Study in MALAYSIA with YES Abroad!

Malaysia, a constitutional monarchy, is a predominately Muslim nation with Chinese and Indian influences. While it is not an entirely homogenized country, there are only a few main ethnic groups: half of the population are Malay, just under a quarter are Chinese, about seven percent are Indian, and a small percentage are indigenous or of another ethnicity. The languages reflect this distribution: Bahasa Malaysia (Malay) is the official language, although English, several forms of Chinese, and small amounts of Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Punjabi, and Thai all spoken. Although Islam is the official religion, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and a number of traditional Chinese and indigenous religions are practiced and respected. Since declaring independence from Britain in August 1957, Malaysia has practiced a legal system comprised of English common law, Islamic law, and customary law. Divided in two by the South China Sea, both halves of Malaysia are composed of coastal plains, hills and mountains.

It is difficult to distinguish a unitary "Malaysian cuisine," as it blends Malay, Indian, Chinese, and traditional indigenous flavors, and differs among regions. All of the regions hold one element in common, however: the food is notably spicy. Chinese influence provides the tradition of a balance of Yin food, such as vegetables and fruit, and Yang food, such as starch and meat, in each meal. Staples of light bread and fish in certain regions derive from the Indian influence. Together, these styles create a culinary culture of diversity, tradition, and regional distinction.

The various ethnic groups and cuisines all come together in the nation's capital, Kuala Lumpur. The city is home to some of the tallest skyscrapers in Southeast Asia and juxtaposes ancient mosques and temples alongside cafes, office buildings, and malls. The country has a tropical climate that varies in intensity based on region.

Learn more about being a YES Abroad student in Malaysia:

Host Family

Students will live with host families in order to experience true immersion in the local culture. Families are selected based on recommendations by members of the local community, and each is carefully screened by AFS staff and volunteers. Families are carefully vetted through a thorough application process and are highly regarded by their relatives and neighbors. Hosting communities exist through the presence of a strong support network, with a local volunteer, staff member, or "liaison" available to each student.

Your High School

Students will attend public schools. All subjects will be taught in Bahasa Malaysia (Malay), with the exception of Math and Science, which are generally taught in English. School typically runs Monday to Friday in most regions, though it runs Sunday to Thursday in other regions. Uniforms are customary. Students will have the opportunity to participate in a number of extramural and extracurricular activities, such as football, volleyball, softball, swimming, theater, debate, photography, and chess.

The Political & Security Environment

The United States enjoys good relations with Malaysia. It is an active member in organizations such as ASEAN, APEC, the OIC, the NAM, and the UN. 

For more information, visit the CIA World Factbook.

Health & Safety

With AFS's 59-year presence in Malaysia, we are able to draw on strong local connections for a deep understanding of the intercultural, health, safety, and security issues. Prior to departure and upon arrival, students are given safety briefings by AFS staff. They will also receive security information from the U.S. Embassy’s Security Office, and will be registered for the Embassy’s travel alert system. AFS works closely before arrival and throughout the exchange year to discuss and prepare for students' well-being. YES Abroad students are covered by medical as well as Political and Security Evacuation Insurance. Students will have access to a 24-hour emergency number, and our staff members are thoroughly trained. Each student will be given a cell phone upon arrival and will be given the contact number for their local support representative and his/her national AFS-Malaysia office. In the case of an emergency, a Duty Officer is on-call 24/7 in both Malaysia and the United States. This number is made available to both students and their parents while on program. For further information on Malaysia, visit the U.S. Department of State's website.

Enrichment Activities

Students will have the opportunity to take part in various activities to increase their interaction with local peers in Malaysia. Activities may include field trips, sporting events, cultural excursions, social outings, and community service projects. Examples of previous enrichment activities include:

  • Meeting with the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy;
  • Cultural days with Malaysian YES alumni who studied in the United States;
  • Community service activities, such as volunteering as a native English language speaker for children and young adults.