Known as the Silicon Valley of the East for its industries, Penang is also one of the most urbanised and economically important states in Malaysia. Located at the intersection of Asia’s great kingdoms and Europe's powerful colonial empires, Penang has long served as the link between Asia’s two halves and an important outlet to the markets of Europe and the Middle East. This is one of Malaysia’s most diverse, cosmopolitan and exciting cultures. It culminates in George Town, Penang Island's main city and an urban centre that delivers old-world Asia and burgeoning street art scene. Malaysia has relatively low cost of fees and living expenses which makes it a great option for international students on a budget. It also offers tropical climate, beautiful landscapes and traditional Malay culture juxtaposed with breath-taking modern skyline. Combined with the influences of indigenous groups and the external cultures of India, China and Britain, the region boasts one of the world’s most culturally diverse societies. Although Malaysia is a tolerant and open country, it can be rather conservative in regards to dress code. Being in a modest Muslim country, you should be aware of local norms and respect of the Islamic Law.
Part of Malaysia's plan for higher education expansion is in welcoming international branch campuses, which are run by universities based in other countries. Existing branch campuses include those operated by the UK’s University of Nottingham and Australia’s Monash University. But, while the growing presence of overseas universities in Malaysia is broadening the country’s higher education offering, its home-grown universities should certainly not be overlooked. Malaysia’s higher education system was ranked 27th in the new QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings in 2016, reflecting the strength of its flagship universities. Penang is home to another of the leading universities in Malaysia, Universiti Science Malaysia (USM) which ranked at 289th in the QS World University Rankings 2016/2017 and a host of other private universities and colleges. Penang Island with its rich cultural background and its scenic environment makes it one of the nicest places to study.
Malaysia borders with Thailand in West Malaysia, and Indonesia and Brunei in East Malaysia. It is linked to Singapore by a narrow causeway and a bridge. The country also has maritime boundaries with Vietnam and the Philippines. Malaysia is the only country with territory on both the Asian mainland and the Malay archipelago, which contributes to its large biodiversity and wide range of topography from coastal plains rising to hills and mountains. The Strait of Malacca, lying between Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia, is one of the most important thoroughfares in global commerce, carrying 40% of the world's trade. Malaysia is a host to bustling cities, colonial architecture, misty tea plantations, chill-out islands, wild jungles, granite peaks and remote tribes. A perfect blend of East and West, Penang has accepted modernity gracefully while maintaining the heritage and tradition. This wonderful state in Malaysia is situated on the northwest coast of the Malaysian Peninsula and is one of the top tourist destinations in Asia. The bustling capital of Georgetown which was listed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage, is brimming of both ancient and modern trades, is where most of the thrills are, but the area also offers beachside resorts such as Batu Ferringhi and quiet fishing villages such as Teluk Bahang. The city has a sweltering tropical rainforest climate with temperature between 25°C to 33°C. Unfortunately, Penang's proximity with Sumatra, Indonesia makes it susceptible to haze from perennial but transient forest fires.
‘’ Penang’s bustling capital of Georgetown was listed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage’’
The downside of living in a place where the cost of living is low is that the salaries are also not very high. Wages usually get capped at around MYR 150 for a week’s worth of work. These earnings can be used for minor expenses and you cannot subsist on wages earned by part-time work. Non-Malaysian students are allowed to work on a part-time basis during semester breaks, festive holidays or more than seven days of holiday for a maximum of 20 hours a week. Aside from your student visa, you should also notify your institution and the immigration department. This notice will include a letter from the prospective employer and a non-refundable processing fee of MYR 120. The application to work part-time must be forwarded by the representative of the University to the Immigration Department Headquarters Malaysia. The University must provide a supporting letter allowing the Non-Malaysian student to work, and which includes the dates of the semester breaks. Students will be interviewed, after which the application will be either approved or declined. The passport of students whose application has been approved will be endorsed accordingly. The University is also required to submit a quarterly report to the Immigration Department about the students’ academic progress as the extension of the approval to work will only be given if the student maintains a good academic record.
Malaysia, especially the urban and resort areas, may look and feel like any other country, but the majority of people are Muslim and, while you are not expected to cover up as much as the locals, you will gain you a great deal of respect by displaying cultural sensitivity. When in doubt, being more modest is better. In addition to dress restrictions, remember that Islamic Law forbids pork products and alcohol; however, there is little expectation that you follow these rules unless you are in public with Malays. Due to the large Chinese population, pork is readily available and the locals are used to seeing people eat pork and in large cities few take any offense at it. Alcohol is also widely available to both the non-Muslims as well as to the tourists, but avoid drinking when in the presence of Muslims. Be more prudent when you are on smaller islands where the overwhelming majority is Muslim; while in cities where the population is more diverse, there is more flexibility. Penang is no stranger to festivities – its government organises the annual George Town Festival which celebrates the city's World Heritage Site status with arts and live cultural performances throughout the month of July. The famous Penang Fest is a combination of trade expo, family-oriented carnival and cultural events held throughout the month of December since the 1960s. Penang is also well known for its old-world architecture and unique string of museums and galleries including the Penang Museum and Art Gallery, the Penang Islamic Museum, the Universiti Sains Malaysia Museum and Gallery, Penang Toy, the Camera Museum, Batik Painting Museum, Sun Yat-sen Museum, etc.
Dining in Malaysia is an experience of its own with fusion of culinary styles that have evolved with the arrival of migrant communities over the centuries. Most residents of Malaysia are well-versed with the primary cuisines – Malay, Indian and Chinese – as well as the distinctive style of mixed cultures such as Peranakan and Eurasian cooking. Today, with the influx of students, immigrants and expatriates from different parts of the world like the Middle East, Africa, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, Malaysia has truly become a gourmet’s paradise. Food from various cultures is becoming increasingly available as there are many new restaurants opening up all the time. In urban centres, there are also numerous international fast-food chains serving burgers, hot dogs, pizzas, fried chicken and many of them have a delivery option. The wide range of options not only exposes Malaysians to different kinds of cuisines, it also caters to the needs of homesick foreigners. Penang has long been known as the food capital of Malaysia, and is renowned for its good and varied food. Its street food culture is a reflection of its diverse demographic of the Chinese, Nyonya, Malay and Indian ethnic mix of Malaysia, but also shows some influence of Thailand. The best places to savour Penang's food include Gurney Drive, Pulau Tikus, New Lane, New World Park, Penang Road and Chulia Street, as well as Raja Uda and Chai Leng Park over on the mainland.
You can apply for student visa as soon as you receive an offer letter from your selected institution. You will need this letter to get Visa Approval Letter (VAL) through Education Malaysia Global Service (EMGS) online application and tracking system. Remember to have all your documents ready and certificates translated into English and notarised. You will also need confirmation from the translator or translation company that it is an accurate translation of the original document, the full name and signature of the translator or of an authorised official of the translation company and the translator or translation company’s contact details. Among the documents they will submit for you is a Personal Bond, for which you will need to pay a fee of around MYR 300 to 1,500, depending on your country of origin. Your document package must be submitted to EMGS along with the non-refundable EMGS fee. It normally takes up to 1 month to complete the verification process by EMGS and VAL issuance, however you need to give about 2-to-3-week buffer during peak period. Aside from VAL, you may also need to apply for a single entry travel visa depending on which country you are from. This travel visa is normally issued within 3 to 30 days from the application day depending on the local embassy.
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