Monday, August 27, 2012

The India Experience

Third blogpost from India, this is taking me way too long eh? Finally found the push to start blogging about India, the environment, how I'm doing here, PIDC, Salem, and hopefully, more! Hopefully these "India" and "PIDC" related posts will not only tell you about my new life, but more importantly, help prospective student know what kind of land they are entering - because I never had that fortune, there was hardly any info about PIDC online. =(

Anyhow! This particular blogpost, as the title says, will discuss about Life in India, from the people to the environment to the food and a whole lot more.

Please note that most of my comments are based on my impression of India from Salem, which is the tiny town (I'm not even in the town area...) that I'm stucked in in the southern state of Tamilnadu.

Disclaimer: I am in no way, trying to discourage people from coming to PIDC. No matter how shitty this place is, if you want your BDS degree, you can survive Salem. 10 batches of Malaysian students had already come and go, and they had worst facilities than we did.

The Friday Market near my hostel



People
The first obvious difference is that the people of South India are mostly, well... darker. The women in Salem are often dressed in sarees or Punjabi suits (hardly anything else), and the men are in collared shirts, sometimes with proper pants, sometimes with just a cloth/sarung thingy. If you wore shorts here, especially girls, people will stare. But... we started not bothering, because they would stare anyway. xD

Contrary to popular belief, the Indians here don't actually smell horrible. Maybe... just 1 out of 5 Indians you come across would have some smell. But it's not as bad as I expected. I'm hardly bothered by it. Apparently, the case is different if you board a public bus.

Indians are quite helpful and friendly towards strangers. In the sense that if you pull over and asked for directions, they would respond, instead of how some Malaysians would probably run away as if you were going to con them. Can't blame, since safety is getting worse in Malaysia, and Indians are probably a little more daring, haha.

And by friendly, I mean overly friendly sometimes, where they could just slap some Tamil in your face (knowing well that we are foreigners), laugh, then walk off. There was once, a woman walked towards my friend, grabbed her umbrella, said something in Tamil and laughed, returned the umbrella and walked off. BIZARRE.

Have I not mentioned how some would randomly ask for photos with us (since we're aliens), and how they just randomly intrude into your photo?

[Yercaud] We became some form of tourist attraction. Two guys even approached me personally for a photo. I thought it only happens when I cosplay. ._.

[Ooty] Two things here: 1. Fail photo-taking skills but the Indian we asked for help; 2. A woman pushed her daughter into the middle of our photo. Whuuut.

One thing that gets me on my nerve a lot is the attitude of the people here. The lecturers, the locals, seem to have tons of time on their hands that take everything so so soooo slowlly. They can delay things till forever, like how my public internet has not been working for almost 3 months now. Many of them are so irresponsible it's just... hard to explain exactly the problems we face with the locals here unless you experience it yourself.

And also, it's very hard to argue with them. They believe they're always right. You'd usually be on the losing end. A few examples:
In school - If the teacher decides that you've done a mistake (not paying attention in class etc.), you can either 1, try explaining yourself or 2, say nothing. You'll end up getting lectured anyway.
In business - there's no such thing as "customers are always right" here. Shopkeepers would fight their way to being right, not giving in to their customers. We had a tough time fighting with some bus drivers about our trip to Pondicherry. They clearly did a horrible job, and yet they still wanted to fight for their full pay, and more. Which we ended up giving in, because they loitered outside our hostel for the whole night. =.=
I've also seen a woman in the market shooing away her customers because they were touching her mangoes without buying them. By shoo, I mean yell.

On an extra note, the men here are not shy to pee on the roadside. There has been girls pooping behind our hostel too. And a man who was bathing in front of his house in only a rag to cover his front as I walked through the tiny path to the market... .__.

I almost forgot to mention one of their famous habits: cutting queue. They do it as if it was a matter of fact! Happens mostly in town areas when there's actually an important queue to cut. Hasn't happened to me in the city... Really annoying because we actually had to extend our arms and block the path so they couldn't move pass us.

Language
Obviously, being South Indians, they speak in Tamil. Don't worry, I never had to learn Tamil to survive here! University staff speak English, of course I can't comment on their varying accents... which half of the time poses a challenge in class. Some funny, often repeated phrases by the lecturers are:
Yes or no?
Can you accept that?
Here, you can appreciate...
It is nothing but...

Add in the Indian accent, and their signature head tilt. THE SIGNARTURE HEAD TILT. This, is not a myth. They abuse the head tilt, a lot. Shaking their heads side to side is a sign of approval or acknowledgement. We often have to remind each other whenever we tilt our heads as well, so we wouldn't be Indianfied.

When it comes to communicating with the locals though (who are less educated), there's a barrier and you'll have to try speaking in body language and object language or grab an Indian friend (or passerby who hopefully, knows English) to help you out.

And it's only in a foreign country that you can truly appreciate being able to speak in Bahasa Malaysia. Use it when you don't want those Indians to know what you're trashing them about discussing about! I use a lot of Mandarin here to, as majority of the students in PIDC are Chinese-educated/speaking.

Then there's the many different terminologies you need to get used to here. Just to raise a few examples:
Photostat = Xerox
Mug up = Memorize
Bungkus/da pao = Parcel

Some simple Tamil terms to know, the first two are essentail and we use it all the time:
Ane = to call any men
Aka = to call any women
Ma = I think this means girl/amoi? (some men use this term on us girls)
Ile = No

Environment
I came in the summer, and so the weather was extremely hot and the sun is scorching! On top of that, Salem is all dusty and brown, so it makes the environment even more dry. Dirt roads, rocky terrain everywhere (which is bad news for our shoes)! The weather started improving a few months later, but recently in August, it soared again. Bad thing about having dirt roads is that when the rain pours, we have muddy roads to worry about, especially the girls because our hostel is deeper inside without a proper road.

There are livestock wandering all over the place as well. Goats, cows, chickens... We saw our first herd of goat right as we left the airport gates! Like what my friend often said, "Which university got goats one?" Mine does, haha. They herd the goats right through our uni building, and sometimes you would find poop along the corridors too.

All that dust and goats!

And the littering habits of Indians make Malaysia seem like Singapore. They would just toss things on the roadsides, drop bottles out of the bus, that sort of thing. I've never actually seen a public rubbish bin before...

This, on the side of the path we take to class everyday
[update: this has already been cleared! but you'll still see this in large drains]

Hygiene
Horrible. The locals would drink water from the same cups that is left on the restaurant table or just sitting on the water dispenser. Once, when we found hair in a plate of fried rice and gave it back to the cook, he just took the hair away and placed the rice on a fresh plate and returned it back to us. o_o Also in some places, you would see flies EVERYWHERE. I'm talking about place where food is prepared and served, so it kinda gets you very afraid... At the local market, they wrap some of the fried food with just newspaper.

I'm not sure about the next one, but apparently, the hospital uses the same needle for some injections! For our Physiology Practicals, the conditions of our instruments are... worrying. All our experiments involve blood, but the instruments used, such as the pipettes (which we have to suck the blood in with our mouth through the tube opening, not knowing how many people have used the same pipette before us), are often not cleaned properly (as in you could still see blood residues in it), or just cleaned with tap water, and just generally very revolting.

Apparently, toilet paper here is expensive (the Malaysian students usual parcel theirs from Malaysia...). Which is why, you should not expect any toilet paper in bathrooms, especially in Salem. Makes you wonder what happens after number twos... .w.

Also, the tap water here is harder than the ones in Malaysia. Which means, it has more impurities in it. If you wash your wares and leave them to drip dry, you'd find water marks on them. And after time, it'll become permanent stain and it'll be rough and ugly! Which is why I always have to wipe dry my bowls and pots. Also, if you have tap water that is left overnight, they smell. Just yesterday, we removed a mirror that was hanging in a bathroom, and the smell of the back of it was shitty horrible! Probably because of all the dripping water on its back. D: I started using mineral water to wash my face because I suspected that the tap water might've played a role on the deterioration of my face condition... Some seniors go to extends where they wash their hair with mineral water too because the tap water apparently damages the hair.

Unfortunately, we get used to these hygiene problems, and we start compromising with it sometimes, haha...

Transport
Indians drive madly! They abuse the horn, honking every time they pass by a car, or overtake, or just because. They don't use any signals, even though it's installed in the car. Instead they just use the horn or their hands to wave at the other cars (especially lorry drivers...). My first experience sitting the tempo (mini bus) from Trichy to Salem was quite eye-opening! The speed at which they drive and overtake other cars, without even braking or slowing down at any time is scary. The tempo even drove against the traffic once, too! Sometimes I wonder what's the point of having the divider in the middle and two separate roads... And I sometimes believe that there's no such thing as a driving test in India, and there doesn't seem to be any order or rules to driving here. I later found out that the Indian driving test required you to drive on a straight road, swerve a little to the right, continue on a curve, then stop your car on the side. WHUT. And the license is waaaay cheap too.

They even encourage you to push your horn. SOUND HORN. NOW.

Indians love their bright colours and music. The lorries here are painted, often, with bright yellow, and would have decorations and other swirly paint or art on it. When the cars enter reverse here, it's often accompanied by a music that is heard from the outside. I haven't had the chance to video one of these reversing musical cars, haha.

Look at what I found in India! Miku Bus! I this near Trichy, and another in Salem

The one blessing we have here is the Auto! a.k.a India's cheap taxi. It's a tiny three wheeled vehicle, similar to Thailand's tuk-tuk, and there are tons of them around our university. It's really convenient because the Malaysian students here would just give them a call to get them to fetch us from our hostels to wherever. Usually, it's to class or town. An Auto ride from our hostel to the hospital which is a 10 minute walk away costs 30 rupees = RM1.20. And we could pack the tiny auto with 7-8 people, hehe. To town, for 3 hours where the auto would follow us around, wait for us, and carry our groceries, is 350 rupees = RM12.30.

Inside the Auto. Oddly, I don't have a picture of the Auto exterior!

Food
Our favourite part! One thing I learnt about India is that they hardly practice moderation. The food here often carries a really strong flavour! The first bite would be okay, but as you keep eating, the sweetness, pepper, seasoning... seems a little too overwhelming. Sometimes the food would be too bland too. This was a problem I found when I first came here, but the food seems okay now. (or maybe I'm adapting to well... oh no!) Also, food portion would either be way too small, or way too big!

Good thing is, stuff here is really cheap. Which I would also like to mention that dental fees here is super cheap too! Get all your wisdom teeth extracted here. And all your braces. I think braces are only what, RM1400? :D [update: The cheap fees also mean not so quality work, though]

There are many "multicultural restaurants" here with similar menus, selling various fried rice, gravy, veggie, "Chinese" fried rice and meat dishes... Anything with "Szechuan" in it is red and spicy, and the "Singapore" variety is just... uh... fried rice?  Not sure about the difference. Not forgetting insert-veggie-or-meat-here .65! What is it, you ask? 65 is the red sort of powder that Indians would use to fry their veggie or meat with, and it's awesome! Pasta (hardly find long strands of spaghetti here) and burgers are usual on menus too. Awesome thing is, near my university, all these restaurants provide delivery service to our hostels! Fail thing is, they are often slow and could take up to 3 hours to arrive, depending on the hour you called them. [update: not all restaurants are slow like that. Most deliver within 1 hour]

The typical menu of a "multi-cultural" restaurant

Yes, it's easy to find curry here. I don't find it anything too special from its Malaysian counterpart though! Just much much spicier! It literally burned my mouth when I had the curry on the day I arrived in India. You can find tosai, chapati, roast and other flour derivatives. Nothing here tastes like roti canai though. Which reminds me, you can never find anything similar to Malaysia's mamak! No where sells such a wide variety of drinks like the mamak! But India truly has the best daal and sambar and all that good gravy stuff that we eat with rice too! And the best tandoori chicken! Omg... They do it right here.

They have a lot of familiar brands and food here, like Oreos, McVities, Special K cereals... but Indian biscuits, cereals seem much sweeter. Even their cakes often taste a little different. They have Maggi too, but it's NOTHING like Malaysian Maggi! The ones here are more sticky and more... bleh. Maybe it's because many Indians are non-Vegetarian that the way these food are prepared is different (even their cake tastes abit different sometimes). They have KFC and McD here, but not in Salem. The nearest McD is about 2-3 hours away! We have Domino's and Baskin Robbins in town though. [update: and now, Subway and Marrybrowns!]

Life is so simple here that food like this is a luxury :D

McD woohoo! We seem damn jakun taking pictures of normal things that are uncommon to us in Salem |D

Snacks... you can find tons of Lays here. And other local brands. No Mister Potato or Twisties, so you'll have to bring them in yourself! There's Cadbury, Snickers, Mars, but no M&Ms or Chipsmore!

One odd thing about Indian packaging, is that the price is printed on the packet itself. It's labeled as "Max Retail Price (inc. Taxes), so at supermarkets, they are often always sold at the max price possible... |D Manufacturing date will be stated, along with "Best Before XX Months from Manufacture", so you'll have to do the maths yourself for the expiry date. Thing about this is that it makes finding the price and expiry date of the item a challenge. o_o It's so confusing!

Veggie and raw ingredients are dirt cheap though. At the Friday market near our hostels, we can get a week's worth of vegetables for around RM3-ish. One medium-sized cabbage costed me about RM0.60!

Entertainment

I stand by my belief that Klang Valley has the awesomest shopping malls with entertainment, boutiques, restaurant and everything else in it. There's hardly anywhere to shop here in India. At least, in Salem, you'll never be able to find a mall. The only place to hang out is in town, in some restaurant... nope, no where. You're better off hanging out in your friend's room or the senior/guy's hostel

Just two months back we found a nice boutique in town though, with quite some cheap branded stuff from Adidas, Lee's... I guess that's an exception. There's a shop selling cheap boardgames too! You'll find branded outlets wherever you go in India though. Adidas, Nike, Puma, Levi's... they'll never run away (especially Adidas and Nike).

Our shopping loot from town. Even grocery shopping can become a joy here! (for me at least... |D)

There's a cinema in town, but all movies (even the latest English blockbusters) will be in Tamil. Imagine Batman speaking to you in Tamil! :D Although I heard from other people that India's high-end cinemas are really the bomb. It has lots of vending machines or something similar, the theater is awesome, and it's way cheaper than Malaysian standards, but better quality. Can't say much about that because I haven't been to one. [update: been to one, it's pretty good! They have intermissions though]

There is internet here called Wi-5, about Streamyx price with decent speed. But it's kinda like Astro - it has horrible reception when the rain pours. The girls usually install this (apparently Wi-5 can't be installed in the boy's hostel), which comes with one cable. Some girls would get their own router (I heard routers in India is expensive) so they could share the net with their roommates. Guys usually get Reliance, which is a stick broadband thing. More costly though, and it has a limit. But I know for a fact that the boys here still have time to Dota. =w= Data plan for the phone is available too! [update: Data plan in India is CHEAAAAP. I get 1GB 3G Internet for just... RM10+]

That was a lengthy post that should've been up waaay long ago. o_o This is all I could cook up at the moment (this post has been sitting as a draft for months already!) Lots of "apparently" and "I heard" and "at least, in Salem", I realize, haha. xD I hope it helped! And that you weren't shocked or bored reading it, haha.  For more pictures, visit my Facebook page. I posted TONS there.
You'll get used to India, unfortunately. Then you'll find entertainment in your other Malaysian friends. Because we're all in this together. :3

*cue High School Musical*

Quote of the Day: "Fools set the rules in this world. Just take a look around. It’s undeniable." - Noctis Lucis Caelum, Final Fantasy versus XIII

23 comments:

  1. wahhh... i like ur blog :p sounds like the type style i used to have in my blog. but i too lazy to update it :S

    what u said are really true :p but some corrections, braces costs RM1400, but still, way too cheaper than any of the orthodontic price in malaysia. 2ndly, indians dun actually "shake" their head to show agreement/yes/okok, they're actually "tilting" right and left LoLs!

    anyway, u r really observant for the "max retail price" that i dun even bother much before :p hahaa~ but yeah right! the expiry date really need some calculations :3

    i like ur effort n patience in writing these stuffs :p haha~ how long u took?? i wonder.. :S the lecturers stuff, i can't agree more! hahaaa.. either u explain urself or say nth, end up -->> lecture.. haha.. well done :p

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  2. Haha, thanks for the correction, edited my post! I like typing stuff and my blog became like my "public diary". I'm quite syok sendiri so I don't mind everyone knowing stuff I did. (I don't have alot of readers though .w.)

    Thanks! People hardly notice the time and effort these sort of things take... |D I think I started compiling all these "interesting" facts since June! Nothing to do in class then start writing down things about India that is bizarre, then started categorizing them, hehe. :P The "Max Retail Price" thing bothered me since I came here!

    Some people read my blog already also agreed with a few of the points, hehe! Just today I kena the lecturer thing... =w= Explain myself but become my fault anyway. =(

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  3. It's entertaining to read your blog, I have a question here...why did you choose to study in India in the first place? D:

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  4. Thanks for the comment! :D

    Well, the main reasons are:
    1. I wanted to study dentistry.
    2. I was looking for a -cheap- local dentistry course.

    There's a limited choice of local uni. IMU was waaaaay too expensive, AIMST has very limited seats, there's MAHSA that's unknown, so I was left with either PIDC or Manipal, both which has twinning to India. The choice was Salem+Penang or Mangalore+Melaka, but both would send me to India anyway.

    So honestly, coming to India wasn't part of the plan, it just came with the course! But personally, I wanted to experience studying overseas, so although it's nothing fancy like Australia or US, I didn't mind.

    Living away from home and in India is a very humbling experience that taught me to be independent, grateful, and MORE. You'll never see Malaysia in the same light again. :P

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  5. Then why didn't you choose manipal? :):)

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    1. I was considering between PIDC and Manipal. Manipal would've made more sense, actually, since my hometown is in Melaka. But it was because an acquaintance was studying in PIDC, and she's from Melaka too, and her mum, who's a nurse, spoke to my mum about PIDC. If she's from Melaka but sent her daugther to PIDC, it must mean something! And that was the number 1 factor, I guess.

      So, it's word of mouth. :P

      Also, because I've ended my SAM in November, so it was a long wait till Manipal's only intake, which was in September.

      But I would suggest whoever who's deciding between Manipal and PIDC, to really do their homework thoroughly, and preferably, get word from the people already in the uni about how's the classes, environment, etc.

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  6. Hi Suzanne! Came across your blog on PIDC! Just wanted to ask certain things , I hope you dont mind :p
    What is the intake for BDS in PIDC? I've just completed my SAM too :D And how are the classes in India so far? Are there many Malaysians studying over there?
    I hope you can help me with your experience hahah c: Im currently in dilemma. Thank you in advance ya!

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    1. Hello Anonymous! Sorry for late reply, school + fail internet makes it hard for me to update/check my blog. ^^"
      Yay! SAM ftw. :D
      PIDC has two intakes: Summer (April) and Winter (September) Classes here are kinda like high school. It's a lot a lot of stuff to digest and memorize due to its medical background. There are solved pass year question books published here in India for MBBS and BDS, kinda like how we study for SPM, just read the important questions, hehe. Exams are 100% written (with diagrams), no MCQ or fill in the blanks etc.
      India is a huge challenge! But I'm taking it as positive as possible. How many people can say they studied in India? :P And the best way to get to know a country is by staying there for an extended period of time. It's not as glam as UK or Australia, but it's the best I can afford considering the mad prices for BDS courses.
      Do check out other unis like Manipal though. PIDC administration isn't good... especially after coming out from Taylor's. .__.
      No problem and if you have any more questions don't hesitate to ask. ^^

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    2. About Malaysians studying around my area here, there are approx. 120 PIDC students, and a handful of MBBS and BDS students (5 years completely in India). So that makes about... 150 Malaysian students I guess? We stay in 2 different hostels, some on their own. We study completely with Malaysian students only, so you'll get really close with your classmates, plus with the hostel life too. =)

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  7. Hi Suzanne! :) it was interesting reading all about your experiences in India and how you finally got back to Penang! Congrats :) I dont know when you'll see this but im thinking of studying in pidc despite all that you say(sounds tough there but it didnt deter me :p). I actually completed my pre u (mufy) last year and initially planned to join IMU but lets just say, my interview didnt quite go as planned ;( Im almost thinking of switching to other course until i chanced upon your blog! Dentistry seems like hard work but i still think its THE course for me :O i just want to know, did you have to attend an interview before getting an offer? And how is chemistry in dentistry? Is there a lot of chem going on? And (last question, im serious >·<) because im left handed, can i still study dentistry? Please enlighten me, im really stressed over this and am in a dilemma in choosing another course because i cant think of any other than dentistry :( Thanks so much ♥

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    1. Hi Anon!

      First of all, thanks! Penang is treating me really well, and I'm really enjoying the clinical sessions here. xD Things in India had some changes as well, which is not reflected in my blogposts. Maybe I'll need to do an update on PIDC soon. :X

      It's good to hear people determined in pursuing the career of their choice! :D If you've always been taking science subjects, and have been scoring at least Bs, I say go for it! Yes, it's hard work, but if you like doing hands on work as well, Dentistry is interesting!

      To answer your questions:
      1. I didn't attend an interview. I just submitted my application through an agent, and got my offer 3 months before my intake.

      2. We study Biochemistry (now known as Molecular Medicine), which involves basics of carbs, proteins, fats, the metabolism (e.g Kreb's Cycle), enzymes, DNA... No need to memorize chemical structure and stuff. We do Pharmacology in year 2 too, but again, no chemical structure needed. So... other than year 1, not too much chemistry is involved.

      3. We have quite a few left handed people in PIDC as well. Yes, you still can study dentistry. The only difference is that your seating in relation to the patient is different, meaning you'll have to do some extra studying/work! We don't have special left-handed dental chairs in our uni, so you'll have to adapt to that, unfortunately.

      If this is what you chose for yourself, I hope you'll be mentally prepared. If you are, and are prepared to survive India (an achievement I like to brag about, lol), I'm sure you'll be able to make it through. :D Welcome and thanks for reading!

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  8. This is very entertaining. I almost choose to go PIDC as I got the offer too. Thanks for sharing, girl. Well done :)

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    1. Thanks for reading! I'm glad people are still finding this post useful, haha. :P

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  9. Hi Suzanne! :) well done on this really really informative blog post! I'm sure you've helped a lot with this haha by the way I wonder how many students do PIDC takes in per intake? I don't want to waste 500 application fees if the chances of getting in is really small :(

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    1. Hello there! Sorry for the late reply. Per intake, PIDC takes about 35-40 students. I had 41 in my batch. You could try asking the admin to scout out how many students are already taken in for the next batch. If your pre-U results make the university requirements, you'll usually definitely get into PIDC. xD

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  10. Hi! I'm finishing SAM end of this year too from Taylor's College and I am thinking of applying to a few Malaysia universities for BDS. Still comparing between a few universities but I am looking up at PIDC too! :)

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    1. Hello fellow SAMmie! :D Yes, do research on other Unis! I think the prices have skyrocketed since I entered the course. For budget unis (lol), you can check on PIDC, Manipal, SEGI, Mahsa. There are many others out there too! Good luck! :D

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  11. May I know what's the race of the majority of the students in pidc?Are students there majority indians?Reply is very much appreciated.Thanks

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    1. Hi! I apologise for the really late reply. The majority varies by the batches/year. I would say the general majority is Chinese. It's closely tied by Indians. There's very few Malay students, but I think there are more Malay scholarship students in the newer batches.

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  12. may i know what is the exact date of departure normally if i apply september intake?if i already got the offer letter and submit the first year tution fees,does it mean i am confirmed to get into pidc?is the proficiency in english important in pursuing bds becoz my english standard is okay only?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Anon! To answer your questions:

      1.The "September intake" actually starts in October (or late September), haha. I can't give you an exact date as it varies.

      2. Offer letter + submission of tuition fees is definitely considered as acceptance into the course.

      3. A certain level of English proficiency is definitely needed, as it is the main mode of teaching. An "okay" English standard (I assume at least a B or C for SPM?) is sufficient, but you'll need to put in extra work as there may be English terms that new to you and are harder to understand. I find that my above average English has helped me alot in class as I could understand and relate common words that my classmates didn't. But there's always Google/dictionaries to help you out. My friends would sometimes write notes in their native language (e.g Mandarin) to help.

      Hope this helps!

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    2. thank you for ur reply.In that case,do we learn any extra english course in syllabus?
      is the first two year the most difficult ?

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    3. No additional English papers are required. MUET, IELTS, none. The compulsory subjects (Moral/Islamic Studies, Malaysian Studies) need to be done before your admission, or during your 4th/5th year in PIDC.

      I would say, in terms of studies on the theory aspect, 2nd year and 4th year is the heaviest and hardest. While 5th year is heavy in terms on patient work.

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