Southeast Asia, Malaysia and Singapore

Southeast Asia consists of ten countries that cover an area of 1.6 million square miles. In alphabetical order, these countries are: Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

About 600 million people live in Southeast Asia, and they produce a combined US $900 billion in GDP. A wide variety of ethnic groups are represented in Southeast Asia, and this accounts for its diverse range of languages and religions. The ethnic diversity also gives rise to a rich selection of dishes in local cuisine.

Southeast Asia, highlighted in orange; Malaysia is in blue, while Singapore is a little red speck south of West Malaysia.

The climate is tropical, with daily temperatures ranging from 77 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Rainfall is also heavy in the region—annual precipitation is around 60 inches. As a way of comparison, Seattle receives 36 inches of precipitation every year.

Historically, the economy of Southeast Asia was based on agriculture, since the tropical conditions made it easy to cultivate crops such as rice, vegetables, as well as rubber and oil palm. Several important trading posts were also established at various strategic locations within the archipelago. In recent decades, the manufacturing and service sectors have also grown considerably.


Separted into Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia by the South China Sea, Malaysia is a country with an area of 127,000 square miles (330,000 square kilometers). Besides manufacturing and international trade, a substantial part of Malaysia’s economy also comes from agriculture - it is a top exporter of natural rubber and palm oil.

Kuala Lumpur in the evening
Kuala Lumpur in the evening

Trade, tin, and the need to protect her outposts in Southeast Asia eventually led to the British establishing control over the Malay Peninsula and north Borneo in the late 19th century. The same era also witnessed immigration from China and India into the region, which explains the cultural and demographic characteristics of Malaysia (and Singapore).


Since its founding by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, Singapore has developed into one of the most important ports in the world. Even though it is the smallest country in Southeast Asia, with a land area of about 270 square miles (700 square kilometers), Singapore perennially ranks near the top of world rankings by GDP per capita, level of education and ease of conducting business.

Downtown Singapore
Downtown Singapore

The Yale Summer Session has a program where undergraduates take classes at the National University of Singapore. In addition, the Bulldogs in Singapore internship program matches undergraduates with companies and research institutes in Singapore.