Joanna Hughes :
From its varied geography and breathtaking natural phenomena to its friendly inhabitants and their extraordinary cultures, Southeast Asia is perhaps best defined by one word: diversity. Let's take a closer look at the premier educational offerings of Southeast Asia, along with why studying in this fascinating region of the world has life-changing potential.
Tucked between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Indonesia offers something for everyone-from dense forests and breathtaking beaches to world-class cities and resorts. With 237 million people scattered across a total land area of 1.9 million square kilometers, Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country. It is also home to significant Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist minorities, as well as pagan indigenous tribes still living in its untamed wilderness.
Four reasons to study in indonesia
1. Multicultural Immersion
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more multicultural environment than Indonesia, and its national motto of "Unity in Diversity" speaks directly to the harmonious co-existence among inhabitants. This magnificent multiculturalism is just one of the reasons why so many adventure-seeking students are choosing Malaysia.
2. Fast Fluency
Indonesian is considered one of the world's most accessible languages. In fact, the U.S.'s Foreign Service Institute has determined that a fluent standard of speaking and reading can be achieved in just 30-36 weeks of full-time study. Compare this to Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Arabic, all of which require more than twice that amount.
3. An Amazing Archipelago
Indonesia spans an area nearly as big as Australia, and approximately 80 percent of this is water. The country's tropical climate and diverse topography is home to some of the planet's most magnificent flora and fauna, as well as 400 volcanoes -- 100 of which are active.
4. Epic Adventures
With 17,000 islands-only 8,000 of which are inhabited-just waiting to be discovered, Indonesia beckons with the promise of endless adventure. From trekking through the wilderness or exploring Jakarta's glittering malls, there's something for everyone in this homogenisation-resistant country.
There's a reason 16 million international visitors flock to the "land of smiles" every year. Asia's primary travel destination, Thailand is known for its fusion of rich heritage and contemporary Western influence. Originally known as Siam, Thailand's 77 provinces are currently home to 63 million people distributed across its mysterious mountains and near-endless coastline. Bustling metropolitan areas, meanwhile, offer urbanites everything from savory street food to amazing nightlife.
Four reasons to study in thailand
1. Degrees Abound
A total of 685 accredited international programs comprising 251 bachelor's degrees, 314 master's degrees, 105 doctorate degrees and 11 graduate diploma degree programs-not to mention additional continuing education opportunities-mean you're sure to find the perfect program to meet your academic interests.
2. Cheap and Chic
A favorite destination among budget-conscious travelers, Thailand offers an economical option for international students for whom studying elsewhere is cost-prohibitive. Just how inexpensive is it to live and study in Thailand? Pricerunner ranked it the second least expensive city in the world, behind only Mumbai.
3. Take It All In
Whether you earn to take in traditional scenes of quaint fishing communities or the bright lights and sophisticated culture of modern-day Bangkok, Thailand is full of amazing things to see and do thanks to offerings comprising lush, dense jungles, famed lakes, and everything in between.
4. Cheer-worthy chow
No discussion of Thailand is complete without mention of its exquisite food served up by its famously friendly natives. From outdoor stalls to fine dining, there are countless ways to discover Thailand's glorious cuisine. Believe us when we say: phat thai is just the beginning….
Natural historian William Hornaday once described this global commerce hub and leader in social progress as, "The handiest and most marvellous city I ever saw." He went on to explain, "It is like a big desk, full of drawers and pigeonholes, where everything has its place, and can always be found in it." While 130 years have passed since Hornaday penned those words, they hold true of the city-state today. Home to 5.5 million people, this cosmopolitan mecca merges traditional culture with metropolitan modernity for an entirely unique international study option.
Four reasons to study in singapore.
1. A star on the rise
While Singapore's higher education star continues to soar, tuition remains a bargain compared to other premier international study destinations, including the U.S., U.K., and Australia. With a growing reputation in research and innovation as well as a commitment to meeting high teaching standards, Singapore claimed the 15th spot in the 2015 QS rankings of Best Student Cities due to its combination of prestigious universities, diverse student body, and extraordinary quality of life.
2. four official languages
Yes, you read that right. Singapore is home to not one, two or three, but FOUR official languages: Chinese, English, Malay and Tamil. Additionally, 20 other languages are also widely spoken here. English is the primary language of instruction and a whopping 75 percent of the population speaks English, so international students will have no difficulties communicating with locals. One note: language proficiency requirements are high so be sure to brush up before applying.
3. an unparalleled infrastructure
Order and organization are hallmarks of Singaporean society, and residents enjoy everything from excellent public transportation to an abundance of convenient services. Factor in clean, accessible, and world-class attractions including everything from premier shopping to fine historical museums and there's never a shortage of things to do here, nor a lack of means to do them.
4. It's a financial center
As the world's fourth largest foreign exchange trading center, Singapore is a heavy-weight region for global commerce. Students of business and finance will enjoy a direct view of the action while emerging with the global perspective valued by today's international employers.
This petite country was once a powerful player in early ancient civilization but has since experienced more than its share of heartache. Still, millions of annual visitors head to Cambodia for its "non-touristy" vibe offering everything from world-famous temples to tropical beaches. Bordered by Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, Cambodia is home to a population of 13.5 million people.
Four reasons to study in cambodia
1. honor and learn
Perhaps summed up best by Lonely Planet as "the good, the bad and the ugly," Cambodia's history is simultaneously fascinating and heartbreaking. Visitors pay homage to the rise and fall of one of the planet's greatest civilizations.
2. Step back in time
Because so little has changed here in recent generations, studying in Cambodia doesn't just offer the chance to learn history, but also to bask in some seriously old-fashioned and provincial charm.
3. Meet and greet
Despite their country's recent tragic history and relatively basic living standards, Cambodians remain some of Asia's most welcoming people. How much so? Cambodians don't address strangers as "ma'am" or "sir" but instead as ""sister," "brother," "aunt," "uncle," or even "grandma" or "grandpa," depending on your age.
4. Education meets agriculture
While the Cambodian higher education provides quality and stable higher educational offerings, the country is still in a state of growth. Students gain access to a truly genuine educational experience against a backdrop of rare, authentic agriculture.
Lesser-traveled Laos is often overlooked for its flashier neighbors, but this laid-back, landlocked country has plenty of allures of its own. While a limited infrastructure may make visiting a challenge, the rewards are plentiful in terms of authentic access to this sparsely populated country's fascinating history, rich culture, and pristine landscapes. And while less than seven million people live here, the population is surprisingly diverse, including everything from vibrantly attired hill tribes to Buddhist monks.
Four reasons to study in laos
1. Natural beauty at its best
From the mighty Mekong river-a way of life in Laos-to lush rainforests and heavily forested mountains, Laos is an untouched and beguiling destination for foreigners-particularly for outdoor enthusiasts who revel in the country's amazing biking and climbing.
2. Set the trend
While Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia may garner the lion's share of the buzz, this is quickly changing. As Laos beckons to more and more travelers-tourism is now the country's biggest growth sector-get there first to enjoy to enjoy an unsullied experience.
3. An archaeologist's dream
While Laos is a wonderland of archaeological exploration, its "Plain of Jars," offers a truly extraordinary experience. Located in northern Laos, this world-famous plateau features a smattering of massive, ancient jars scattered over the region's hilly plains. Even more remarkably, experts know little about the civilization which created them.
4. A fresh perspective
The difference between eastern and western cultures is heavily referenced, but can hardly be captured secondhand. Spending time in Laos gives international students true awareness of this very different worldview. This understanding will serve you well throughout life-both personally and professionally. The Lao also have a great love for storytelling and humor. If you enjoy meeting new people, hearing about their experiences, and having a laugh together, there's no better destination than Laos.
One of the region's biggest and most populated countries, Vietnam is home to more than 92 million people representing 54 different ethnic groups. A utopia for lovers of adventure, history, relaxation, and cuisine, Vietnam attracts millions of visitors every year for its sublime natural beauty, resilient people and bustling marketplaces packed with people and motorbikes.
Four reasons to study in vietnam
1. History in the making
Just 40 years out from the devastating Vietnam War, the country remains in an accelerated state of recovery and development meaning visitors enjoy greater access and amenities by the day.
2. A food-lover's paradise
Many culinary luminaries agree: no other Southeast Asian cuisine compares to Vietnamese. Amazing flavors, complex techniques, and diverse influences have earned Vietnam its reputation as an epicurean epicenter.
3. Pick your program
From Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi, Vietnam's higher education institutions offer a broad range of programs - many of which are taught in English. Students enjoy a multicultural learning environment while being immersed in Vietnam's rich culture.
4. Festivals galore
Festivals are an ingrained part of the Vietnamese culture. Whether for pure entertainment or to commemorate a special occasion, you're never far from a celebration when you travel to Vietnam.
Just over 30 million people reside in this colorful country divided by the South China Sea. Heralded as a study in contrasts, Malaysia's southern tip-known as the Peninsular Malaysia-is home to many vibrant urban areas influenced by Malay, Indian, and Chinese cultures, as well as the country's highest ranking universities . Travel to sleepy Malaysian Borneo, the other half, for an authentic glimpse of remote jungle life.
Four reasons to study in Malaysia.
1. An up and coming education
While Malaysia may not yet have gained higher education superstar status yet, it's coming on strong thanks to the government's commitment to the education sector. As the country develops its massive new EduCity development, EduCity Iskandar, Malaysia's place on the transnational education stage will only grow.
2 . It's got it all
Can't decide what most appeals to you in an international study destination? From great weather and enthralling history to unique wildlife and enticing local cuisine, whatever you're looking for can be found here.
3. Skip the Red Tape
The last thing you want to deal with when you finally make the decision to study abroad is bureaucratic delays. You'll find no such setbacks in Malaysian thanks to a user-friendly, informative, well-organized website. Simply point and click your way to enrollment.
4. Safety first
First and foremost on the minds of many international students (and their parents!), safety varies across Southeast Asia. Claiming the honor for safest country in the region, according to the Global Peace Index? Malaysia. A strong police force, low crime rates, and crime prevention programs help people in Malaysia live safely, securely, and peacefully. Besides, there are many schools, like the University of Malaysia, that are renowned for their high quality programs across a wide spectrum of disciplines as well as for their professional approach of the field.
While choosing between Southeast Asia's study offerings can be overwhelming, at least you have a good excuse for the struggle: a compelling case can be made for each of these captivating countries. By understanding your goals and conducting thorough research on each prospective destination, you can find the perfect program in the perfect place.
(Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family).