Shirlene Lim: Interns Abroad

 Hello Helsinki!

September 28, 2004

ECE and BME senior Shirlene Lim decided to go off campus this summer for her internship. Way off campus. She worked for two months in Finland in the Helsinki University of Technology's (HUT) Biomedical Image Processing Group through the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE). What was it like? Let's hear all about her adventures:

Shirlene Lim

ECE and BME Senior



What was it like:

It was the best summer ever! I have never been to Finland before and so it was an exciting experience for me.

Best parts of the internship:

Being able to be a part of a team that is working on the latest research technology was incredible. I was given the chance to do the first few preliminary implementations of diffusion tensor registration at the HUT that would ultimately be optimized and compiled into the 3D brain atlas that they are developing.

Another "best part" was the simple fact that I now have friends from all over Europe! Surprisingly, I am now able to identify European accents, which I wasn't able to do before, because I had friends in Finland who were German, Swedish, Greek, French, Irish, Spanish, Chinese, Canadian, American, Croatian… and the list goes on.

Summer home:

I lived in a 4 room suite near the HUT. It was just a five minute walk from my office in the Biomedical Image Processing Group.

Side trips:

I went on excursions with the rest of the interns from the HUT and some interns from Nokia to East Finland (Ilomantsi) and Russia (St. Petersburg).

Contributing to an ECE education:

I feel it will definitely contribute to my ECE and BME education because medical image processing is a part of both. The work I did needed my experience and knowledge of ECE and BME, so it was the perfect type of work for me.

Why intern abroad?

The fact that you are abroad is already one benefit! The work that I had was something that Helsinki is developing and being able to be a part of that was just great. It's just the kind of experience that you can only get if you are THERE.

Besides that, you learn the different languages they use and learn about a totally different culture. You also get to meet friends from all over the world and the whole experience was just unforgettable!


The first challenge I had was buying food and household items. Everything was in Finnish but luckily a lot of people spoke English. So, it wasn't too bad if you asked around. The first time I went shopping for milk, I bought a carton of milk that had a picture of a cow (assuming it was normal milk). Turns out it was sour milk! I started asking people the next time I went shopping.

Applying yourself:

I applied to 5 countries through the IAESTE: Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland and one other country. You apply with your top 5 choices of companies/countries according to the job descriptions advertised. Only 1 out of your 5 applications will be accepted. The IAESTE main committees from all over the world bring the applications and meet at a gathering (this time, it was in Austria). Each country's committee brings the applications and job openings from their countries. The committees then match ONE applicant with ONE job opening. Only the most suitable applicant from among the pool will be matched with the job opening. The companies will then review the applications and contact the applicant, should they decide to offer them the position or further interview them.

Recommend it?

I definitely would! The experience you gain is something that you will not get being here in USA. It is just something that you have to "GO THERE" and experience. You will also experience a different working environment and learn different problem-solving skills because the culture and the people are different from what you are used to.


Never give up! If you fail the first few times, keep trying and you will succeed. This applies to both applying for the internship and also in everything that you do. Also, always make the most of your experience and don't be afraid to ask!

On campus

Other honors:

Last semester, my team in 18-525, Digital Integrated Circuit Design Project, won 3 awards for our 28,000 transistors implementation of the Rijndael Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). We were awarded the "Best Design" by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), the David Tuma Laboratory Project Award by Carnegie Mellon University, and 3rd prize in the annual Lockheed Martin ECE Undergraduate Project Awards by HKN CMU.

Student organizations:

I am a member of the Malaysian Students Association (BUDAYA), was a member of the Robotics Club until last year, and will be volunteering for the Carnegie Mellon Emergency Medical Services (CMU EMS) team this year.


I love watching movies, playing squash, reading, playing games and also traveling. I was a Physics mentor for schoolchildren preparing for a science fair and an orientation counselor for the class of 2006. This semester, I am continuing my job as a research assistant with the Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) and I am also a TA for the lab sections of 18-322, Analysis and Design of Digital Circuits.

Church of the Resurrection in St. Petersburg

BBQ Party

On a bus bound for East Finland. Shirlene is second from the left, and her mom is second from the right (back seat).

Learning salsa dancing from a Danish intern.