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Though Malaysia now boasts a fair number of universities, the limited number of places means that every year, many of our successful A-level students go abroad to study. Those who have come back with overseas degrees cite various advantages in going abroad for further studies.
For one thing, many of them feel that there is a greater choice of courses open to Malaysian undergraduate overseas, whereas here, the student is often not permitted to do the desired course because there are too many people applying for it or because of the quota system.
Furthermore, studying overseas means that students are separated from the comforts of home since they cannot afford the time and the money to come back every month or so. Being on their own without parents or the maid to attend to their needs usually encourages these students to become more independent – they learn to organize their time efficiently as they have to study as well as keep house and cook their own meals.
On the other hand, overseas education often comes at great cost. Many families sacrifice a great deal and live frugally so that they can send their children to pursue their studies abroad. The students themselves might suffer initial pangs of homesickness and find difficultly in adjusting to a new environment.
Also, there is the fear that these youngsters, unsupervised by their elders and mixing mainly with people their own age, might be easily influenced by the laxity of lifestyle which is so prevalent overseas. They might get hooked on drugs, be corrupted by strange ideas and eventually become alienated from their own culture.
However, I personally feel that an overseas education is a broadening experience. Malaysians studying overseas get to meet, not only students of host country, but also other foreign students like themselves. They become familiar with other cultures on a more intimate level and not just from reading about them. This allows them to compare the different lifestyles and ways of thinking. Thus, when they return to Malaysia, they will be more global in their outlook and not be so blinkered in their views.
Besides, studying abroad can be enriching in other ways. For example, the case of a cousin of mine who won a scholarship to New Zealand. Though academically brilliant, she was diffident in the company of strangers, but there, she took part in various cultural activities, such as International Night, to promote Malaysian culture. Gradually, she became more confident and less shy and now, she has many overseas friends with whom she is still in close touch.
In conclusion, I believe that, while a few Malaysian students may ‘go astray’ overseas, many of our undergraduates abroad make the most of their experiences.
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