Brian Kim


Stanford in Australia, Autumn 2017-18
Major: Environmental Systems Engineering
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: 


Why did you choose to study in Australia? 

When deciding where to study abroad, I knew that I wanted an experience that involved hands on experiences. The Stanford in Australia program is uniquely hands on. From wading through mangroves to shooing away spiders from my tent, every aspect of the program involved interacting with and, inevitably, reimagining the environment in a way so distinctly disparate from how I view the environment in my daily life at Stanford. Ultimately, I knew that I could always travel to Australia on my own, but I would never be able to have the same authentic experience that the Stanford in Australia program provides.

What were your expectations before you went and how did they change once you were in Australia?

One expectation that I had was that the Stanford in Australia program would be full of camping, wildlife, and compost toilets. In reality, we all shared common interests in learning about the environment, but we were not expected to be out adventuring every waking hour of the day.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Australia?

Studying abroad in Australia is a learning experience that is often backed by labs and field trips. A day might consist of a lecture followed by a lab followed by feeding wallabies followed by a night hike to see sugar gliders. We weren't just reading about sclerophyll forests; we were camping in one. We weren’t just studying coral bleaching; we were snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef to observe it. The Stanford in Australia program combines classroom learning with labs or field trips, which allowed us all to gain a truly comprehensive understanding of the concepts we were studying.

What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?

Stanford in Australia was one of the most life changing experiences I've ever had. I learned that I should take advantage of every opportunity presented to me in Australia. I once missed a 7 AM bird watching hike, and I regret it to this day! When in Australia, it's easy to take for granted all the opportunities that the Stanford in Australia program staff provide. However, in retrospect, I wish I did everything that I could do to engage with the Australian environment.

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while abroad and what did you learn from it?

As seemingly silly as it sounds, one of the most challenging aspects of the Stanford in Australia program is the lack of private space. For a majority of the quarter, students live in hostels or tents, which makes it difficult to feel a sense of privacy. Over time, we all learned that we do not necessarily need a space to ourselves to unwind. My peers ended up being a pivotal part of my ability to unwind and relax.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

Most of my days were spent with my peers. However, on days when I went out to the city, I was surprised by how similar Australia is to the United States. There were no uniquely Australian cultural adjustments to be made. However, I was often asked where I was from. There is a certain perception of what an American looks like, so it may be useful to understand that discrepancy.

What was your favorite part of everyday life?

The people! The Australia program does not involve host families. Everyone lives together and takes the same classes together. Because of this, my peers and I were very close to each other. We depended on each other for homework help, for lab work, and for shooing away each other's spiders!

What was the most memorable experience you had while in Australia?

My most memorable experience was the night snorkel at Heron Island. Snorkeling in the night time was exhilarating, and it opened my eyes to how vivacious marine life can be both during the day and after sunset.

What 5 words would you use to describe the experience?

Wallabies, snorkeling, glamping, gelato, hostels

Fun Questions:

What was your favorite food?

Tim Tams

What was the most valuable item you took on the program?


What was your favorite music/band you discovered in Australia?

The didgeridoo. During our first few weeks in Australia, a couple of my peers and I walked into a music store in Cairns. The store sold didgeridoos, a wind instrument developed by indigenous Australians. The store owner actually ended up teaching us how to play the didgeridoo and played some songs for us.