Exchange report - Student at KI
A walk through Melbourne
Home university: Monash University
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: INK
Semester: Spring semester 2016/2017
Name: Mati Kargren
Email address:


My motivation to go on exchange came from the desire to be a part of an extensive, international project, as well as expose myself to a foreign environment in order to experience the personal development that exchange students so often talk about. Since Karolinska has an extensive list of international partners, my first choice to make was where in the world I want to go. I decided to chose Australia since it’s an English speaking country, and I saw it as a great opportunity to be exposed to a scientific community that’s native in research’s lingua franca. Also, I’ve heard that the country offers tons of amazing nature and visitor spots, which I was hoping to catch during my exchange.


The second decision to make was where in Australia I would like to go. KI has several partner universities in Australia, each having a varied research profile. After an extensive digging through the Internet, I decided to apply to Monash University as it has a big focus on immunology and infectious disease – my favorite field(s). So, as soon as I got the green light from KI, I started searching for a host laboratory. I was lucky enough to get a ‘’good hit’’ within one and a half weeks, and confirmed to become a part of the Immunometabolism Laboratory at the Burnet Institute, a partner research institute of the Monash.


Next on, I had to juggle between the international coordinators at KI and Monash. The help that I got from the KI coordinator was great and always on time! However, there was bit of a struggle with the Monash international office. Initial paperwork was easy-peasy, regular, ‘’fill in your name and info’’ stuff, and – I was asked to enroll in a designated unit. I found this to be the most confusing part of the application process as you’re left off with a task, and are given minimal amount of information on how to do it. So to make things clear for you – in order to be a student officially enrolled at Monash, you have to choose your unit (small word trivia: the Aussie word ‘’unit’’ corresponds to what we would call a course; however the Aussie word for ‘’course’’ means program by our definition). You’re basically given a link to a huuuge unit book, out of which you’re supposed to chose a biomedicine specific unit. For bachelor students – enroll in BMS3930 - Action in biomedical science major research project! As part of this course you’ll be expected to write a literature review, submit a final report (your thesis) and give two presentations – one in the beginning and one in the end of your exchange. So nothing to worry about. For master students – I know that these guidelines have not been set out yet and I don’t know where the matter stands as of now, but get KI involved!


So, once you’ve sent in your unit choice, there will be a bit of waiting till you get confirmed. I did all the paper work in June, and received my confirmation from Monash in October. I was a bit unlucky at the time since there was an organizational change at the international office at the time, and communicating took extra long, buuut – it’s always good to start early!!


Once you’ve been confirmed, make sure to get your student number and Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) – you will then be able to use this to apply for your visa. I made an application for the Student (Temporary) (class TU) Student (subclass 500) visa, which took a bit of time, so save a few hours for this process! Once you send it in, it takes a bout a week to get your visa confirmation sent online. No paper visas have to be done in your passport! Everything is organized in a computer system. 

Arrival and registration

Fun fact - Monash offers a complementary, free-of-charge airport pick-up!


There isn’t any expected time of arrival, as long you’re there for the starting week! Since I went there during Term 1 (Spring semester in Sweden), with the intro week at uni being organized the end of February. However, as I went to Melbourne for a laboratory project, I was able to start my placement in mid-January. I went there literally a day after having finished my final exam - this gave me extra time to settle in the city, get to know my way around and do a bit of touring. I had an easy start at the lab, as I was there prior to when all the experiments started. This gave me time to do a through literature review in the beginning. However, I must say that in the end I almost run out of time for my project. This happens at all labs I would say, but because I was there ahead of when the uni semester started, my supervisor took the liberty to work on a research grant. In the end it slowed down the initiation of my project, and so I would advise you to make it clear with your supervisor on when you’re arriving, when you have to start your project and that you will be leaving before the Aussie semester ends in mid July (at least I did so). Also, if you plan to travel – discuss your schedule with your supervisor!


Once the official academic semester started, I attended the Monash intro. Officially, you’re expected to participate in a two day intro session, where you will receive a lot of information about the uni, lectures, the student union and most important of all – meet new internationals! The people you meet will most likely remain your buddies during the rest of the semester! Besides the two intro days, there’s a whole week of activities going on that Monash offers. I was only able to attend the evening activities since I was working at the lab already, but definitely go if you have the time!


Throughout the upcoming weeks, the Monash student’s Associaton (MSA) will organize weekly or forthweekly events, so I definitely recommend getting a membership!

Arriving to Melbourne


All in all, I would compare the costs of living in Melbourne to be similar to that of Stockholm. Accommodation is a pricier, but food and other costs of living are cheaper. The biggest cost for this exchange will most likely be your flight tickets, visa and travelling if you’re planning on doing so! I will list all of these below:


Visa – c. 3k SEK

Return tickets (booked 2 months prior to departure) – c. 12-14k SEK

Accomodation (a student room in a shared house/apartment, including bills and internet) – 4.5-7k SEK

Groceries / month – 1.5-2k SEK

Public transport / month – 400 SEK

Travelling in Australia, e.g. a return ticket – c. 1k SEK


KI provides you with an INK grant of 7000 SEK, which will most likely go towards buying you tickets. Since you’ll most likely be doing some travelling, I strongly suggest you save up at least a semester before going to AUS!


Also, about the transport card – you will get a student discount (a.k.a. concession) once you start uni. However, if you arrive there before the Australian semester starts, you will have to buy a regular ticket. I do recommend you to buy a 30day travel pass rather than a top-on deal. More on public transport in Melbourne:


Finding accommodation can be rather fast, 1 week, if you arrive in Melbourne sometime before the semester starts. In my case, I was lucky enough to have my dad’s friend who let me crash his place for a while. During that time I was able to quickly find a room at an international student house right by downtown Melbourne.


As mentioned in the previous section, the overall cost is higher when compared to Stockholm. Also, one big difference I would mention is that you’re expected to pay in a bond – a deposit you could say – equal to one month’s rent, which you will get back at the end of your contract (assuming the place is left all clean and undamaged). Make sure that the bond goes into the bank and that you receive a proper notification from the Australian Government – this is something that the landlord/lady/place owner has to ensure. If you don’t get any official notification, it’s a sign you’re getting swindled! Also, according to the law, you’re entitled to see the total rent that paid by the house owner. Do so to ensure that you’re not paying more than what the owner of the place does!


The forums I used to find the room included a facebook group called Fairy Floss Real Estate (, Flatmates website ( ) (I recommend upgrading to a premium account), and coming in contact with Monash students that have been to KI before. In the end, I was tipped by one of the Monash-KI exchange students about a friend who was renting out a room out. I checked out the place and I liked it! The place I stayed at was a single room/bedroom with a bathroom and a shared kitchen. It was a really neat place with tons of internationals – I met most of my friends at home! It was located close to the trams, and it took me 30min getting to the Burnet Institute. The house has its website too, so you’re welcome to check it out! ( In my case, I took over the person’s contract, renewed it afterwards till mid-July, and once I left in June, I sub-rented out the place to another person.


AirBnb can also be a way of finding a room in Melbourne! 

View from my place

Studies in general

As mentioned in the beginning of my report, I went to Melbourne on a degree project exchange and was hence not doing any regular studies. I can say though that Monash professors, based on a Victoria state specific grading system, grade the courses there. The regular passing limit is 50%, and 80% is counted as an A. More on grading scales can be seen at:


Important to mention if you’re doing your research project as well - your final grade will be set at KI, so any scores earned at Monash should be taken as a form of feedback (so it won’t count towards your final grade!).

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI

Since I did the thesis project, I did not have to accredit the Monash unit I was enrolled in. (Fun trivia - if you are taking the research unit, you will have to do 2 hand-in assignments and 2 presentations though! Once again, the grades set will only count as personal feedback and not towards your final grade at KI!)


Having spent a lot of time at the lab though I can say that the working culture is a bit different – the supervisor is required to do the administrative bits, something I found out the hard way when I tried to organize my own laboratory safety training session, but was instead met with a notice that my supervisor is not taking proper care of me and that he should have been the one responsible for these arrangements (can you imagine!). As for the laboratory project though, it is expected of the students to take their own responsibility.


Also another difference in Australia is the Honor’s student system, where students with a good GPA are given the opportunity to carry out a yearlong project following 3 years of bachelor studies. After finishing the honor’s year, one is entitled to directly commence a PhD program, so it’s practically like a fast-track master’s program for those with good grades. I can tell you that I’ve been mistaken for an honor’s student till the very end as most of the bachelor students doing a research project are enrolled in the honor’s year!


As for my project, I worked with HIV induced inflammation and its effects on ageing at the Immunometabolism. Definitely recommend the lab for those interested in Immunology and Infectious diseases! 

Language and Culture

Since I’m used to speaking English, and consider it as my main language, it felt good to be staying in a country where the language is spoken natively. Though nothing about the language seemed foreign, I must say that the Aussie accent is very distinct! I never really struggled understanding people, but at times I was really perplexed with the way that some words are pronounced!


For those worried about their English - I think the uni offered language help for those in need!


As for the culture – it felt very British like from my perspective. Aussies are very open and easy to initiate a convo with, but it’s a bit difficult getting further than that.  This is a bit opposite to to Swedes, which I would say are hard to get get an initial click with, but once you know them, they’re very open and trustworthy.


I made a coupe of Aussie friends during my time there, and am definitely satisfied. I must also mention that the culture in Melbourne is very mixed and the city has an international cling to it! I made tons of friends from all over the world - Asia, South America, Europe and ofc Australia – so you will definitely meet a nice blend of people. This is of course good if you’re willing to practice a language other than English! 

Brighton Beach

Leisure time and social activities

The Monash Student Association (MSA) was great with organizing regular events, both in the beginning of the semester and throughout it! They have a membership (for a low fee), which will give you a huuge discount for when you’re going on some of their events. They also have a facebook page for their international student section, so definitely check it out! .


The uni also offers a gym facility, however as I never attended any classes on campus I can’t tell you about the gym’s quality. I worked out a bit at the local gym by the Burnet, however the overall gym memberships are a bit pricey. You can check out local gyms by googling for them, or by asking your other exchange buddies and/or lab mates!


As for making new friends – that’s something certainly guaranteed! Being new in town I felt a bit shy at first not having a stable ground. However, very quickly I became eager to reach out to people and befriended many of them. I met most of my buddies at home, but I also bonded really well with another exchange student at my lab, other students at the institute and some people that I met during the Monash events.


One thing that Melbourne can definitely guarantee you with is tons of entertainment! It’s a multicultural and metropolitan city with tons of sides to it! It has its modern skyscraper city-like CBD (central business district), cool hipster suburbs (check out places like Fitzroy and Brunswick) and ethnic neighborhoods such as the Greek Oakleigh, Italian Carlton and East Asian Box Hill. Even if you stay in town throughout the whole semester you will find new things to do.


There are many beaches and nature spots to see around the city, such as St Kilda Beach, Brighton Beach, Danedong mountain ranges  - I recommend going on the historical Puffing Billy train (  or the 1000 steps hike ( ).


There are plenty of things to do around the state of Vitoria as well, and one portal for cheap trips I can recommend to you is a facebook group called New To Melbourne ( ). I’ve personally done a couple of weekend trips with them and enjoyed them all!  Just so you don’t miss out, the places worth checking out include: Great Ocean Road, Philipp Island, Healesville Sanctuary, the Grampians and the Wilsons Premotory.


If you wanna get out of the state, I recommend flying with budget airlines such as JetStar and Tiger Air.

Hanging out with the roos


My overall impression of the exchange experience was great! I am really thankful for the professional experience and development that I received from having done the thesis internship abroad. It was a great way to develop one’s laboratory skills, as well as get involved in the scientific publishing process!


Personally, I also feel I grew up a lot as a person – I had to handle the accommodation situation in a new country all on my own, find a sub-tenant in the end, keep track of my budget, plan my time at the lab and plan out my leisure time.


If I could give you one piece of advice before going to Melbourne, it is –

‘’Don’t think twice (unless its ur schedule and budget!), just go for it!’’