Studying abroad, or not

Life-altering: Jeslyn (second from left) at the scholarship award ceremony in 2018 which granted her the opportunity to study in Singapore. With her is another scholar Goh Zi Jia (third from right), together with their family members and teachers.

 THE importance of education must never be underestimated. It is integral to shaping one’s future.

Many students dream of studying abroad as they work towards obtaining the best education especially at the tertiary level.

Fortunately for me, I won a scholarship three years ago which enabled me to receive my education in Singapore, beginning in Secondary Three.

Having experienced what it’s like to study abroad and met many others who have the opportunity of doing so, I am all for encouraging students to pursue the same route if they were given the chance.

The benefits are manifold but I am fully aware of the challenges involved.

For Malaysian students, the high foreign exchange rates can put a damper on such ambitions.

Depending on one’s country of choice, tuition fees at universities can range from manageable to “unworldly expensive”.

For instance, the total living cost and tuition fees at private universities per year in Malaysia range from RM30,000 to RM55,000 while in the United Kingdom, these could cost up to RM95,000.

These high expenses mean that any emergencies can put a lot of stress on one’s finances and studies.

In order to alleviate this stress factor, students can choose to work part-time while studying.

Some universities offer jobs for students with decent pay, thus helping them to get by financially.

The ideal situation, however, would be to earn a scholarship that covers most of the fees involved.

Students can then wholeheartedly devote their time and attention to their studies.

Another factor to consider when deciding on studying abroad is cultural differences.

Students need to be aware that in a foreign country, they will need to integrate socially.

Discrimination and prejudice could arise from cultural differences.

Coupled with different laws and regulations, these could pose a real threat to foreign students.

Besides, moving abroad means missing our regular mamak food and our sense of belonging to our community.

With an open mind and positive mindset, however, this cultural challenge can be turned into a tool for gaining invaluable insights and experiences.

Students who are exposed to societies outside of their comfort zones will learn to appreciate the uniqueness of different cultures.

Students will also be introduced to peers from many other backgrounds and nationalities.

This helps to build the foundation for interacting and working with people from all walks of life.

Living among other scholars from various countries has allowed me to better understand the cultures and heritage from around the world.

I have definitely enhanced my communication skills and am now able to interact with others easily. This in part comes from the experience of living in a different society.

Lastly, one cannot undermine the homesickness which accompanies studying abroad.

Students have to navigate a foreign land all by themselves, which can be daunting.

Some students may not be emotionally ready and this can have a considerable effect on their studies. Leaving my home in Penang has taught me life lessons that I would not have fully experienced otherwise.

This journey has transformed me into a mature, independent and open-minded person who is now able to adapt to new situations efficiently and effectively.

In an increasingly globalised world, students studying overseas gain a more global perspective and a competitive edge in the working sector.

Studying abroad teaches one soft skills and nurtures one to be more empathetic and concerned about global events. It also produces graduates with greater vision and drive.

To sum up, studying abroad has its pros and cons. The ultimate deciding factor boils down to what a student prioritises.

My decision to study overseas is one of the most life-altering and significant contributors in shaping my attitude, aptitude and abilities today. It is certainly worth the challenges I have faced.

Jeslyn is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. Throughout the year-long programme, participants aged between 14 and 22 from all across the country experience life as journalists, contributing ideas, conducting interviews, and completing writing assignments. They get to earn bylines, attend workshops, and extend their social networks. To join Star-NiE’s online youth community, go to

1. “To weigh in on” means to give an opinion or enter a discussion.

Read the two articles written by BRATs participants Jeslyn and Adam.

Then, in your Star-NiE scrapbook, draw up a “Pros and Cons” table with the points raised by both of them on the issue of studying abroad.

Do you agree with their views?

Next, add as many other points as you yourself can think of.

When you are done, write a diary entry on whether you aspire to study abroad at the tertiary level and why.

2. Look in today’s copy of Sunday Star for three inspiring personalities in Malaysia.

Do you think they received education abroad?

Look for the answers online. How much do you think their educational backgrounds played a role in their achievements today?

Have a discussion with an activity partner.

3. Adam wrote that pursuing overseas education is not the be-all and end-all of a student’s academic journey.

“The be-all and end-all” means the ultimate aim or the most important part of something.

Now, look in the newspaper for a photograph of a personality.

Cut it out and paste it in your Star-NiE scrapbook.

Then, think of a sentence that the personality would say.

The sentence must include the phrase “the be-all and end-all”.

Draw a speech bubble and write the sentence out for the personality.

Since 1997, The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (StarNiE) programme has supported English language teaching and learning in primary and secondary schools nationwide. Through Star-NiE’s teacher and student workshops, annual contests and monthly English language resources for classroom use, participants of the programme reportedly showed marked interest in the language and progress in their proficiency. Now in its 25th year, Star-NiE is continuing its role of promoting the use of English language through a weekly activity page in StarEdu. These activities are suitable for use individually and in groups, at home and in the classroom, across varied proficiency levels. Parents and teachers are encouraged to work on the activities with their children and students. In addition, Star-NiE’s BRATs Young Journalist Programme will continue to be a platform for participants to hone and showcase their English language skills, as well as develop their journalistic interests and instincts. Follow our updates at niebrats. For Star-NiE enquiries, email

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