The basics
THE UK: Once you arrive

Surviving in the UK- Connect with the local Malaysian community

Got accepted into a UK university for your studies abroad? Worried about surviving there? We’ve got you covered.

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Studying abroad in a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should be treasured and made the most of. However, leaving the comfort of your home, family, friends and familiar surroundings and moving all the way to the other side of the world can be a scary prospect. Will you be able to make friends? How will you even survive all by your lonesome? Will you be able to cope with your degree programme? Will the locals make fun of your Malaysian accent? Is the infamous British weather really hard to acclimatise to? How can you go about finding a part-time job? Furthermore, there’s a tonne of other details, both minor and major that you’ll need to finalise. Student accommodation, food expenses, daily budgeting, transport and even where can you get your hair cut! All these concerns and potential homesickness is enough to put even the bravest of hearts off. Don’t worry. Thousands before you have done it and so will you.

In fact, many of your fellow Malaysians have done so well, that a considerable number has decided to settle in the UK and call it their second home. The Malaysian population is huge. A survey by the International Organization for Migration reveals that in 2007, approximately 180,000 Malaysians live, work, or study in the UK. The highest population of Malaysians in the UK is in London at 48,000 followed by Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield and Leeds. Other cities include Liverpool, Wales, Bristol and Southampton. Moreover, out of these 180,000, a whopping 17,945 are studying!

 

With so many Malaysians strewn about the UK, it’s no surprise that you can easily find a Malaysian restaurant in practically every town and even more so in larger areas like central London. Visiting these restaurants will give you a sense of home, you will hear fellow Malaysians speaking your local lingo and smell mouth-watering familiar foods.

 

Here are some ways on how you can make Malaysian friends while in UK:

 

Don’t be shy!

We are quieter compared to our western counterparts. But if we are trying to make friends, we should try come out of our own shells! Besides, no Malaysians will give you the cold shoulder because most of them would be just as pleased as you to stumble upon another Malaysian in a foreign country. It helps that we’re friendly bunch!

 

 

Join clubs/associations

There will be a Malaysian club on campus. If not, there are a lot of Malaysian groups or associations. If you still can't find any, take part in any social groups, whether it’s a dance class or even a football team. Many foreigners would love to make your acquaintance, as they will be interested to learn more about your country and culture. Make Malaysia proud and share how wonderful your country is with others.

 

 

Network

The UK is always buzzing with great events and festivals. Look out for the Malaysian Week where you will be enticed with Malaysian music, fashion, dance, arts, crafts and food. Another event that you should attend is the Merdeka Carnival that is held in conjunction with the Malaysian National Day, you’ll get to enjoy cultural performances, games, sports and of course be treated to all of your glorious Malaysian food. Get out there and be sure to get involved!

 

There are also several great websites where you can get to know other Malaysians online:

 

Perantau

A forum for Malaysians living, studying, working and travelling in the UK

forum.perantau.co.uk

 

 

The UK Expat Malaysians Meetup Group

Meet other local Expat Malaysians! This meet-up is for Malaysians and their friends to network, exchange ideas, and discuss about anything Malaysian. The group organises get-togethers such as monthly Dim Sum meet-ups.

http://www.meetup.com/UK-Malaysians/

meetup.com

 

Malaysians in the UK on Facebook

facebook.com

 

Malaysian restaurants in London

viewlondon.co.uk

 

The Malaysian Students Department for the UK & Eire

News for Malaysians and there is also the famous Malaysia Hall that offers cheap accommodation and authentic Malaysian canteen food.

masduke.net

 

The Malaysian High Commission

http://www.kln.gov.my/web/gbr_london/

 

Internations.org

This website is a good platform to meet other Malaysians living in your area, they also specialise in connecting other nationalities in the UK.

https://www.internations.org/great-britain-expats/malaysians

 

Aside from connecting with the local Malaysian community while you’re there, we’ve shortlisted some survival tips for you:

 

Stay healthy

This means that you treat yourself to healthy and well-balanced meals. Negative feelings from homesickness can often result in awful eating habits where you crave sugar all the time or are constantly hungry. If you notice that you’re sliding down that slippery slope, it’s time to nip that in the bud. Cook at home to ensure that you get all your daily fruits and vegetables. Ask a friend out and have a picnic with them together. When you’re sick of your own food, organise a pot luck or have a group outing exploring the cafes near your place (be sure that you do this occasionally so that you don’t go beyond your allotted monthly budget). 

 

Make it your home

Us humans are creatures of habits, there’s no two ways about it. So one of the best ways to combat that dreaded sense of loneliness is to convert your accommodation in the UK into your home. Decorate your home with certain knick knacks, a simple photo of your family, spend time making friends with your neighbours. Interact with the locals there and before you’ll know it, this strange, scary place has become familiar and a home away from home.

 

Pick up a hobby or two (old and new)

You will most probably have a few hobbies in Malaysia. You can always pick them up again in the UK or find a new one. Going out and joining clubs or spending some of your time volunteering is a great way to make connections. It’ll also be a fantastic story to tell your loved ones back home.

 

Document your study experience

From when you first land to the time you’ve packed your bags to return home for good. Studying abroad is truly a unique experience and you should definitely document all of the ups and downs of your own adventure. Write down how you feel each day and all of the positive things that have happened that day. Take photos of things, places and people that catch your fancy. Journaling and documenting your experience will keep your mind of negative thoughts and help you appreciate your new country better.

 

Hang in there and you’ll be enjoying your stay in the UK before you realise. With so many Malaysians out and about in the UK, you’ll bump into your countrymen eventually!

 

Thinking of studying abroad in the UK? Check out the courses available here!

Or download a course prospectus now.

 

Useful links

Understanding UK’s undergraduate grading system

Grocery shopping on a student’s budget

World’s 10 most awesome libraries to visit

5 tips to help you survive your PhD

Tips for applying a student visa

 

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About Author

A fan of anime and all things Japanese, Khai has been writing professionally since 2010 and “unofficially” for much longer. In her free time, you will often find her baking, reading, travelling and doing everything else in between.

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