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Gabin Forcier
Mon Expat' à Kuala Lumpur

Gabin, Master in Management student on expatriation to Kuala Lumpur

Gabin tells us about his expatriation to Kuala Lumpur. In the previous edition of "My Expat' to", we talked about the Oxford Campus.

In this section, we will talk about expatriations lasting one or more semesters in partner universities offered to students of the Master in Management programme.

Introduce yourself in a few words.

Gabin: I am a student on the Le Havre campus, currently in Year 4 of the Master in Management programme. I went to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia for a year as part of the second year of the programme.

Was this destination your first choice?

Gabin: Absolutely, this is where I wanted to go for my expatriation. I hesitated for a long time before going so far away, because at the beginning, I thought of going to Budapest. It was the easy choice to stay in Europe, and then, at the last moment, I said to myself "Come on, go! "and I decided to go to Kuala Lumpur. Besides, I had good results in my classes.

Which partner university in Malaysia did you attend?

Gabin: I was at UNIKL, which is the only university in Kuala Lumpur linked to EM Normandie. It's a big university with several campuses in the city.

What kind of courses did you take?

Gabin: It was more or less the same classes as in France, with subjects like management, finance and marketing. At the beginning of the semester, we were given a list of classes to choose from. We set up our schedule according to what suits us and the subjects that interest us. 

I had similar courses to those in France.

What was your average during Year 1?

Gabin: I had enough points to get into the university of my choice. I was 19th in the first-year ranking, which made it easier for me to get into my first choice. If you have good results, you have more chances to go where you want.

Were the courses in English?

Gabin: Yes, all the courses were in English. It's the same as if you were doing the English course and staying in France. All the students and teachers there spoke English quite well. In the city, people found it harder to speak English but on the campuses everyone spoke English.

Did going abroad help you improve your English?

Gabin: Of course, especially in oral fluency. The fact that I'm with other expat students and that I speak English every day inevitably helps me to progress. I still make a few grammatical mistakes, but in any case, I don't have that language block that I used to have. It's really easier and more pleasant today.

By practising English every day, I have made a lot of progress in my speaking.

Can you speak in English for us?

Gabin: Yes, sure. I can speak in English!

How did you find your accommodation there?

Gabin: I didn't want to take an accommodation in advance to avoid any bad surprise when I arrived. So I chose to stay in a hostel for 10 days when I arrived. This gave me time from the first days of my arrival to meet students with whom I could share a room. Within 5-6 days I found 2 other students, a Swede and a German and we set up a flat share. We found a flat together quickly. I advise not to take accommodation in advance because it is more expensive and you can sometimes come across frauds.

I quickly found my accommodation on the spot with two flatmates. It is better to avoid taking accommodation in advance.

Did you follow a tailor-made programme?

Gabin: No, it was a classic exchange programme in the second year.

Have you thought about doing an internship there?

Gabin: No, because I had to take the courses there and with the visa I was not allowed to work. Besides, I mainly used my free time to travel.

How is the food in Malaysia?

Gabin: It's not like what we eat in France. It's a multicultural country, you can find all kinds of food. I often ate Indian or Asian food in general. The food is cheap there, for 1.50€ to 2€, you get a full meal. I often ate off campus in the small restaurant on the corner. 

Life is cheap in Malaysia. You can eat out every day and go on trips to neighbouring countries!

What was the cost of your expatriation?

Gabin: Knowing that I have travelled a lot, it cost me a bit of money, even if it is not really expensive to travel in South East Asia, to Indonesia or Cambodia for example. To give you an idea, a return air ticket for a weekend in Bangkok costs about 80€.

How did you get to this expat? Did you take an English test?

Gabin: From memory, you had to have 750 in the TOEIC to be able to access this expatriation. Then the ranking in the course made the difference between the students. The international affairs department gives you very good information on expatriation.

How did you spend your free time?

Gabin: I have visited Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia in general. There are a lot of different landscapes, mountains, beaches and very big cities. I have also been to Thailand and Indonesia. It's a great way to spend time with other expats and build relationships.

I have travelled a lot during my Expat': Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore etc.

Was your expat status before the Covid period?

Gabin: Yes, at that time, I was in the second year of the programme.

How was the integration into the country?

Gabin: There was an integration weekend with about 50 other international students. We went to a paradise island in the north of Malaysia. This gave me the opportunity to get to know some of the students with whom I later spent the semester.

Malaisie 3

Have you kept in touch with them?

Gabin: Yes, I kept in touch with an Italian and a French woman.

Are there any bars in Malaysia?

Gabin: Absolutely, there are bars and many places to have a good time.

What do you think are the best places to visit in Malaysia?

Gabin: In the northwest of the country there are beautiful coasts with fine sand and turquoise water, it's beautiful. Towards the centre of the country, there is a mountainous region where it is colder (20°C) and where there are tea fields in the mist, it is also very pretty. It's also a nice break from the daily heat that you can get in the big cities and in Malaysia in general.

How far is it from Kuala Lumpur?

Gabin: The northern islands are less than an hour's flight from Kuala Lumpur, so it's a quick trip. To go to the mountainous region in the centre of the country, it took us 5-6 hours by bus.

What is your best memory there?

Gabin: We celebrated the New Year in Bali with other expats. We were about 15 people who rented a small villa. It was quite nice. The next morning at 10 o'clock, we went surfing!

What is your worst memory?

Gabin: I had a car accident. I was leaving for the airport to go to Indonesia at about 5am. My driver ran a red light and a car hit us. Luckily we were okay but the car was completely dead.

What countries have you travelled to?

Gabin: To Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Cambodia. I travelled a lot during my 4.5 month expat period.

What was the pace of the course?

Gabin: I had managed to fit all my classes at the beginning of the week into two and a half days. This left me time to travel on the side, to see people and for my hobbies.

How did you validate your semester?

Gabin: The level required to pass the semester is not excessively difficult. But you have to follow the lessons well and work in the evenings and before the exams to succeed.

Is student life in Malaysia different from that in France?

Gabin: Yes, definitely. You have to know that Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, it's even the state religion. The vast majority of women there are veiled. It's surprising at first but you get used to it very quickly. I found it very interesting to be confronted with a religion I didn't know and to break down any prejudices one might have. The relationship with alcohol is also different, but students go out like we do in France.

Student life in Malaysia is very different from France.

Would you recommend doing this expat in Kuala Lumpur?

Gabin: Yes, it's a very interesting experience. You can travel, you meet lots of people, life is cheap and it's warm, which is not negligible!

What advice would you give to someone going abroad?

Gabin: My first piece of advice is not to stay with the French if you want to progress in English and really mix with the culture, you have to force yourself a bit at the beginning to make foreign friends.

The final word...

Gabin: Work on your course and give yourself the means to go to Kuala Lumpur to enjoy your expatriation. Give yourself the means to meet people, to open yourself to other possibilities of travelling. Don't stay in your comfort zone. Expatriation is really an opportunity to surpass yourself, take advantage of it!

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