Study in Malaysia: Nepali student finds freedom, passionate people and ‘a life-changing experience’

study in Malaysia

If you met Ayushree Thapa before her two study in Malaysia stints, you would find it hard to believe that this bubbly, bright person used to be  withdrawn and insecure – the complete opposite of her personality now. 

Thapa, who hails from Nepal, grew up believing that she couldn’t be good at anything. Her confidence was shaky and she worried constantly about what others thought of her, despite being born with a naturally carefree spirit.

“I was conditioned to believe that you had to be a certain way, and speak English in a certain manner to be successful in life,” she said. “Nepal can be quite orthodox in its approach to learning. You have to get certain types of grades to be seen as worthy.” 

She could not find much comfort in her home country. Educational spaces had tight rules and regulations, and having views and opinions that stood out would result in being treated like an outsider or, worse, shamed. 

“I did not enjoy the orthodox way of learning and lack of simulation,” Thapa confessed. 

So when the opportunity to study abroad presented itself, she took it. She travelled to Malaysia with her family and visited a handful of universities there. 

What caught her eye was Taylor’s University, the top-ranked private university in Malaysia and throughout Southeast Asia. 

studying abroad

One of Thapa’s favourite memories from her two study in Malaysia exeperiences was visiting places to eat with her friends and coursemates. Source: Ayushree Thapa

Study in Malaysia, part one: Evolving from introvert to ‘super extroverted’ student leader

When asked about her decision to enrol at Taylor’s, Thapa confessed that it wasn’t entirely about the university’s rankings and accolades. Rather, it was the gorgeous campus, and the expansive lake situated right in the middle of it. 

There, she pursued a Bachelor’s in International Business and Marketing. But ultimately, her biggest takeaway wasn’t just her academic experience, but who she became thanks to her time at university.  

When she first joined Taylor’s, she distinctly recalled that it was a new start for her, and she could learn to grow outside of her comfort zone. She would no longer be forced to keep to herself, or conform to harsh expectations of her educators and peers. In this new environment, she could explore what she was interested in, make new friends and discover new parts of herself. 

So the first thing she did was throw herself into extracurricular activities at every chance she got. 

“I joined the student council, helped organise events and literally volunteered for everything, at every opportunity,” said Thapa. “I made some really nice friends, mostly from Sri Lanka and Thailand, and of course, Malaysian friends as well.”

Once she started interacting with her peers and involving herself in activities, she realised how much fun she was having and, most importantly, how brightly she shone while doing them. She finally felt like she had direction and purpose, and that her ideas and opinions were now valued rather than brushed aside. 

“It’s all about putting yourself out there, and you need to change as a person in order to do that,” she said. “If you’re cooped up in your dorm room and not doing anything, it’s very unlikely that you’ll grow.”

Determined to explore her passions more, she started staying back after class to help plan and organise student events and celebrations, only returning back to her room in the wee hours of the morning.

“For the first six months, I stayed near the campus in private student housing because it was cheap, but I realised pretty early on that was a little unsafe,” Thapa confessed. “So I moved to the campus dorms after that, and it was life-changing.”

Being on campus gave her more time to balance her academics and commitments. On an average day, she would wake up, have breakfast on campus with her friends, go to her lectures, and attend meetings with the student council or event committees. Most of her meetings involved her two favourite things – talking and food. 

“I was very passionate about being in the student council,” said Thapa. “I managed the PR aspect of it, which required me to be super extroverted. I had to talk to students and school boards to market our ideas while working with different opinions and personalities within the team.”

Thapa had many fond memories of her time in the student council, especially when she would work late nights with her peers to plan and organise events. One event she loved working on was World Fest, a campus event that celebrated international students and their heritage.

“Taylor’s had a very international community, and these students were always very confident and carried themselves well,” she said. “We held World Fest with their help – it was an event that had performances and showcases from around the world, and even students from other universities would come and visit.”

Working with other international students while experiencing the Malaysian culture taught Thapa many things. Her confidence grew, and she became both a better listener and communicator. 

“Unlike back home, people here have big personalities – we were all super passionate about what we were doing, but ultimately there will always be moments where we butt heads,” she said. “Communication is important, and arguably the most underrated soft skill. If you’re a good communicator, half of your problems can be solved.”

studying abroad

Want to study in Malaysia and have a life-changing experience? Follow Ayushree Thapa’s footsteps. Soure: Ayushree Thapa

Study in Malaysia, part two: A time to specialise

After graduating with her degree, Thapa returned to Nepal, where she mostly worked in marketing. She did social media, marketing, writing and project management for a bit, but the itch to go back to studying was always there – specifically as an international student.

“I always wanted to work in Malaysia, but it was a struggle for international students to get a job here,” she said. “But I realised I would be happy doing a master’s, and it would make sense to specialise in something.”

Soon after, she decided to return to Malaysia, where she took up a Master’s in IT, Business Information Systems at Monash University.

“It was a career change in a sense, and very challenging,” said Thapa. “Marketing came naturally to me because I am a creative individual of sorts, but my master’s required me to think in a very logical and systematic manner, so that was a struggle.” 

Compared to Taylor’s, Monash had fewer opportunities for Thapa to put herself out there. The university as a whole was more academically focused, whereas Taylor’s always bustled with events and opportunities to network. 

With whatever fun she had left, COVID-19 cut it even shorter. Due to lockdowns and travel restrictions, Thapa was forced to complete her master’s remotely. 

“I spent only one year on campus at Monash, and I made the most of it,” Thapa said. “Most of the fun came from off-campus activities and hangouts with my friends.”

One thing that she learned during her time at Taylor’s and Monash was that it was important to find people with whom she was comfortable – or, in her words, “vibed.” 

“In Malaysia, I felt like you needed to know where to find friends and when to connect with them,” she said.

“It’s a beautiful country, but you must find your place there. Like-minded people naturally will gravitate towards each other, so you find yourself in an environment you like and you’ll be fine.”

Thapa worked at 123RF during her master’s. She did a three-month internship as a product marketing analyst, which turned into an independent contractor role. 

“I’ve always gravitated towards the project management side of things instead of the technical side,” she said.

“It’s also important to me that my role must be a good cultural fit – my time studying abroad has taught me to have an open mind towards world views and opinions, and that’s now a prime focus for me when looking for a career. 

When she eventually returned to Nepal, she went into project management, working mostly as an associate project manager for tech companies. Now, she’s a production manager at Hybrid, a global creative agency. 

“My personal hope is to carve out a name for myself in my chosen career and carry forward my knowledge,” said Thapa. “Helping people comes in different forms. I hope to use what I learn and spread it through teaching, be it through communication or videos. That is my hope for the future!”

studying abroad study in malaysia

Having completed two degrees here, Thapa has deep insights for any Nepali aspiring to study in Malaysia. Source: Ayushree Thapa

Top tips for any Nepali seeking to study in Malaysia

We spoke to Thapa and asked her to reflect further on her journey and share her hopes for girls and women back in Nepal who wish to study in Malaysia and other countries.

During your time abroad, you had the opportunity to grow as a person and develop many new skills. Would you say that coming to study in Malaysia gave you a new chance at life?

Yes, I distinctly remember thinking to myself about that. Going outside of my comfort zone was a new start for me. I the past, I was really scared of talking in public, but I made it a point to participate in the student council and speak as much as possible. Admittedly, my voice would shake at times, but I always carried on.

I also became a yes person in the sense that I would say yes to all and any opportunity. I immersed myself in new groups and people, and it helped me understand that the world is a lot bigger than I thought. Success looks different to everyone; for example, Taylor taught me that you don’t have to speak perfect English to be successful.

Could you tell us about any other experiences that helped with your personal development?

I volunteered for any gig available with my international friends. I participated in a world record, helping create the longest nasi lemak line, which was memorable. But, what I truly remember is networking in events – through music, dance and communication, I made some really good friends. Just participating in as many events as possible and putting myself out there really helped me. 

Nepal has been steadily improving access to education for girls and women, and more women now have the opportunity to study abroad as well. Could you share your views and hopes for the future of education for Nepali girls and women? 

Study abroad is huge here, it is an opportunity for many to live a better life. In terms of access to education in the cities and urban areas, the growth is commendable, many women now feel empowered to make their own decisions and live life on their own terms. 

But, there is so much that needs work. We must foster an environment where women from all backgrounds get equal educational opportunities. My hope is that as people move away from Nepal, they do not completely cut their roots from the country, they try to empower those based in rural areas, in whichever way, small or big. 

My hope is that women will feel empowered because of education so that they can make their own decisions in life. Although I have not been able to do this, I hope to share my experiences and learnings with those who may not have had the opportunity in the future to spread knowledge and hopefully touch even a small part of my community.