Engineering & Applied Sciences

Alumni Profile

Sarah Ko

sarah koBS biomedical engineering '12

Occupation: Software services analyst at Enablon
Residence: Chicago, IL
Community activities: Agape Christian Fellowship

When and why did you choose to study abroad? What factors (your major, other commitments, Take Five) did you weigh as you were making the decision to study abroad?

I studied abroad in Spring 2011 because I really wanted to experience the university atmosphere in a different setting. I have always been interested in environmental issues and wanted to study it in a country that has a very different perspective on these topics as compared to the US. A big concern of mine was in taking engineering coursework abroad – the BME community at Rochester is so supportive that I was worried my academic performance would suffer if I didn’t find people to collaborate with at a different university.

In retrospect, what do you wish you had known before starting your study abroad experience?

Reading all of the testimonials from former study abroad students made me so excited to study abroad, but I think I went into the semester with the mentality that if I wasn’t having some grand adventure during every second, that I was wasting a great opportunity. While the semester definitely brought along its share of adventures and stories, in retrospect I think some of the memories that I treasure the most were the unplanned ones – conversations in quiet cafes, wandering around campus, browsing the grocery store for foods not found in the states. Although they don’t sound like much, through them I found a quiet appreciation of the country. There is as much to be gained from the small moments as the big ones!

Beyond the academic work, how did you engage with your new “community” and culture while you were away from Rochester?

Taking part in the University of Cape Town’s SHAWCO program was an opportunity I am incredibly grateful for. The group helped to organize/transport volunteers into underprivileged towns where we would hold tutoring lessons for local students. In talking with my 6th graders, I got a much better idea of their communities and lifestyles that I don’t believe I could have gotten anywhere else.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

After graduation, I spent the summer in Seoul, Korea, teaching math and science at a tutoring center. I believe my teaching experience while I was abroad helped me land the job, as well as prepare me for a more intensive teaching setting. I had never been to Asia before, but my time abroad helped me learn about so many different cultures, and my interest really grew in learning about my own.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I currently work as an intern at a software company that specializes in products that enable companies to be more sustainable. Although I’ve been interested in environmental engineering for a long time, an environmental policy class that I took through my study abroad program helped me see the complexities of this topic from the perspective of a country that is subject to many environmental issues different from our own.