Sharon Lin spent a semester studying abroad in the Electronics and Electrical Engineering department of Imperial College London. She took classes in Advanced Computer Architecture, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning, among others, working with local students on uncovering exploits in processors and identifying flaws with modern computing devices. She also worked on developing AI learning models in Prolog and deep learning neural networks in Python.
The coursework differed quite a bit from MIT, with final exams comprising the majority of the course grade. As a result, lab sessions were reserved for honing skills in students and preparing (or revising, in British) for exams. While there was less of an emphasis on group work, she nonetheless found camaraderie in her department through organizations such as Women in Electrical Engineering and the EESoc.
She also participated in clubs such as the Pole & Aerial Society and the Imperial College Caving Club, traveling to Yorkshire Dales and Brecon Beacon's National Park in Wales to discover hundreds of yards of muddy passageways. She also joined the Erasmus Club, an international network of students studying abroad across the European Union.
While language wasn’t a barrier, there were some cultural norms that were surprising. Since the British drive on the left side of the road, bicycling in the city was a challenge. There were other differences that were actually convenient in hindsight, such as the lack of tips in restaurants. Outside of work, she enjoyed meeting with new friends at the various pubs scattered across the city, discovering new parks in London, and watching musicals in Covent Garden. She also enjoyed visiting museums in the city, many of which were conveniently located outside of Imperial’s campus such as the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum.
Sharon was able to deepen her understanding of advanced computer systems and security, make friends across cultural borders, and explore cities across Europe. I highly recommend any student interested in a top-notch STEM education to consider studying abroad at Imperial College London. The students and professors are incredibly dedicated to their studies, and there are so many opportunities to gain hands-on experience even outside of the classroom.