Alumni Profile: Kyle Edmunds, South Africa 2012

Kyle Edmunds ’12 was a summer 2012 intern conducting research at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH) in connection with the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He majored in Nuclear Engineering with a certificate in International Engineering, and also studied abroad in Tours, France. Kyle is currently pursuing a postdoc in neuroimaging at UW-Madison.

How did you end up where you are now?

After graduating from UW-Madison with my bachelor’s in nuclear engineering, I completed a two-year MSc in biomedical engineering from Tufts University in Boston. After this, I emigrated to Reykjavík, Iceland for a teaching position at Reykjavík University while I completed my PhD in biomedical engineering. While in Iceland, I also reached back to my previous contacts at IIP to found Reykjavík University’s first international internship exchange program with an American university – since 2016, our lab has hosted nine students from UW-Madison in a host of medical imaging and neuroscience research projects. After completing my doctorate, I taught full-time for one year in Iceland before deciding to emigrate again – this time, to the UK for a one-year MSc in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation at the University of Oxford. Finally, after completing this program, I moved back to Wisconsin with my wife, and I’m currently pursuing a postdoc in neuroimaging here at UW-Madison – life has indeed come full circle.

How did your IIP internship experience influence your current path?

My experience in Johannesburg was an essential element in my application to graduate school – not only as a way to grow my research portfolio, but as a first exposure to working in a clinical context, which ultimately informed my decision to transition into the field of biomedical engineering. Furthermore, the opportunity to grow in my career while simultaneously exploring a new country and its cultural context was instrumental in guiding my eventual choice to live as an expat for the past six years.

Is there any particular skill you gained from your internship that you think helped you get a job after?

The bulk of my work at CMJAH entailed the construction and testing of nuclear imaging tools. This direction was actually largely unexpected – at the beginning of my program, I thought my main focus would be on comparative analyses for quality control using existing protocols, but my advisor and I quickly found that such protocols either didn’t exist, or we didn’t have the right tools to obtain the measurements needed. This was actually a wonderful discovery – I very much enjoyed my days working with the crew in the hospital’s basement machine shop, melting lead radiotracer pots into customized wooden molds I had to make. More than any individual skill, I took home an improved ability to think on my feet and adapt my assumptions and understanding to the present context.

Why should undergraduates consider interning abroad?

As structured and standardized as your undergraduate education can seem, I sincerely believe that there is no better time in your life to forge your own opportunities for personal and professional growth, and if you have the itch to explore the world, an international internship might be the perfect choice for you.

What message or advice do you have for students preparing to intern abroad?

If you’d asked me this a few years ago, I might have wished that my time in Johannesburg was less chaotic – but as crazy and difficult as my experience was at times, it changed my life for the better and I truly would not have had it any other way. I think my biggest piece of advice to prospective students would be to stay humble and reflective during your journey – treat your time as an opportunity to grow and change within yourself, rather than just another resume statistic.

What advice would you give to students returning from abroad?

After your experience abroad, you may find yourself feeling a bit lost among your peers, or even lost in reconnecting with American society. This is totally normal – it absolutely was the case for me, and it took a good bit of adjustment for me to feel comfortable living in the US again. I actually never really regained that old sense of familiarity with home – which was one of the main reasons why I continued to pursue an international life into my adulthood. I am so grateful that my life abroad truly opened my mind to fundamental criticisms of American society, which has enabled me to lead a more intentional life, focusing on helping those who need it the most.

Is there any custom, food, tradition from your host country that you still enjoy now?

I still love calling traffic lights ‘robots’!

In honor of the International Internship Program’s 10th Anniversary, we will be bringing you profiles of IIP alumni who have interned all over the world! Find more alumni profiles here.