As a fresh new arrival to Malaysia, international students are likely feeling both excited and a little nervous. For some international students, this is their first time studying abroad and being away from home for an extended period, and the beginning of their journey to get a degree. But rather than walking around scared and aimless trying to find out what to do, this article will give you some tips to help you get used to life in Malaysia very quickly.

Do: Get a SIM Card for your smartphone

As soon as you arrive in Malaysia, get a SIM card immediately. For calling your campus representatives, friends, or even e-hailing a taxi, you will need access to phone service and WIFI. At all Malaysian airports, most of the major telecom companies have booths where you can purchase a SIM card for as little as RM10 up to RM35 ($2.50-$8.50). Choose a phone number you like and slot it into your existing phone and you’ll be set for both data and WIFI, depending on your package. The major telecom brands include Umobile, Maxis, Celcom, and Digi.

Protip: We recommend Umobile, as you can get unlimited data and wife for RM38/month ($9.25), but each telecom has similarly competitive plans so feel free to do your own research ahead of time.

Do: Buy a laptop for class

No matter which subject you study, you will definitely be thankful if you have a laptop. Student life involves a lot of moving around campus, doing group projects and assignments, and late night study sessions at the library.

Protip: If you are in Kuala Lumpur, head  over to Plaza Low Yat, which is a mall dedicated to computers and electronics of all kind. Prices for PCs and laptops are highly competitive here, and thus you often get the lowest rate possible. Many of the shops are flexible with pricing, so if you’re good at bargaining, this is the perfect place for you.

Do: Mix with both Locals and International students

Once you join your new campus, get out there and socialise with as many students around you as you can manage. Most universities have a special orientation session for new students, packed with interactive activities that will break the ice between you and your batchmates.

International students have a tendency to stick to their own countrymates due to familiarity in language and culture. However, this is the most valuable opportunity for you to network with students from across the globe! Students who interact with classmates from a different country have a much higher likelihood of speaking fluent English by graduation. Not only that, but differences in culture and tradition can spark many conversations and lifelong friendships, and can lead to amazing opportunities in the future or memories that last a lifetime.

Protip: If you see a student who’s wearing clothes or speaking a language you’ve never seen or heard before, ask them about its origins. Most of the time, they’ll be happy to share.

Do: Register your courses on the first day of registration

As the semesters go by, this tip will become more and more important to you. As you get to know your university and its lecturers better, you will become more selective in which courses you want to take. It’s no secret, some lecturers are simply more desirable than others, perhaps because of their voice, or if they are more lenient in marking papers, or because they are a renowned expert in the field they teach. If nothing else, some courses are just scheduled at better times than others – no one wants to wake up for 8am lecture! The best way to ensure you get the course you want is to register on the first day.

Protip: At most universities, access to course registration entirely depends on if you have paid off your tuition fees. Make sure you’ve submitted full payment before registration day!

Don’t: Stay in your hostel room all day

Go out and explore! One of the best reasons to study in Malaysia is its low cost of living, for locals and tourists alike. Malaysia has beautiful terrain, engaging activities, and a vibrant nightlife. Whether it’s sitting at a park reading your favourite book or hiking one of Malaysia’s many trails, there are endless things to explore in this majestic multicultural nation. Just don’t make the mistake of sitting in your hostel room on the computer all day!

Protip: Create WhatsApp groups with your friends to make weekend planning much easier.

Don’t: Convert your currency at the airport

Airports are notorious for having the worst currency exchange rates. That’s because they know that the majority of customers are tourists who need to exchange a small amount of money to purchase their next train or bus, or even snacks. Therefore, they undercut the exchange rate by a larger amount to make a higher profit margin.

Protip: Exchange around $100 USD at your local bank in your home country prior to travel. Once in Malaysia, wait until you are in a city before exchanging your money. Decent rates can usually be found at currency exchange counters in shopping malls or standalone booths.

Don’t: Delay in applying for and/or renewing your student visa

Students often leave things to the last minute, procrastinating simple  errands because they seem like too much hassle. Don’t make this mistake! While renewing a visa is quite simple and painless in Malaysia, if you wait until the last minute, you can run into unforeseen problems that will cost you time, money, and effort .

Protip: When you initially get your student visa, look at the date, open your calendar, and set a reminder to renew it 3 months before expiration.