‘I learned how to assimilate myself into a foreign environment’


Crystal Kim, shown here with the skyline of Sydney, Australia, behind her, says it’s okay to make mistakes while studying abroad, and to not have things perfect all the time. That’s all part of learning to be more confident when meeting new people and braver when it comes to new experiences.

Crystal Kim ’19 managed to earn course credits toward her major – and complete an internship – during her semester in Sydney, Australia, during the spring of 2017.

That wasn’t all she achieved.

“I learned how to assimilate myself into a completely foreign environment and navigate through a new university, city, and country,” says Kim, a mechanical engineering major. “I gained the desire to travel the world more and expose myself to new people, cultures, and places. Studying abroad has taught me to be more confident when meeting new people and braver when it comes to new experiences.”

Kim wanted to study in Australia because she thought it was “the perfect opportunity to go to a country that I would otherwise never be able to go to. I was intrigued by the unique culture and beautiful scenery that Australia is known for. And the fact that the native language is English was a big plus for me.”

She found it “quite simple” to arrange her semester abroad because the University of Sydney and the University of Rochester have an established exchange program. “That made the application process very easy. As long as I followed the directions and turned documents in on time, I was all set,” Kim says.

The internship “was a great opportunity for me to make connections in the engineering world in Sydney,” she says. The course, offered as an option for Sydney exchange students, consisted of 120 hours of internship experience and preparing a final report. Her specific project was working with a mentor and his PhD student to improve motion correction in two medical imaging systems: positron emission tomography (PET) and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). “I came in 3-4 times a week and was assigned a variety of tasks and projects such as researching scientific journal databases, performing machine calibrations and testing motion correction systems. I learned how to work individually and with a group and I believe this internship helped me to grow professionally.”

Outside the lab, she had a particularly memorable experience in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales during a 3-day hiking trip as part of a Learning in Outdoor Education class. “This is where I got close to my cabin group, who eventually became my closest friends during the semester. The hikes were extensive but through the hardships we encountered together, we got very close to each other.”

Each night they would make campfires and watch the stars. “I saw the Milky Way each night with my closest friends and that was one of the most memorable times of the semester.”

Her advice to prospective study abroad students? “It's okay to be lonely and not know how things work for a while. It gets better. My first couple of weeks I was sad because I hadn't found a solid group of friends yet and I was frustrated because I still hadn't figured out the public transport system.

“But I think it was important to not give up on meeting new people and trying new things when traveling and exploring a new city. Studying abroad taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes and not have things be perfect all the time.