Whenever ASEAN students want to find opportunities to study abroad and enhance their career, they often think of the developed countries because of the broad opportunities these students would benefit from after completing their study. There are many factors that affect their choice of study, such as the availability of scholarships, learning systems, cultural barriers, etc. Due to the wide variety of choices, some students may feel overwhelmed when they want to make a decision. In this article, we list out the top 5 countries that are chosen by most ASEAN university students to help them gain an overview.

  • Japan

Despite many other countries that offer good quality education, Japan constantly appears to be an appealing option for students from any ASEAN country who plan to study abroad. The number of international students in Japan from ASEAN countries showed an increasing trend on the result of an annual International Students Survey in Japan by The Japan Student Service Organization (JASSO). According to the survey, there are approximately 90.000 to 100.000 students from ASEAN countries, with Vietnam at the first line of ASEAN rankings and consistently being the second rank on the survey year-to-year.

International students’ associations such as PPI Indonesia, Myanmar Students’ Association, Malaysian Student Association, Vietnamese Student Association, Association of Filipino Students in Japan, and many more are running actively in multiple chapters across Japan. The opportunity to gain volunteer experiences in various Japan’s events or festivals are widely open for all international students from the biggest Tokyo Olympic 2020, local festival, to the small periodical cultural event in university.

As a non-English speaking country, the language barrier is the hardest thing to deal with at the beginning. However, as the university provides Japanese class as a mandatory subject in certain semesters,it can hopefully assist students in overcoming their language barrier.

There are a lot of scholarships with different language skills requirements and it is important to do a comprehensive research about it. In brief, the scholarships are offered by different parties including Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarships, Student Exchange Support Program (Scholarship for Short-term Study in Japan), Monbukagakusho Honors Scholarship for Privately Financed International Students, as well as the Local Government and Private Organization Scholarships. 

  • Germany

Germany is home to many international students. As of 2020, according to the latest official enrollment data, there are around 400,000 international students, which include those from Southeast Asian countries. Communities such as PPI (Indonesian Student Association), Vietnamese Students Associations, and MGSS (Malaysian-German Student Society) organize events and get-togethers regularly. These organizations provide valuable opportunities not only to connect with people from your home country, but also to develop organizational and interpersonal skills.

In Germany, there are two kinds of higher education institutions. The first one is Universität or regular university which mostly focuses on theory, and Fachhochschule (University of Applied Sciences) which puts more emphasis on practical skills. Usually, students will choose Universität for subjects that are more theory-heavy such as Mathematics or Chemistry, and Fachhochschule for a more praxis-oriented major such as Engineering. Whichever one you apply to, language is important when it comes to preparing your application. Most universities require prospective students to submit a Proof of German Language Proficiency. Students can obtain this through passing language tests such as TestDaF, DSH II/III, or Goethe-Zertifikat C2.

Studying in Germany is not free from challenges. The current dropout rate for international students stands at 45% for bachelors students and 29% for masters. Why the high number? Other than language barrier, lack of self-discipline might be another contributing factor. In Germany, students are free to schedule their own semesters and pick their own modules. While this might sound liberating, many students find it hard to remain disciplined as attendance is not compulsory. On top of that, in most German universities, students are given limited trials for their exams before they are then forced to drop out. Therefore, it is important to prioritize your time well because studying in Germany, as in any other countries, requires a high degree of self-determination.

  • UK

Many southeast Asian students chose to study in the UK because the UK provides access to one of the most varied offerings of study program specializations in Europe. They report being very happy with the diverse study options, flexible schedule, and part-time job opportunities. Students also emphasized their satisfaction with their personal and professional development while studying in the UK, especially highlighting the opportunities to improve their English language skills. Most students also consider the UK a great study location in which to benefit from an international atmosphere and make friends from every part of the world. Students enjoy the British cities and culture, the rich social life and diverse university activities. In addition, As a cosmopolitan city, there are so many cultural activities  to participate in. As there are many international students coming from different backgrounds, it acts as an opportunity for exchanging experience and realizing your strengths and weaknesses. The current rate for ASEAN students in the UK is approximately 100.000-200.000 students,  and 80% of students study and take part time work after their classes.

  • USA

According to usaasean.org, in 2018, almost 60,000 students from ASEAN study in the United States, comprising 5% of all international students. And most of the ASEAN students in the USA come from Vietnam (24,000 students) and it is also the 6th largest international student group. The education quality in the USA has made the place become the Holy Grail for international students, especially from the ASEAN region. And although there are fewer ASEAN students in higher education due to the pandemic, it is still among the top 4 of the destinations to study abroad according to a survey from educations.com. There are many reasons why ASEAN students want to go there and take a full four-year course for a bachelor degree to the higher level in graduate and postgraduate, such as the attractive scholarships funded by universities and governments (YSEALI, Fulbright, Bill Gates Scholarships, etc.).

On top of that, international students who study in the USA, especially ASEAN students, are more likely to overcome culture shock than those who study in other countries. This is because the cultural diversity is very noticeable, especially in the dormitory. Hence, students will feel more welcomed. Besides, the learning program emphasizes internships and career advancement, which may help international students have a good start to their successful career.

  • Hungary

Hungary is one of the most popular study destinations for ASEAN students with the opportunity to obtain government scholarships in various majors. Additionally, Hungary’s historical perspective encourages many students to choose to study here. A vast majority of foreign students who study in Hungary attend the full time academic programs. Over the last two decades, hundreds of thousands of international students decide to study in Hungary every year, especially in its capital city Budapest. Budapest is famous for its high quality education system, fascinating history, and beautiful sight. Most ASEAN students prefer to study at the University of Pecs, Eötvös Loránd University, Corvinus University of Budapest, University of Debrecen and Széchenyi István University. In 2018, ASEAN students applied for a scholarship for the university of Pecs in an increasing Social Work program that may help a student improve how to interact with other people around the work easier. Currently, for instance Lao students study in Hungary approximately 500 students because the government has to send 100 students every year by full fees, 75% bachelor degree and 25% for master degree.

The best-ranking University in Hungary, and usually among the top 500 universities worldwide, is the University of Szeged. With well over 20,000 students, it is also one of the largest institutions in the country. Other notable universities include Eötvös Loránd University and the University of Pecs. 

In conclusion, it is very important for a student to make a wise decision when it comes to the issue of studying abroad as it has a considerable impact on their future. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration before deciding where to study, but in the end the choice is in their hands.

By: Ly Anjeng Fadlilah, Jessia Khalis Tanujaya, Nguyen Quoc Bao Huy, & Thidavanh Sinambounheuang