International study

Many thousands of students choose to study abroad and often end up working somewhere other than their home country. But what challenges does this present? How much effort should you make to immerse yourself in another culture and will it damage your career if you don't?

'Traditionally, students have come to the UK to study ACCA from China, South East Asia, the Indian Sub-Continent and Africa. Recently, the market has been changing and international students are increasingly progressing to ACCA studies with Kaplan from undergraduate degrees in the UK with exemptions.

'The market for international students already in the UK is probably the largest and growing,' says Nick Miller, head of marketing, Admissions and Recruitment at Kaplan.

Indeed, Kaplan student Faris Almas-Lee Rosmanizam is currently pursuing his ACCA qualification and has recently sat for his final three professional papers in the June 2014 exams. 'Hopefully the results will be favourable for me, fingers crossed!'


Faris was born right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 'I lived the first eight years of my life in Taman Melati and moved to Ampang where there was a better infrastructure,' he says.

Faris's upbringing and formative years were, therefore, a world away from where he finds himself today. He is currently living in Stratford, East London, renting a room in a family house. Understandably the differences are marked.

'There are significant differences in terms of weather, the cost of living and the demand of use of English language for daily conversations,' he says.

'Back in Malaysia, we only have one type of weather throughout the year – sun and rain. However, in the UK, I need to accommodate myself with four seasons in a year. Going to the classes with coats on and books in hand during winter is a whole new experience!'

Another whole new experience was coming to terms with the cost of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

'[The cost of living] certainly hit me hard in terms of budgeting for my expenses,' says Faris. 'The conversion rate of Ringgit Malaysia (RM) and sterling is approximately RM5/GBP1. One problem with me is that I always compare and convert prices of goods of UK with the ones in Malaysia. Therefore, I get a bit more picky when buying things in London. Even the rent in London is drastically higher than in Kuala Lumpur, but I am quite lucky to have found a room that offers a substantially low monthly rent in East London.'

Language proved to be another challenge, although one that will reap enormous rewards in the future in terms of giving Faris linguistic competence to work anywhere in the world.

'In Kuala Lumpur, you will rarely see me converse in English,' he says. 'I always speak with my friends and family in Bahasa Melayu (Malay language) or Mandarin. Being in the UK requires me to talk in English, study in English and write in English and I found myself improving by using it all the time.'

Nick Miller agrees that language differences can be challenging for accountancy student coming to the UK, particularly in a professional capacity.

'Our students often find that learning Business English can be challenging: it’s one thing knowing how to order lunch in a cafe or buy a train ticket in English, but do you know your "liquid assets” from your “liabilities”?' he says. 'Understanding the core business accounting terms in English gives students a massive head start.'

Cultural opportunities

But while there have been notable stories in the press over the years about Westerners sometimes struggling to fit in with, for example, stricter Muslim cultures (several British professionals have ended up in hot water in Dubai over unacceptable drink or sexual behaviour), as far as Faris is concerned, the cultural differences between his homeland and the UK are to be celebrated.

'There is nothing to hate in different cultures,' he says. 'I am more of an open-minded person. I am always happy to receive cultural differences and diversity within society that I am living in. Being in London which is truly rich in diversity in terms of races, religions, ethnicity, behaviours, mentality and so on, I feel that this is a good opportunity for me to learn the cultures of different people that has different backgrounds, and emulate whatever is positive and beneficial for me and for the people in Malaysia.'

As for the future, Faris is sure that his qualification will bring success, and he is aiming high.

'I believe the career route the ACCA Qualification can bring to the plate is limitless! At the inception of my accounting degree back in Malaysia, I have set my long-term goal to be a finance director of a public listed company anywhere in the world.

'After going through and reading loads of stories about how ACCA helped existing CEOs to achieve their current positions in the industry, the path to success can start anywhere. Nevertheless, I shall stick to my goal, do what is best for me and achieve probably even more in the future!

'I hope that I may benefit fully what the ACCA Qualification offers in terms of job prospects and business skills. I aspire to be a qualified accountant who practises ethically, which is expected by the public.

'The public's confidence in the accountancy profession has suffered during recent years and, for me, the first step towards solving this problem is to practise ethically myself. I hope that one day I can be a role model or inspiration to future accountants.'

"Our students often find that learning Business English can be challenging: it’s one thing knowing how to order lunch in a cafe or buy a train ticket in English, but do you know your 'liquid assets' from your 'liabilities? Understanding the core business accounting terms gives students a massive head start"