Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: Imperial College School of Science, Technology and Medicine
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Spring semester 2016/2017
Name: Manon Ricard
Email address:


If you are thinking of going on exchange to Imperial College London or have just been accepted then this is for you! :)

I chose not to go on exchange during the 3rd semester of my program (to Leiden) because I had just arrived in Stockholm and Karolinska (from France). But, after having spent two and a half years here, I felt like it was time to meet new people, discover another university, city and country. This is why I decided to go on exchange for my Bachelor's thesis in London at the Imperial College. 

There was a great deal of partner universities to choose from but for me,  Imperial College London was immediately my first choice. Imperial was for me a very personal choice. I used to live in London when I was younger and most specifically just opposite of the university. Since then, I have always dreamed of going there one day. Putting this aside, there are several other reasons which made me choose Imperial. It is important to note that Imperial is one of the top universities which has an impressive biomedical research cluster focussing on many areas which I felt passionate about (such as neuroscience, bacteriology and synthetic biology). Also, Imperial is located in the heart of London which is a city that I love as it is truly global and international. I knew that this would enable me to easily meet people with very interesting backgrounds and experiences. 

The information given by Imperial and Karolinska about this exchange program was pretty straightforward and there was nothing too specific which has to be done before arriving there appart from applying to the university (of course) and then finding a lab to do my thesis in.
A classmate and myself ready to leave Stockholm for our new adventure!

Arrival and registration

I went to Imperial College London to do my final degree project which meant that I was placed in a lab and did not take any courses. There was for me no introduction course nor mentor program. On the first day of the semester/ project, I went straight to the laboratory where I had an induction to the lab performed by the manager.  

I started preparing my arrival approximately 2-3 months before arriving. What I mean by preparing my arrival is taking my plane tickets and looking for accommodation. Time-wise this was enough time to start planning. Because of a previous course ending in Stockholm just before, I was only able to arrive in London one day before starting my laboratory work. If possible, try to give yourself a few days to settle in before you start at the university as this will give you time to discover the area and you will feel more conformable in your new environment.
Little Venice in London


As you might be aware, living in London is very expensive! Nevertheless, so is living in Stockholm. London is more expensive overall because accommodation is more expensive. On the other hand, buying food in stores is pretty much the same price as in Sweden and usually eating out is a bit cheaper than in Stockholm. 

For example, for a single room en suite (with my own bathroom) and a shared kitchen in the Imperial student hall, I payed £210 per week! It is very expensive but worth noting that the shared kitchen was cleaned every day and my room + bathroom once a week. There are nevertheless some cheaper options. For example, you can rent a "standard twin" room where you can share a room with someone else and the bathroom + kitchen are shared with a group of people (in that case the rend is around £115 per week). 

Additionally, transports in London are almost double the price of transports in Stockholm and therefore quite a lot of money goes into that (depending how far away from the university you live). I highly suggest that, once you have been accepted by Imperial college, apply for a student oyster card as it will enable you to get the student discount:

Finally, when going to Imperial, there are no obligatory costs as the student union is free and no visa nor vaccinations are needed.


When looking at the different possible accommodation, it seemed to me like the easiest and "safest" option was to take a room is one of the halls of Imperial. They have a specific page with the rooms which are available (vacancies in halls) where I found my room. I rented out a single en suite room at Xenia Hall in Waterloo which is a 30min commute to Imperial. Waterloo is not the most pretty and lively area of the city BUT it is very well connected (tube, train, busses) and easy to get anywhere at anytime of the day or night. Furthermore, the accommodation was in the middle of the city in between Big Ben, the London Eye, London Bridge and The Shard which was really nice to discover London. 

What was really nice also was that my room was cleaned once a week and the shared kitchen was cleaned every day. I would suggest that wherever you decide to live, do so with other people. London is a big city and you can sometimes feel a bit lost and alone so if you live with other people it is more fun. 

Here are some useful links for accommodation: 
> Imperial Student Hall Vacancies
> Airbnb 
> Spare room
View from my bedroom window

Studies in general

While on exchange, I performed my Bachelor's thesis entitled: Targeting promoters and intronic enhancers in vivo using artificial transcription factors. My thesis was focussed on genetic engineering and I worked in the following lab:
Our group worked in close collaboration with:

I had a great time there as the people were hardworking but also very fun. Everyone knew each other very well and were not just co-workers but also friends. This created a very free and relaxed environment which I enjoyed very much. The relationship between my supervisor and I was very relaxed and equal and overall in the lab, the hierarchy could not be felt very strongly.
Picture from the Sir Alexander Fleming (SAF) building in which I was working

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI
I did not take any courses while on exchange as I was performing my degree project. 

Language and Culture

As you might have guessed, in London, everything is in... English! 
There was therefore no language barrier. Culture wise, I did not experience any clash as I had already lived in London for several years when I was younger. British people are nevertheless different than Swedish people. Brits are more open and direct than Swedes. There is no fika tradition in the UK but instead there is a culture of after works which are usually spent at the pub with co-workerds drinking beer/cider. 
London Chinese New Year

Leisure time and social activities

What is great about London is that there is all the things that you could possibly imagine - and more! This can be showed just by looking at Imperial College Union which has over 300 clubs, societies and projects as well as several bars and nightclubs:

I joined the swimming and water polo club at Imperial with whom I trained three times a week. They had different levels so everyone can join and they were very welcoming. If you have a very good level and like to do competitions, there are many of them. There are also in London a lot of entrepreneurial activities and I went to many many events organised by companies or by the Imperial Enterprise Lab which organises many competitions for start-up projects.

Finally, there are many Karolinska Institutet Alumni now working or studying in London and around the city. It was therefore really nice to be able to meet up with old friends and it was a great opportunity to meet with alumni in order to broaden my network and horizons. 
Picture of some of the members of the lab I was working with at the union pub


Going on exchange has confirmed my desire to live in London and going to Imperial College London to which I will be returning next year in the fall to start my Master's degree there at the Business School! 
I am very grateful to have had this amazing opportunity to go on exchange and for all the new people I have met there :)