I did a semester abroad at Swinburne University of Technology in Kuching, Malaysia in the 2018 summer semester and had a wonderful time there. In this field report I will record some of my impressions to help you decide for or against a semester in Kuching.
Kuching is a relatively large city in the Malaysian part of Borneo, until then it is about 20 hours by flight from Germany. Basically, you should book your flight in good time, that saves money. It is worthwhile to compare routes via different airports, for example I myself flew with Malaysia Airlines via Amsterdam. Make sure that you only fly with a single airline if possible, as you usually have to change at least twice and luggage is likely to get lost.
Swinburne University Malaysia
What you should also take care of in advance is your application to the university. This in itself is a very straightforward process and the help of MicroEDUs has always been of great help with any unclear questions. You only have to fill out a few forms, but otherwise do not meet any wild requirements or the like. If your application is successful, you also have to pay the tuition fees in advance. Be prepared for the fact that you will have to pay a little more than stated. That’s because the responsible bank is in Malaysia uses an incredibly bad exchange rate and takes additional fees, etc. We each had to pay an additional € 100, which is uncomplicated and possible without problems on site. In the first week there will also be an orientation week in which you will re-enroll correctly at the university, everything will be explained to you and of course many games to get to know you will be played.
Everyday life at the university turned out to be such that I had three hours of lectures four times a week in the evenings. You find yourself in very small classes up to a size of about 20 people, which creates a very pleasant atmosphere. The locals are super friendly and look forward to getting in contact with international students and are always happy to help with any questions you may have. The courses offered vary from semester to semester, so unfortunately it is not the case that you can plan exactly which courses you will take in advance, as this is often adapted spontaneously. How it all works will be explained to you in the first week on site. I myself made sure that I only take courses without an exam choose to have more free time in the term breaks. The first takes place after 3 weeks of lecture and lasts about 1 week, after that it goes back to the university for 3 weeks, followed by about 4-5 weeks of term break. Then it’s back to university for 3 weeks, 1 week off and then the last 3 weeks of lecture. However, this only applies to the MBA students, unfortunately I cannot answer how exactly this is regulated in the Bachelor’s degree.
Another point that you can / should take care of in advance is the question of accommodation. I lived in an apartment in the Riverine complex with two other students. The apartment was about 150 m 2 and offered every conceivable comfort. In the residential complex itself there is a large pool (another, huge one is currently being built) plus a whirlpool, a fitness studio and a sauna. In addition, the complex is monitored day and night by security personnel and basically makes a very safe impression, and numerous other international students are accommodated in this complex, which was a huge plus in my opinion. The price of the apartment is around € 500 per month which divided by 3 is quite affordable. There are different options for renting an apartment there. I did the whole thing myself through Christina Wong. She takes care of everything and is always friendly, even if something is sometimes planned.
If you want to have a scooter, which is highly recommended, she will help you with that too. The rent for a scooter is around 250 € for the entire period. Alternatively, you can always use Grab (similar to Uber) to get around, the whole thing is super cheap and very easy. The best way to contact her is via Facebook, where you can either find her directly, or you can search for the “Kuching Riverine Resort”. Christina arranges dozens of apartments in the complex for students, but first come, first served. That also means whoever arrives first can choose the most beautiful apartment. Another option is to rent an apartment in the residential complex via Airbnb, but I have no experience of this myself.
As already mentioned, the complex is located in the immediate vicinity of the riverside. From my point of view, the Riverside is the most attractive quarter of the city, there are countless restaurants and bars with delicious food. If you don’t already have one, just download Tripadvisor, so you can find all the good restaurants without any problems. Of course there are other possibilities to stay in Kuching, but the Riverine is probably the most comfortable. I would definitely advise you against the dormitory on campus, there are strict rules to be followed and so on.
As already mentioned, you have a lot of free time, which gives you the opportunity to travel all over Southeast Asia during your semester abroad, because Kuching is a very good starting point for this. Flights in all possible directions are super cheap with AirAsia. I myself have flown almost 20 times and have been to Java, Bali, Langkawi, Koh Lipe and Singapore, among others. Make sure you use this opportunity! Traveling in this part of the world is incredibly cheap and a lot of fun. Of course there is also a lot to experience and discover in Kuching, I can particularly recommend the Bako National Park, which is practically around the corner. You should definitely spend a night there and join the night hike, with a little luck you will see a lot of wild animals. However, be prepared for a very warm night, basically there is a very humid climate with temperatures over 30 degrees throughout. During the day you can go on great hikes in the national area and discover many animals, especially monkeys. The Semengoh Orangutan Park is also worth a scooter ride, where you can see semi-wild orangutans. There are so many more things to experience and see that are well beyond the scope of this report. So if you are thinking of spending your semester abroad in Southeast Asia, do it! I had a great time and would do it again anytime.