Exchange report - Student at KI
Landscape from Atacama dessert
Home university: Universidad de Chile
Study programme: Public Health Sciences (Master's)
Exchange programme: INK
Semester: Spring semester 2016/2017
Name: Leire Fernandez
Email address:


Hi! I'm Leire, from Spain, and I have studied a Master Program in Public Health Sciences and Epidemiology at KI. Going on exchange is definitely a great advantage, not only for your personal growth but also for your academic growth, and studies show that those who go on exchange get better job opportunities in the future! I decided to go on exchange during my fourth and last semester at KI. There were a few reasons why I thought this was the best semester to go on exchange. First of all, coming to study at KI was already a "pseudo-exchage" for me, since I'm from Spain and I had to move to Sweden for this! Hence, I thought it was better to create a routine in Stockholm and leave the travelling for the end. Furthermore, I really enjoyed the way subjects were taught in KI, and wanted to take the most advantage of it. Going on exchange during the fourth semester of a Master Program means that you do not take courses but instead dedícate your time abroad to do you Master Thesis. I thought this was a great opportunity to learn how things are done in a different setting and it would also let me create contacts for future career opportunitites.

I chose Chile as my destination because I have always wanted to experience life in South America, and I had a few friends from Chile who told me great things about their country. Furthermore, I had a great advantage by being a native Spanish speaker (though Spanish and Chilean are a bit different to say the least...). Once I started investigating the University of Chile and the research groups within the Epidemiology field, I found some very interesting topics for my Master thesis research. So I started to contact them to talk about possible research opportunities for my degree project. Everyone was extremely welcoming and gave me lots of information in order to make my decission. I have to say it wasn't easy but I finally chose a group and started the paperwork to make this exchange happen! The exchange coordinator at KI helped me a lot during this process, everything from validating your study credits, getting KI health inssurance and receiving the appropriate scholarship to help funding my trip abroad. Overall it was a smooth process that didn't take more than two months. It is necessary to take this into account so you start preparing early and don't miss the deadlines, specially if the country you choose requires you to get a visa or even get vaccinations. I didn't have to get any vaccines, but I did have to get a student visa to travel to Chile, and I can say that was the most annoying part of the whole process. Sincé I was in Stockholm at the time I asked for the visa, I had to do everything through the Spanish and Chilean embassies at Stockholm. They asked me to get a few certificates: Passport, letters from both Universities (KI and University of Chile) stating that I was studying/going to study there, medical records, police records and a letter stating that I had enough money to support myself (your family can help you out with this!). The information for this is available at the embassies, and the main troubles I found were to collect documents from Spain while being in Sweden. But if you start early enough you will get your visa in time. Once everything was sorted out, KI prepared a very nice sessions to inform all students going on exchange about what to expect from this experience: being aware of your new country culture, preparing for cultural shocks, how to get accomodation, where to find help if anything happens during the exchange, and more. I found all the information very useful and I was more than ready for this experience before getting on the plane!

Views from the plane crossing the Andes

Arrival and registration

 My personal experience with Chile differs quite a bit from other exchanges in different countries. The main reason for this is that I arrived to Santiago de Chile in February, when the second semester of the year starts in most European Universities. However, in Chile, February is right in the middle of the summer break! Yes, as you read, seasons in Chile are organized differently because this country is in the southern hemisphere, so they have summer when we have winter and viceversa! I have to say it was very pleasant to find myself in summer, with temperaturas over 30 Celsius degrees, coming from the cold Swedish winter! However, this also meant that the University was officially closed for students. Nevertheless, since I was going there to work with a research team, it didn't make that much of a difference for me. My Master thesis supervisor in Chile organized an introductory session for me to meet all the people I was going to work with and showed me around all the places I needed to know. The main disadvantage I found is that it was more difficult to meet other students, since they were still on holidays, and I was not going to take part in any courses. However, everyone at the Epidemiology department was very nice and made my stay there very enjoyable!


Something to think of before applying for an exchange is how to finance it. In my case, I applied for KI scholarship, which was enough to cover for my travel expenses, but financing my stay in Chile was up to me. I was already receiving a scholarship to finance my stay in Sweden, and my family was helping me out economically as well, so it didn't really make much of a difference to change countries. I found Chile cheaper in terms of costs of living than Sweden, but Santiago, being the capital, was not as cheap as you could think of beforehand. The major issue was paying the accomodation, which can get pretty expensive in the centre of the city, but on the other hand, food, transport and leisure activites are quite cheaper than in Sweden. Some suggestions for keeping costs down are:

- Get accomodation in the surrounding neighbourhoods to the city centre, it is easy to get there by public transport and you will save some money in the rent.

- Rent a bike. I loved cycling in Santiago, specially during the summer/fall months! It is a great way to get everywhere and do exercise at the same time. Furthermore, public transport in Santiago de Chile is a bit too overwhelming, specially in rush hours. You will start appreciating Swedish tunnelbana much more after experiencing Santiago's underground...

- Buy your food at the central market, also called La Vega. It opens everyday of the year from 6:00 to 12:00 and it is the best place to find fresh products at great prices, specially when it comes to fruit and vegetables. Furthermore, you can find great deals in the surroundings, where you can have a typical chilean meal for so little as 20 kronor!!!


Accommodation in my case was not arranged by the University, so I had to sort it out myself. I tried to do it before arriving to Chile, but it was extremely complicated. So I decided to wait until I got there to find a place to stay. I booked a hostel for the first two weeks in Santiago because I didn't know how much it could take me to find an appartment. I have to say it was a great idea looking back, since I met so many interesting people, travelers from all over the world, and even some students in the same situation as me! I started contacting people and visiting apartments as soon as day one, and after a few days I found a great place for me! I found Facebook groups were the most helpful tool for this task, here are some links:



My apartment was shared with two Chileans, who where great hosts and showed me all the cool places in the city and taught me a lot about their culture. The place was located in a very central place, just 15 mins by bike from the University, in an área called Baquedano. I would recommend areas such as Baquedano, Barrio Italia, Ñuñoa, Santa Isabel or Bellas Artes. They are centrical and safe, and you have everything you would need to find around! Expected prices for a room in a shared apartment can go from 2000 to 5000 kronors, depending on size, location and furniture.

Views from my home

Studies in general

My personal experience with the University of Chile was very pleasant. As I said previously, I didn't take any courses during my exchange, I dedicated all my time there to do my Degree Project, which involved a research project and the writing of the Master thesis. The study/working environment was more relaxed than  what I had experienced in Sweden. I found that everyone at the department was very easygoing and they had a great atmosphere working there. I went to the University three days a week to work from the office, and the rest of the time I wrote from different places (libraries, cafes, parks...). My supervisors and the rest of the research team were there for me all the time, and helped me out whenever I had a doubt or a problem through the process. Nevertheless, the writing of a Master thesis in Epidemiology is a process that you do very much on your own, so I spent most of my time working by myself.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 4 at KI

I did my Master thesis in the Department of Epidemiology, more specifically in the unit of sexual health. I joined an ongoing research who focused on HIV prevalence and risk factors in hard to reach populations. By the time I arrived to Chile the data had already been collected, so my main tasks were to create a database, analyse the data and interpret the results. However, I had the chance to take part in a qualitative study at the end of my stay in Chile, where I could collect my own data for future purposes. The knowledge I gained was invaluable, since it was my first time working on my own with such a big project, and it showed me how to deal with the problems that come along the way. I also had the chance to discuss every step of the project with professionals in the field, gaining a lot of insight on what we can do to improve health through education and research. The teaching methods were very relaxed, based on a lot of work on my own, reflections and further discussions with my supervisors and colleagues. This last part was obviously the best, since I got to expose my ideas and interpretations and see what other people thought about the topic. My supervisors corrected my work a few times during the process, giving me advices on how to improve the writing or what other subjects to talk about to improve the overall project before handing it in. However, the official correction was done at KI once I got back from my exchange.

Language and Culture

Being a native Spanish speaker I didn't experience any problems with the language at the academic level. Although I had to write my Master thesis in English I spent most of my time working with the research team in Spanish. I think that this was a great advantage, since talking in our native language (for both me and my colleagues at the research team) allowed us to have more in deep conversations. Eventhough almost everyone at my team could speak English, I would say that having at least a certain knowledge of Spanish is very recommended for going on exchange to Chile. However, I'm not aware if the University offers language courses for students.

When it came to social activities and leisure time, knowing Spanish was definitely very important. Everything from going to the grocery store to taking the bus can become a great adventure if you don't speak Spanish, since not so many people can speak English. However, I found a great community of expats in Santiago de Chile and met people from everywhere around the world!

There is definitely a cultural clash going to Chile from Sweden. Some of the main issues I found were:

- Organization. Sweden is extremely well organized while Chile is quite a mess. I think that public transport is a great representation of this.

- People. In Sweden, everyone is very polite and respectful and minds their own business, while in Chile they are much more extroverted and you can expect strangers to talk to you in the bus or at the street, and they are also much more flirty.

- Gender equality. Sweden is one of the best countries when it comes to gender equality and feminism, and most of the population are very invested in this topic. However, Chile has a culture of machismo that can be a bit too much sometimes. Women are underrepresented and undervalued, and it is not strange to find yourself walking in the street and facing sexist comments.


Leisure time and social activities

Since I was not enrolled in any courses I was not very aware of how student life was at the University of Chile, and it also made it more difficult to get in contact with other students. However, something I did learn is that college football (or soccer) is a great deal there, and the whole city goes crazy whenever there is a game! I spent most of my leisure time travelling around the country. Chile is a very rich country and so different from north to south that you never have enough time to explore all its gems. I made some really good friends during my trips and had a great time discovering the differences there are within the same country. Santiago itself is a great city, it is where I spent most of my time and I loved it! It is incredible big, with something about 8 million people living there! And though it can get a bit too crowded sometimes, there are so many parks and green areas to escape the madness and relax. And if you like hiking you have the great Andes mountains just a few steps away. It is a city with a lot of night life and party, live music, museums, markets, there is something going on all the time, so you cannot get bored easily. But it is true that knowing Spanish would make things much easier when it comes to interact with people, make friends and enjoy all the things Santiago has to offer!

Anakena beach in Easter Island


I can say that going on an exchange during my studies at KI was one of the best decissions I ever made! The whole experience has helped me grow as a person, learning how to survive in a new setting, getting used to new things and overcoming all obstacles along the way. It has also given me the chance to travel a lot and get to know so many incredible places and meet so many people that I will have forever in my heart. But even more important is the way it has affected me as a student. Going on this exchange has showed me that public health is very different depending on the setting, and you have to know how to work according to where you are, who you work with and what are your resources and possibilities.

From beginning to end, I wouldn't change anything from this whole experience. I think it has been a very fruitful experience and I'm so grateful for everyone who helped me to make it happen. Definitely advice all future students to take this chance and make the most out of it!!!