Getting Started

In this section of the website, we will start to talk about how to get started in planning your study abroad. Specifically, we will talk about what level you are eligible to study, qualifying exams you may need to take, and whether distance education or classroom based education would be more appropriate for you. The focus of this website is academic, and you will not find references to any non-academic training courses or programs.

On this page, you will take the first steps towards a university education abroad. This page will talk about:

  1. Why starting early is very important for success
  2. Differences between Myanmar and the rest of the world
  3. Several notes about important Myanmar terms of reference

Quick Links:
Why starting early is very important for success

Exams

Applying to University

Applying for Scholarships

Volunteer/Work Experience

Passports and Visas

Names

Birth Dates

Myanmar Terms for Reference


Why starting early is very important for success:

Getting accepted into a university abroad often requires a year or more 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, possibly get some work/volunteer experience, and acquire a passport with 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.

The better you plan your future, the more successful you are likely to be!


Exams:

You will need at least a year to prepare for entering an undergraduate or graduate program. Remember, you will probably have to take at least one or two standardized tests (ie. TOEFL, IELTS, GED, SAT, GRE). These exams will show the university and scholarship organizations that you have achieved a certain level in English language or that your educational level is at the level they want. We will talk more about this in the following pages.

You need to start early for several reasons. These tests must be taken several months before the university begins. You must register for these tests about two months in advance, and you will probably have to study for these tests for at least two or three months in order to get a good score. If you give yourself enough time, you can study for these exams and get a higher score, which will help you to get accepted to university and also improve your chances of getting a scholarship.


Applying to 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. Universities have different dates that you can apply and different deadlines, so be sure to look at their website and other information to make sure you do not miss the deadline. It is normal for universities to have several intake periods per year where they will admit new students, so if you missed the deadline, be sure to check if there is another time you can apply and enter. Still, it is best if you can enter at the beginning of the academic year at your university.


Applying to Scholarships:

The same is true of scholarships. Don’t apply for just one. Apply for all the scholarships that you are eligible. Scholarships are also competitive, and even if you are a good student, you can’t assume you will be selected. If you apply to more scholarships, then you increase your chances of getting one.

Many scholarships have extra requirements such as writing essays, getting reference/recommendation letters, and submitting official documents. You will need to plan for extra time to ask others for reference/recommendation letters and to go to university or government offices to get the documents that your applications require.

There are greater chances of getting a scholarship to study in Asia than to study in a Western country. This is because of many reasons including visas (see below), the availability of funds for Asia, and the generally lower cost and high quality of many Asian universities. Many students only focus on famous options from the West and ignore all other countries. It is a good idea to at least have a backup option in Asia to increase your chances of studying at university abroad! Asian universities also tend to have more relevance to issues in Myanmar than Western universities.


Volunteer/Work Experience:

Many universities and scholarship programs are also interested in your work or volunteer history. Generally, if you have worked or volunteered (worked without pay), then you appear to be more hard working than someone who has not worked or volunteered. Most scholarship programs will consider awarding you scholarship money based partially on your work history. Each year there are more scholarship applications than there is money available, which means each year some students do not get awarded a scholarship. Increase your chances of getting a scholarship by not only having good grades from school, but also by having a good work/volunteer history. Scholarships are especially interested to see if you are connected to your community or that you are interested in helping others. You can show this in your applications by writing about what activities you have helped with and what work you have done. Remember, any work is better than no work! Don’t forget to write about work at the market or work with no pay! It is never too early to start helping others in your community; by doing this, you will be helping yourself have a better chance to get a scholarship!


Passports and Visas:

You will need to get a valid passport from your government. This takes time, possibly several months if the offices are busy. Many people in Myanmar find it useful to hire an agent who, for a fee, can give them advice and possibly make the application process faster. Agents vary in quality and therefore have different results; consider your agent carefully if you decide to use one.

Think about the countries you are interested in studying in. It may be a good idea to have a look at visa requirements to study in another country. You will need to have a passport from your own country as well as a visa from the country you will go to. A visa is legal permission to enter another country that is put into your passport. You need a valid passport before you can apply for a visa. Each country has different requirements for getting a visa. In general, Asian countries are easier to get visas for and are usually less expensive! Most visa applications to Western countries are not accepted unless you are wealthy. This is disappointing news for many people who want to study in the West, but there are many great opportunities right here in Asia to consider!


Names:

There are many things Myanmar students need to be aware of about their country that make it different from other countries. Many differences will result in forms being incorrectly completed and can result in you not being accepted to university or not getting a scholarship. If your name and birth date are not exactly the same on each of your documents, people will not believe the documents are for the same person. Please read the following notes very carefully and consider your situation along the way:

Structure
The structure of Myanmar names is different than in other countries. Internationally, most countries have a two or three part name: First/Given part of the name, Middle/Given part of the name, and Family/Surname/Last part of the name. An example may be: Sarah Jane Smith. ‘Sarah’ is the Given name/First name, ‘Jane’ is the middle name (or the second given name), and ‘Smith’ is the family name (also known as the surname). A person’s name is read and usually written in that order: first part, middle part, last part. Many applications expect Myanmar names to be divided in the same way and will often ask for your first/family names.

Prefixes are not your name
Prefixes are not your name. Sarah is a woman and may use a ‘prefix’ or ‘title’ such as ‘Mrs.’, ‘Miss’, or ‘Ms.’. These prefixes simply categorize the person as a woman. If you are a man, you will likely use the prefix of ‘Mr.’. In Myanmar, there are many prefixes for women, men, young, old, both in Myanmar and other ethnic languages. Some examples include: ‘Maung’, ‘Min’, ‘Sai’, ‘Mi’, ‘Naw’, ‘Saw’, etc. These Myanmar prefixes are not known by anyone outside Myanmar, so if you write it as your first name, people will probably speak to you by saying, ‘Hello Maung!’ or ‘Hello Daw!’. Generally, you should not include a Myanmar/ethnic prefix as part of your name.

Convert your name
You can easily convert you name into the foreign format by putting the first non-prefix part of your name as the ‘first name’, the second word in your name as the ‘middle name’ and the final word of your name as your ‘last name’. If you only have two parts to your name you would put the first part as the ‘first name’ and the second part as the ‘last name’; you will not have a middle name. If you have more than three parts, you will put them in the same order, but should make one section have two words.

One name (with three parts) forever
In Myanmar it is common to have many different names or nicknames. Maybe you have one document with one name written, and another document with a totally different name. Maybe you changed your name for some reason. In countries outside of Myanmar, people do not change their names. They usually have only one name with three parts which do not change ever in their life. That name is the same on all their documents, certificates, registrations, and ID cards and passports. You can only have one ‘official’ name; that is, you can only use one name with three parts. The parts must always be the same and have the same spelling. You can have as many ‘unofficial’ nicknames as you want! A nickname is something that your friends call you, but that you do not ever write on any documents. You should always use your ‘official’ name with the same three parts on all your documents.

Spelling can not change
Outside of Myanmar, even different spellings for the same name mean that it is not the same person. If the name is meant to be the same name, but an official spelled it incorrectly, then to someone outside of Myanmar, it is a different person. This is why it is essential you learn to correctly spell your name in English and never change it. Nicknames should not be used on any documents. Only use your correctly spelled official name with the same three parts.

Names may have strange meanings in a different language
Be aware that your name or the sound of your name when spoken may have a different meaning in another language. You should ask your friends who can speak English or ask a teacher if your name has any meanings. If so, you should use a nickname when you introduce yourself so that people don’t laugh at you and make you feel embarrassed. Remember, your official name must be used on all documents, not your nickname.


Birth Dates:

Order and parts change between countries: day, month, year
The order of your birth date is very important. Different countries use different formats, for example: in South Korea the year is first, the month second, and the day is written third. In the United Kingdom the day is first, the month is second, and the year is third. In the United States the month is first, the day is second, and the year is third.

You should always consider your audience, that is, who will read the application when you complete a form. If sending to the United States, use their order, etc. If you have the opportunity, it would be easiest if you write the month using letters, i.e. October or Oct. Also, write the year using the international system in full: this year is 2011. Do not use the Myanmar Buddhist calendar year or the Thai Buddhist calendar year, as nobody outside those countries will understand.

The ideal format may look like this sample: 01 January 2011

Always use one birth date
In Myanmar, the official birth date is often recorded incorrectly by an official of the government, which means all of your registration and education documents may not have the same birth date. It is common for the birth of a child to be registered long after the actual birth, meaning that the ‘real’ birth date and the ‘official’ birth date are different. It is important that you use only one birth date. Ideally it should be your real and official birth date. Like your name, it cannot change. If you are one of the people who unfortunately have different birth dates written on different documents, you will need to choose one date (usually your official birth date as it will be the one appearing on your passport that universities will be using), or you may want to try to get your incorrect dates changed.


Myanmar Terms for Reference:

Myanmar/Burma – The country of Myanmar is often called Burma by many people in other countries; this website will use the official Myanmar name.

Burmese – For this website, Burmese will mean a person from the country of Myanmar/Burma. This includes all ethnic groups located inside the country’s borders as well as those who have moved out and now live in another country. Burmese will not mean the Burman ethnic group. For children born to Burmese parents, but who have never lived inside Myanmar/Burma, you may be asked to prove your Burmese connection for scholarship applications.

Burman – For this website, Burman will refer to the ethnic group who are currently the majority of people in the country of Myanmar/Burma.