In 2019, there were over 9,000 Indonesian international students in Malaysia. As Indonesia’s closest neighbor, Malaysia and Indonesia have a long history of friendly cooperation, similarity in culture and language, and knowledge sharing through student exchange.

Indonesian students come to Malaysia year after year to enjoy the perks of studying in Malaysia: globally recognised degrees, affordable tuition, Western and halal lifestyle, and beautiful landscapes adorning the terrain of both West and East Malaysia.

These are some of the many features of Malaysia that keep Indonesian students coming back year after year. Keep reading to learn more what Indonesian students enjoy most about studying here.

Easier Access to Quality Education

With a population of more than 273 million people, it is very difficult to get a seat at one of Indonesia’s universities. The sheer competition alone leaves hundreds of thousands of eager students without a place to get a degree. Malaysia is an attractive destination for these students. Malaysian private universities are highly ranked and globally recognised, while being accessible to students from any economic background.

Perfecting Language Skills

Many Indonesian students want to study in English medium universities to perfect their language and communication skills. Most private institutions in Malaysia teach in English and students at these intuitions come from a wide range of countries. This creates an atmosphere by which Indonesian students can actually practice their language in a meaningful way, be it in the classroom, campus, or around town.

Affordable Tuition and Cost of Living

It’s no secret – Jakarta, the education hub of Indonesia has a high cost of living. That fact combined with high tuition fees make studying there a burden on many families from rural areas and other states far from the nation’s capital. That’s why, albeit counterintuitively, studying in Kuala Lumpur can be the same if not cheaper than studying in Jakarta.

In Mercer’s 2020 Cost of Living Survey, Malaysia was ranked 144th, meaning it had the lowest cost of living out of all the ASEAN countries. The average monthly expenses for an international student in Kuala Lumpur is roughly RM1850 (IDR6.6 juta) including accomodation, food, transport, and entertainment. The cost of living can be higher or lower, depending on how the student budgets. Hostels and off campus housing near universities offer affordable rent prices and often times these condominiums have additional facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, cafes and restaurants for recreation, food, and leisure.

For a more detailed breakdown of cost, read our blog The True Cost of Living for International Students in Malaysia.

Sister Cultures

Besides geographic location, one of the most unifying aspects between Indonesia and Malaysia is that they share a similar language, religion and culture.

Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia share the same linguistic root - Standard Malay, or the language used in the Royal Courts Malacca, Johor, and Riau. Indonesian and Malay languages are mutually comprehensible, although some of the vocabulary used may vary. This makes it comfortable for Indonesian students, as they are able to communicate in both English and Indonesian and be understood by a majority of Malaysians.

In regards to religion, Indonesia and Malaysia are both Muslim majority countries with well developed religious infrastructure. Malaysia boasts many of the world’s most beautiful masjids, and has well developed religious programs, a booming Halal industry, and is a world leader in Islamic Finance. This attracts Muslims from Indonesia and around the world to learn and develop Islamic knowledge in the areas of religion, finance, and law, to take back to their home countries.

There are also culinary similarities. Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine, although distinct, bear strong similarities in terms of ingredients used and cooking methods. There are plenty of Indonesian restaurants throughout Malaysia and students from Indonesia are happy they can enjoy both familiar dishes and completely new ones.

Close to Home

An extra yet important expense international students face is the cost of returning home during inter-semester vacations, long holidays, or important family events. For Indonesians studying in farther away countries like the US, UK, and Australia, going home is an expensive journey, and many do not go back more than once a year, if they have the means.

On the other hand, Malaysia is only a 2-3 hour flight from most Indonesian states. For Indonesians in Borneo, one can even drive to the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak if they wish to study there. Major airlines such as Airasia and Malindo offer dozens of flight options every day that make it cheap and quick to pulang kampung.