and physical preparation are very much needed.” Citing the experiences of foreign students, he said that this might be their first time abroad. She suggests students to expect to be more independent as it is a very different life from high school or secondary level.
For international students, Liao Dan Lu, a PhD student from China, said that the most important thing for a newcomer is to learn the language. “It is very important that you must have a grasp of the English language,” she said.
Adding to that, Thai student Ornwara Tritrakarn, a first year undergraduate student in the Academy of Malay Studies, also advised students to be prepared with their papers. “I think before the students come to Malaysia, they must ensure that all their documents are complete,” she said. Ornwara also added that students must know the important centres they need to go to – for example, their visa – and who should they contact in case of an emergency.
Be Open Minded
Coming to university with students coming from different parts of the world, Abdoul Madjid Allane, an international student from Algeria said a student must be open minded. “Try not to close yourself off from a different culture,” said the Department of Geology student. “If you choose to stay alone and meet people who share the same culture as you, you will have 50% chance of having the same life back home,” he said.
Abdoul suggests to engage and be more open to local culture and not to complain too much. “You have to understand, you’re not in your home,” he said. Appreciating local customs and people will help you live a more comfortable life not just in the university, but also in the country.
While in the university, Nuntasinee Muadmanee, Head of Marketing and Recruitment Centre, also suggested that students must be open for any opportunity. “They must keep their eyes open – don’t lose out on chances to excel.”
Prepare for the Weather… Bring an Umbrella!
With the unpredictable weather in the country, it is very important to always be prepared – whether it rains or shines. “I knew Malaysia was hot,” said Abdoul. “You have to prepare yourself for the weather condition,” he added. “Kuala Lumpur is a busy metropolis,” said Mahadi, “students must be ready for the weather, as well as a lot of challenges such as transportation, when they come to a big city.
Find a Support Group
“Being an international student, I believe the international student community helped me a lot,” Ornwara shared. As the newly-elected President of UM International Students Association (UMISA), she has experienced first-hand how the assistance of the international student community has helped her during her stay. Now, she is doing the same to new nternational students. Not just organising fun activities for its members, UMISA has also covered student welfare. “We work closely with the International Student Centre to help students who just came to Malaysia,” she said. “I feel this community is very helpful as it does not only cover academics, but our lifestyle as well – being friends, and being at home.”
Amal added that it is important for students to be friendly. “You need to get as many friends as possible – not just a back-up plan when you have a problem, but a support system.”
As for the administration, they make sure that students feel at ease even on their first day. “At the start of every semester, we have a welcoming ceremony for our students,” said Nuntasinee. “If they attend the orientation, for sure they will not miss out on anything,” she added. “The orientation day was very helpful,” said Abdoul. “They gave us the information we needed.”
Hud Hanapi, Assistant Registrar of the Institute of Graduate Studies elaborated further, “UM presents a unique college life in Malaysia; we have a very strong and active community.” He advised the students to be more active in all fields, not just academics – so as to meet new people and soak in the exciting college life.
Manage Time Wisely
“Learn how to manage your time,” Amal told. “University life will be harder if you cannot stick to your schedule,” she said. “Time management is very important,” Mahadi added. Students should not expect to be spoon-fed. “When you go to university, you are expected to make it all on your own – this is where university students fumble,” he said. “They thought it was going to be an easy ride, but no.”
Now that you know the tricks on how to survive in Malaysia’s top university, don’t forget to enjoy your stay in UM. “While my classes were tough, I am thankful because my professors were very helpful,” shared Amal. “For me, being positive is very important,” she added.
“If they are coming in with a positive outlook, we can guarantee them a very memorable, fulfilling learning experience in UM,” said Nuntasinee. “They must be willing and have a get-go attitude,” she concluded.
At the end of the day, it is how you make the most out of your experience in the University of Malaya. Whether these tips will be helpful to you or not, make sure you have a well-balanced academic and social life, as well as an optimistic view of life and openness to learning new experience. After all, life does not end in the University – how you will apply these survival skills once you leave the halls of your school is the true test of survival you will have to face.
So are you ready to enter UM?