Universiti Sains Malaysia

Minden, Malaysia

The exchange agreement

The exchange agreement between the University of Lethbridge and the Universiti Sains Malaysia was signed in 1999. USM accepts a maximum of four exchange students from the U of L during one academic year.

Semester dates

Fall semester
September - January
Orientation: end of August
Suggested arrival: end of August
Spring semester
January - June
Orientation: January
Suggested arrival: January

The country

Malaysia is situated in the central part of Southeast Asia. West Malaysia covers the Malaysian Peninsula including offshore islands and borders in the north with Thailand and in the south with Singapore. Eastern Malaysia covers the northern part of the island of Borneo, bordering Brunei and Indonesia. In total Malaysia covers approximately 330,000 square kilometers of land.

Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia's capital and biggest city with a population of 1.1 million located on the central west coast of peninsular Malaysia. Other major cities include Melaka, Penang, Kota Baharu, Georgetown, and Kuching. The arts scene in Malaysia is rich, colourful, vibrant and dynamic, thanks largely to the exciting blend of cultural influences, including Malay, Chinese, Indian, European and the many tribes of the indigenous people.

Malaysia is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse nations in the world today; its people come from a number of different ethnic groups - Malay, Chinese, Indian, indigenous Orang Asli and various tribes of Sarawak and Sabah. As a nation, Malaysia represents a successful example of unity in diversity. Malaysia has a dynamic culture that is constantly evolving, which has shaped the language, the arts, the way of living we see today; a potpourri of races and religions, cultures and traditions that has since melded into something that is truly, uniquely Malaysian.

For more information about Malaysia see sites such as en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysia.

The city

The Universiti Sains Malaysia is located in the city of Minden on Penang Island only 15 minutes from Georgetown. Penang's northern shoreline is famous for its beautiful beaches of golden sand and deep blue seas. Penang has come a long way from its early beginnings as the first British trading post in the Far East. Its capital Georgetown is a bustling metropolitan city with a unique blend of East and West.

The university is located in a primarily Muslim district of Minden, while the other side of the island is mostly Chinese and Indian. Various parts of the city are known for different things: Batu Ferringhi is the main tourist destination in Penang and hosts a great night market, while more upscale shopping and restaurants can be found in Gurney.

The Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi and Teluk Bahang beaches offer expansive stretches of glittering sand interspersed with secluded coves within the shelter of gigantic rocks. It is along this famous coastline that resorts of international standard have sprouted up, offering a host of water-based recreational facilities.

For more information about Penang, visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penang.

The university

The Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) was founded in 1961 under its original name of University of Penang, making it Malaysia's second oldest university. USM's 240 hectare site is located in the city of Minden, approximately 9.7 km away from Georgetown.

The university is constantly growing and has a current student population of over 17,000. There are many sports and recreation facilities on campus for extra-curricular activities, including a pool, gym, basketball, soccer, tennis, badminton, and handball facilities. An art gallery and theatre are also on campus, and performances are regularly given. As well, groceries, entertainment, and public transportation are all available on or near the campus.

For further information, check the Universiti Sains Malaysia's website or see a map of the location of the Universiti Sains Malaysia.


While the main language of instruction for most of the undergraduate courses is Bahasa Maleyu (Malay Language), there are a good number of courses conducted entirely in English. Courses usually include one lecture and one tutorial per week (total of approximately 3hours/week/class). Course offerings vary significantly from one semester to another and changes may be made to scheduled course offerings before the semester begins.

Among available courses, students may want to choose classes on various topics and themes pertaining to Southeast Asia. Exchange students are recommended to study an introductory Bahasa Malaysia language course to familiarize themselves with the language.


Exchange students studying at USM may choose to live in an on-campus student dormitory, or an off-campus private apartment.

The simplicity of the student residences is represented by their low cost of approximately $40/month/student for a shared room. Dorm rooms are all double-occupancy, furnished with: two single beds, two desks, two wardrobes, a fan (no air conditioning), cement floors, and an electric kettle. One shared bathroom is on each floor (for approximately eight students) with one western toilet, one Asian toilet, two showers without hot water. There are no cooking facilities in the dorms. Male and female dormitories are in separate buildings.

Furnished apartments can easily be rented close to campus and can often be shared with other students. The USM International Centre can help to make these arrangements, or students may find apartments on their own. Costs may range from $140 - $400/month depending on whether or not apartments are shared. These apartments are very nice, even sometimes having pools and gyms. Sunnyville, E Park and N Park are three such nice apartment buildings close to campus where students have stayed in the past.


The island of Penang offers plenty of things to do and interesting places to see. Just a few of these are: Penang Hill, Georgetown's Komptar Tower for great shopping, night markets at Batu Ferringhi, a Butterfly Farm, Tropical Spice Garden, Tropical Fruit Farms, Botanical Gardens, Snake Temple, and many other Buddhist temples. When venturing further to other parts of Malaysia, students may be interested in water sports such as scuba-diving, snorkelling, wake boarding, surfing, and kite boarding, or just relaxing on beautiful tropical beaches. Jungle trekking, observing wildlife, and climbing the rolling hills of tea plantations or to the Peak of Mt. Kinabalu are other fun activities for the adventurous. For those seeking a more cosmopolitan experience, museums, theatres, cultural performances, and shopping malls are also abundant, especially in big cities such as the capital, Kuala Lumpur.


Buses are an inexpensive way to travel in Malaysia. Buses plying routes within towns and cities typically charge fares according to the distance covered while interstate buses have fixed rates. Taxis in major cities are usually fitted with meters, but most taxis on Penang do not use meters so bartering is required. Interstate and smaller town taxis charge a fixed rate and it's best to settle on a price before getting into the taxi. Various airlines also offer inexpensive flights throughout Malaysia or to other Asian destinations.

Visa requirements

Citizens of British Commonwealth countries, including Canada, do not need a visa in order to enter Malaysia. When you apply to attend school in Malaysia, you will be asked to send in a photocopy of your passport and 4 passport photos. With this information, the USM will apply to the Malaysian Immigration Department for a student's pass on your behalf. Once this student's pass is approved, you will be able to enter Malaysia as a tourist, and will then be required to finalize your student pass application after arriving in Malaysia. USM will be of assistance in this process.

The visa application process may have changed since this page was updated. Please email International Programs (int.programs@uleth.ca) for more information.

For further details about this visa, contact the Consulate General of Malaysia in Vancouver.

Consulate General of Malaysia
1900-925 W Georgia St
Vancouver BC V6C 3L2
CanadaTelephone: 1.604.685.9550
Fax: 1.604.685.9520
Contact Person: Mrs. Wan Napsiah bte.Wan Md.Salleh (Consul General)
Email: mwvcouvr@axionet.com
Website: www.kln.gov.my/perwakilan/vancouver


Based on comments from our previous exchange students to Malaysia, the costs for the exchange are approximately as follows:

  • Housing: C$40/month (shared dormitory); C$140–$400 (apartments)
  • Textbooks: approximately $15/class, when needed
  • Food: meals C$1–$10, depending on where you choose to eat
  • Transportation: local buses can take you anywhere on the island for less than C$2; taxis are more expensive but sometimes more convenient, although bartering is required; air and long-distance bus travel throughout Malaysia is also very inexpensive.
  • Student pass: C$40

Student contacts

"It was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone who likes an adventure and loves to learn new things."

Melissa Brazier, UofL exchange student to USM

Former and current U of L exchange students to the Universiti Sains Malaysia, as well as our current incoming exchange students from Malaysia are happy to talk to students interested in the exchange. To request their contact information, please email int.programs@uleth.ca.