Burma Study Abroad Website

General Information


General Requirements
How do I find a university that is right for me?
Advice on the Application Process
Tips for Burmese Students in Burma
Financing your Education
Tips on Securing Scholarships
How are Scholarships Judged?
The Challenges of Studying Abroad
How will your Professors Evaluate You?
Tips for Success
A Warning on Academic Misconduct
Culture Shock
Cultural Advice
Keeping Costs Down
The International Students Office


To get accepted into a university abroad often requires a year or even a year and a half of preparation.

Don't be discouraged by this, but do realize that you need to give yourself adequate time to take all the necessary tests, fill out application forms, find funding, and acquire the appropriate visa.

Try to talk to as many other students as you can to get tips about how to finance your studies and handle other parts of the application process.


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General Requirements

Most universities will require the following with your application:

The following may also be required:

Note: for students who cannot obtain official transcripts or teachers' recommendations, it may be possible to substitute other proof of educational background and letters of recommendation from people who know you now. However, you must discuss this in advance with the admissions office of the university.

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How do I find a university that is right for me?

First, do you have a country preference?
Would you prefer to go to a Western country where you will be immersed in a very different culture or would you prefer to stay in Southeast Asia?

Is cost an important factor?
Tuitions and living costs in Southeast Asia and India are generally much less expensive than in the West. Students who want to study in the West may have to work part-time or take out loans.

Private universities are generally more expensive than public universities, but private universities may have more generous tuition-waivers and scholarship opportunities.

There are scholarships available for Burmese students in all countries, but most scholarships provide only partial support.

What do you want to study?
Find a university that is well known for the subject you want to study. This is particularly important for students enrolling in graduate degree programs.

Is size a factor?
Would you rather be at a big, research university where there are more specialized opportunities or at a smaller school where there may be less specialization but more personal attention?

Is location a factor?
Would you rather be in a big city where there is a lot going on (and you can find Asian food) or a small town where it is more peaceful and usually cheaper? Also, do you want to be in a warm climate similar to home, or are you ready to try a colder climate?

How good is your English?
Different universities require different levels of English ability. Some universities have English as a Second Language classes for international students who are still struggling with the language. Be sure to check each university's requirements before applying.

Do you have friends or relatives somewhere abroad?
You may prefer to study at a university with friends or relatives nearby. The challenges of adapting to a new culture and a very different academic system can be difficult. Sometimes it helps to have someone you know nearby who can ease the homesickness and help you adapt.

To help you in your decision-making, visit the websites of the universities you are interested in. The websites show photographs of the school, list academic departments and courses, and give information about other activities on campus. You can easily find university websites by using a search engine and typing in the name of the university.

Also, look at reference books which give descriptions of universities and their course offerings. Such reference books are available at public libraries, USIS, and British Council libraries.

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Advice on the Application Process

Apply to more than one university

In general, you should apply to more than one university. Most universities receive applications from many more students than they can take, so you should apply to a few universities to make sure you are accepted somewhere. Some universities are harder to get into than others. Apply to a couple of schools that you would like to attend but might be challenging for you. Also apply to some schools whose application requirements are a little bit lower, where you are likely to be accepted.

The same is true of scholarships. Don't apply for just one. Apply for several. Scholarships are also competitive, and even if you are a good student, you can't assume you will be selected.

Start early

You will need at least a year to 18 months to prepare for entering an undergraduate or graduate program. Remember, you will have to take at least one or two standardized tests (ie. TOEFL, SAT, GRE), and these tests must be taken approximately 9 months before the university year will begin. You must register for these tests about 2 months in advance, and you will probably have to study for these tests for at least two or three months.

Possibly start with a Community College, ESL Program or Bridging Course

Particularly if you are already living in a Western country, you may want to start with one of these programs in order to prepare for university-level studies. Community colleges offer two-year programs with university courses and vocational courses. Community colleges are often easier to get into (they take lower TOEFL scores and academic marks), they usually are much less expensive than a 4-year university, classes are small, and the environment is less competitive. The disadvantages are that there is a high turnover of professors, and the academic standards are usually lower than at universities. Still, it can be useful to attend community college for the first two years and then transfer to a university for your last two years. You can transfer all your credits so you will still get a B.A. or B.Sc. in 4 years. Community colleges often offer night classes for working students.

Community colleges also often offer 2 year certificate and degree programs in: Business Administration, Computer Programming, Nursing, Fashion Design, Hotel and Restaurant Management, Secretarial Training, Commercial Photography, Engineering and Advertising Art.

ESL courses on university campuses or bridging courses offered by universities are other options for international students preparing for university-level studies. Often these can be taken in the evening or part-time if you are working.

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Tips for Burmese Students in Burma/Myanmar

To study abroad as an undergraduate requires a year and a half to two years of preparation. You must take a number of tests, prepare essays, and preferably volunteer at an organization you

believe in. Many universities in the West are looking for indications that you are someone who contributes to your community.

Try to take the following steps according to the timetable laid out below.

Note: Although most universities in the United States do not require that you take the SAT subject tests or the GCE A levels, Burmese students will not be accepted just with 10th grade marks. Thus, it is a good idea to take these tests, because they give you a chance to demonstrate your academic strengths and they can help you obtain a scholarship.

Let's suppose you just sat the 10th grade exam and it is April, 2001.

April to December 2001:

  1. Prepare for the GCE A level examinations - at least five subjects.
    The choice of subjects depends on what you want to study. Note: you can take GCE classes in Yangon.

  2. Participate in community service such as teaching poor children or volunteering at a school for the deaf and dumb.

  3. Read various Western books (in English or in translation) to understand the western way of looking at things.

January 2002: Sit the GCE exam.

February 2002:

  1. Prepare for the TOEFL, SAT I and SAT II.

  2. Start thinking about your application essays and what you want to say. Finish writing the drafts of the essays before sitting for the SAT exams.

Aug / Sep 2002: Sit TOEFL

Oct/Nov/Dec 2002: Sit SAT I & II

Dec 2002/Jan 2003: Application process

Jan/Aug 2002:
Practice English Speaking and computer skills. Read about Western culture.

Note: if you are able to obtain a full scholarship, obtaining a student visa should not be a problem. If you receive only a tuition scholarship, you will need a sponsor to cover your living expenses.

To get a scholarship, you will generally need:

1. excellent marks in high school

2. strong letters of recommendation

3. good application essays

4. high test scores:

a. A on all GCE subjects

b. SAT I: above 1100

c. SAT II: above 600 on each test (writing score 500 or above)


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Financing Your Education

How much will it cost?

The price will vary tremendously from country to country and even within countries. The tuition rate at public universities for students who are considered residents is much cheaper than for non-residents. If you are an international student, you will have to pay a much higher rate each year. Private universities generally charge the same rate for everyone, but they are much more expensive than public universities. The total amount you will have to pay can range from several thousand dollars in India to over $ 30,000 in the United States.

What will you have to pay for?

Tuition - generally cheaper at public universities, but it may be easier to get a scholarship at a private university. The tuition for each term or semester must be paid in full before classes begin.

Books - Books can cost several hundred dollars a year. You can keep costs down by buying some books used - at your university bookstore or other bookstores near the university. Most course books will also be on reserve in the library, so in some cases, you may want to just read the book or article in the library.

Room and Board - If you live in a dorm (hostel) it will also come with a meal plan in the dining hall, so you don't have to worry about cooking (but the food will be western). However, you can often save money by renting a house or apartment with friends, sharing utilities, and phone and food costs. Note: housing costs are usually higher in cities than in rural areas.

Medical Insurance - Most universities require you to purchase medical insurance through the university's hospital program. For an individual, the cost for a year will usually be a minimum of $700. For a family, it will be more. Medical insurance covers visits to the doctor, medicine, hospitalization and surgery. However it does not cover dental work, eye examinations, or eye glasses.

Miscellaneous - You may need to buy a computer. Most professors will expect you to type your assignments on a computer and do research on the internet. There will be computers you can use on campus, but sometimes it can be very crowded. You can probably buy a discounted computer at your university bookstore, or find a used computer through ads in the student newspaper or on bulletin boards around campus. You will also need money for various personal needs.

How can you pay for your education?

You will probably have to combine money from several different sources including scholarships, part-time work, loans, and your own money.

Colleges and universities provide funding through scholarships, grants, and fellowships, although most are for graduate level students. Go to the website of the university in which you are interested and search for "financial aid". You should be able to find out about scholarships and other financial assistance at that university. If you cannot access the web, call or write to the university's financial aid office for information.

Scholarships are also offered by some private organizations, foundations, international agencies, and government agencies. See the recommended websites listed under each country for detailed information.

Teaching and research assistantships are available at some universities for graduate students who assist a teacher with specific tasks in exchange for financial assistance. Such assistantships are usually based on academic merit, or previous experience, background and training, not on financial need.

Part-time work is often possible, but the money you can earn will only cover part of your expenses.

In many Western countries (Australia, Canada, the US), citizens and eligible permanent residents (those with refugee status or asylum) can apply for low interest government-sponsored loans which are repaid in monthly installments after the student has graduated and begun working.

Loans for international students are available from some commercial banks, but you must have approval from a school's financial aid office and proof of the credit-worthiness of both the student and a co-borrower who must be a citizen or permanent resident. With interest, loans are expensive and should generally be a last resort for international students.

For more details, see the financial aid information in each country section. To search for other scholarships online, use a search engine (google is an excellent one) and type in scholarships and "the name of the country you are interested in", that is, "scholarships Australia".

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Tips on Securing Scholarships

(information from http://www.fastweb.com included)


Applying for Scholarships


Filling out the Application



Letters of Recommendation



Writing the Essay


Make sure your essay is well written. Proofread carefully, check spelling and grammar and share your essay with friends or teachers. Another pair of eyes can catch errors you might miss.


Common Essay Questions

(from fastweb.com, written by Roxana Hadad) 


Your Field of Specialization and Academic Plans

Some scholarship applications will ask you to write about your major or field of study. These questions are used to determine how well you know your area of specialization and why you're interested in it.



Current Events and Social Issues

To test your skills at problem-solving and check how up-to-date you are on current issues, many scholarship applications include questions about problems and issues facing society.



Personal Achievements

Scholarships exist to reward and encourage achievement. So you shouldn't be surprised to find essay topics that ask you to brag a little.



Background and Influences

Who you are is closely tied to where you've been and who you've known. To learn more about you, some scholarship committees will ask you to write about your background and major influences.



Future Plans and Goals

Scholarship sponsors look for applicants with vision and motivation, so they might ask about your goals and aspirations.



Financial Need

Many scholarship providers have a charitable goal: They want to provide money for students who are going to have trouble paying for college. In addition to asking for information about your financial situation, these committees may want a more detailed and personal account of your financial need.



Random Topics

Some essay questions don't seem directly related to your education, but committees use them to test your creativity and get a more well-rounded sense of your personality.


While you can't predict every essay question, knowing some of the most common ones can give you a leg up on applications. Start brainstorming now, and you may find yourself a winner!


Sending out the Application




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How are Scholarships Judged?

(adapted from an article on http://www.fastweb.com by Roxana Hadad)


At First Glance

The judges' first evaluation of your application usually takes only 15 to 30 seconds. Even though it's quick, most applications don't get past this first stage. To be sure yours makes it through, give your application one last review.


The Second Cut

After an application makes it past the first round, the judges separate "OK" from "great." The applications that make it through have thorough and well-thought-out responses.

Make sure your responses are complete and answer the question. It's very important that your grammar and spelling are correct, so check and re-check all of your essays.


The Final Decision

In this stage the judges have narrowed it down to a few highly qualified students. Now they must examine and compare every detail of the applications.

According to Mark Davis, President of the Coca-Cola Scholars Fund, judges pay special attention to:


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The Challenges of Studying Abroad

You may find it challenging to keep up with local students for several reasons:

English is not your first language. It may take you 2 or 3 times as long to read an assignment as it would take a native speaker. Try to read as much as possible in English (books, magazines, newspapers) before entering the university in order to improve your fluency. Try to improve your speaking and listening abilities as well by talking with native English speakers, watching English-language movies, and listening to English-language tapes. If necessary, attend ESL courses first.

Less schooling than others. Most students attending universities outside of Burma will have had 12 years of schooling, but Burmese students have generally had only 10 years of primary and secondary education. You can try to bridge this gap by reading in advance some of the books normally assigned during the first year of university. Many universities list their courses and the books they use on the web. If you are living in the United States, you could also attend a community (or junior) college for two years and then transfer to a four-year university.

Lack of appropriate skills. Most universities outside Burma require that students write analytical essays and research papers, and participate actively in class discussions and debates. You will be expected to be able to think critically and analyze situations that have no clear right or wrong answers. These skills may be new to you. Try to attend an ESL program or a bridging program which teaches such skills. Or find and study appropriate reference books.

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How will your professors evaluate you?

At most Western universities, and Asian universities teaching in English, students are assigned letter grades for each course. A is the best grade, B is good, C is average, D is poor, and F is failing. Most schools also use + and - following a grade: so A+, A, A-, with A+ being the best.

Students generally take 4 courses a semester, with each course representing a certain number of credits, depending on how many hours a week it meets. One course usually ranges from 3 to 4 credits. To graduate, you must achieve a certain total number of credits (varies from university to university), take the required number of courses in various subject areas, and have passing grades.

Your marks, or "grades" in each course will generally be based on the following:

A midterm examination - this may be given in class or may be a "take home" exam, meaning you write the exam at home and can usually refer to your books. However, you cannot consult other people.

A research paper - You may have to write a 5-10 page paper halfway through the course or a longer paper at the end of the course. You may have to use books in the library to do the research for your paper. Your professors will be looking for a strong argument supported by relevant facts. The writing should be clear and focused.

Problem sets or laboratory work - in economics, mathematics, science, and engineering classes, you may be given a list of questions or problems to work on each week. You may have to work on these alone, or your teacher may ask you to work on them in groups.

Short papers - for English and some other humanities classes, you may have to write several short papers on different subjects. In some cases, professors may ask you to write one page summaries of your reading, to make sure you are doing the reading assignments.

Quizzes - Your professors may give announced or surprise quizzes to make sure you are doing your reading assignments and understanding the material covered in class.

A final exam - this will be given during the exam period and may be 2 hours long. Instead, you may have a take-home exam or a research paper.

Class participation - Most teachers believe the more you contribute to class discussions, the more you will learn. Therefore, they will make time for student presentations, discussions, and even debates in class, and you are expected to participate. In smaller classes, as much as 10-30% of your grade may be based on class participation.

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Tips for Success

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A Warning on Academic Misconduct

Beware! If you are caught cheating on an exam, using someone else's paper, or copying directly from a book without citing the source, you can be expelled from the university. If you are unclear about these rules, be sure to ask your advisor, your professor, or other students.

Academic misconduct includes the following:



Plagiarism means representing someone else's ideas, words, statements or other works as one's own without proper acknowledgment or citation. Your teacher can usually sense if it doesn't sound like you.

Examples of plagiarism are:

Note: information obtained from the internet must also be properly cited.  Computer software programs now can detect similarities in comparing the written work of different authors. 

Aiding and Abetting Dishonesty

Providing material or information to another person when you know that the other person plans to use them to cheat or plagiarize.

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Culture Shock

What is "Culture Shock?"

Culture shock refers to the anxiety a person experiences when he/she moves to a different country or environment. People experience culture shock when they are far away from familiar surroundings, family, and support systems, and they must try to assimilate a new culture and new ways of interacting with others. The shock of adjustment to a new culture is normal.

Common Signs & Symptoms of Culture Shock

Stages of "Culture Shock"

Culture Shock has several identifiable stages that people go through. It's hard to say how long you will be in each stage, but gradually you will be able to accommodate yourself to your new surroundings.

How to Cope with "Culture Shock"

(adapted from the University of South Florida's webpage on culture shock)

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Cultural Advice

This section is not to criticize you but to give you some cultural alert.  There are many things in Burmese culture that foreigners appreciate.  They appreciate the fact that the Burmese are considerate, ah-nah-tat-teh, and respect older people.

However, in general, it is rude to pick your nose, teeth, or feet, belch, spit, chew with your mouth open, speaking with your mouth full, slurp your soup, interrupt people, and not to allow "ladies first" (walking in front of you, opening their door, and offering food).

It is impolite to just show up at someone's house or office without calling.  Make an appointment first and then show up.  On the other hand, if you've made an appointment (work and social) and you cannot come, call and let the person know.  Please don't give an excuse the day after the event.  

Please don't call people late at night or early in the morning. 

It is impolite to not to send thank you notes or say thank you if someone has done a favor for you or sent you a present.  

It is also important to know the legal system of the country you are in.  The following websites provide you with some legal information of living and working in Australia but you can find similarities in many other countries.


(in English)


 (in Burmese)





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Keeping Costs Down

To cut costs on books: buy used books at the campus bookstore (go early!) and nearby bookstores. If you will only be reading a portion of the book, you can read it at the library, where it will be on reserve, instead of buying it.

To cut costs on computers, bikes, furniture, and household goods: Look for signs on campus bulletin boards and in local papers for used goods for sale. If it is a computer or bike or electrical appliance, be sure to test it before buying it.

To cut costs on housing: Rent a room in a house or share an apartment with other students or live with a local family. You will improve your English and some "host" or "foster" family become your lifetime friends.

To cut costs on groceries: Go to Asian markets - the prices are generally much cheaper than at ordinary supermarkets.

For more tips on how to cut costs on accommodation, food, books, computers, and other expenses see the Debt Free Guide at

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The International Students Office: An Important Resource
(adapted from a NAFSA brochure for newly admitted international students)

At most universities taking international students, there will be an International Students Office. This office is an important source of information and assistance. (On some campuses, this office will have another name: the International Students Office, The Office of International Educational Services, or the International Center, for example.) The purpose of the International Students Office is to assist you, and you should visit the office when you have questions and concerns.

The person in the International Students Office you will work with most often will be the international student adviser (FSA). The duties of FSAs vary from one campus to another, but most advisers are responsible for providing assistance on immigration matters, coordinating all campus and community services available to international students, providing liaison with sponsoring agencies and foreign governments, and promoting interaction between international students and the university and local community.

International student advisers are willing to discuss matters with the students who come to see them, even very personal concerns or problems. All discussions with advisers remain strictly confidential. If the FSA cannot provide the help you need, you will be referred to an appropriate source of assistance. In order for the adviser to help you most effectively, it is important that you contact him or her when you first become aware that a problem might be developing rather than when it has become extremely serious.

International student advisers will help you in a variety of ways. Questions you have about academic procedures, expectations, and requirements can be discussed with the FSA. The FSA may also be able to tell you about community activities that will orient you to local lifestyles and customs and introduce you to community residents. Assistance is also provided on immigration matters including visa requirements and regulations, school transfers, extensions of stay, and travel outside the country, work permission, and practical training.

Note: Once you arrive on campus, you can also obtain valuable information by reading the school newspaper and other local magazines; looking at announcements on bulletin boards around campus; and talking with classmates, professors, and local residents.


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