Exchange report - Student at KI
Griffith University's Centre for Applied Health Economics Team and me
Home university: Griffith University
Study programme: Public Health Sciences (Master's)
Exchange programme: INK
Semester: Autumn semester 2017/2018
Name: Salvador Alvarado Lopez
Email address:


My long journey to Australia...

I decided to go on exchange to perform my Master's thesis abroad, because I thought that it would be a nice opportunity to put in practice all the knowledge acquired during the first three semesters of the programme.

I knew that I wanted to go to Australia for two main reasons: the first one because I had not been in Australia before, and the second one because during the master's, a lot of the health economics evaluations that we studied were carried out in that country, and I wanted to perform my degree project in that field.

I however did not have in mind any particular university that I wanted to attend, as there are of course many good options to choose from. Thus, I decided that I was going to look first if there were any academic agreements with Karolinska and if there were, then I would look for a research group in Health Economics in that particular university. After doing that, I discovered that KI had an agreement with Griffith University, in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, for Master's students in Public Health (that would be me). So I immediately started looking for health economics research groups at Griffith University.

To my greatest surprise, Griffith University was the hosting institution for the Centre for Applied Health Economics (CAHE), which performs many economic evaluations of a wide variety of health care programmes among Australia and particularly the state of Queensland. I took a look at their website, their publications, and their experts and I knew that it was the number one option to perform my Master's thesis. Hence, in February 2017 (that is one year before the thesis semester started), I wrote to the centre and externalised my interest in performing my Master's thesis over there (I of course wrote to several other institutions as well). I decided to write well in advance because I knew that performing a thesis abroad was not going to be an easy task, as there are several steps that must be accomplished before even thinking about going abroad. In summary these were (for me): deciding on a topic, finding a supervisor at KI that would be willing to work with you on that topic, find a supervisor abroad who would be willing to work with you on the topic (this was quite hard because, from the KI side, the university will help you finding a supervisor, however, the supervisor from the hosting institution will only be willing to work with you if your CV and experience are of their interest to invest their resources in you to go and work with them), find money to go there (KI's INK agreement [which was really of a lot of help] will support you with around 8,000 SEK, the plane ticket to Australia was around 8,500 SEK, the rest of the expenses were on me), apply to the hosting institution (letters, CV, english proficiency tests etc.), become accepted, apply for visa, continue deciding and detailing the thesis schedule and project while you do all the other formalities and finally you would have everything ready to go abroad and start working on your thesis!

With regards to the information that I received from KI, I have to say that the guidance that our university gives us is really good, as they clearly describe the process that you need to follow in order to go abroad and perform a Master's thesis. However, one thing is to state it, and other completely different one is going through it, as KI will help you as much as possible but pretty much all the process is on you with regards to writing to persons, applying to places and visas (and fulfilling the requirements), getting extra funds and so on, but it is definitely worth doing it, so do not get overwhelmed about all the things that you have to accomplish and just think that after that you will be studying in a nice warm place with beautiful beaches, Koalas and Kangaroos!

Think that you will be studying in a place where you can find Koalas on campus!

Arrival and registration

After an over 24 hours loooong trip (Stockholm-Doha, 7 hours --> Doha-Melbourne, 14 hours --> Melbourne-Brisbane 2.5 hours, all of these only flight times, you have to add the time spent at airports). I arrived to Brisbane, right by the end of the Australian warm summer. With temperatures around 32º C in February, I could not feel happier of leaving the freezing Swedish winter (when I left Stockholm it was -17ºC). If you are planning to go to Griffith, remember that they offer a free student pick-up service from the airport to your accommodation, just go to their website and you will find it!
Since I was not doing any course at Griffith, but only focusing on my Master's thesis (believe me that was more than enough), I did not have to arrive at a particular date or time. However, I decided to arrive one week before the agreed work-starting date for my degree project, just to get used to the time schedule, area find accommodation etc.
It is worth to say though, that by the time I arrived, the university was also receiving the new exchange student for the upcoming semester, hence, I also was invited to attend to the exchange students seminars and activities, which I found really useful to learn how was Griffith University's student life.
My first picture at Griffith University campus, it was 36ºC that day :)


With regards to the living expenses in Australia, I have to say that prices vary depending on the city you live in, and of course the city area.
Hence, talking about my experience, I lived in a shared house with three other Griffith students (a French girl and a Vietnamese boy doing Master's and a Japanese girl exchange student as well). The Griffith campus that I attended (Nathan campus) was around 40 minutes by bus from the city centre, hence I decided to stay in this shared house in the suburbs (close to the campus) instead of living in the city centre.
I think that living in a shared house (which was surprisingly big for European standards, 4 rooms, two living rooms, font yard, big backyard, own laudry room, flat tv, modern big and fully equipped kitchen etc.) will significantly decrease your living expenses, as you may share all of them with your housemates, so that is what I did and what I would recommend.
With regards to prices, I believe that Brisbane is quite similar to Stockholm (not cheap), but at least you will not feel overwhelmed by an increase in prices, I would say that Brissie (Brisbane) is maybe a little cheaper, here is a list of some of my expenses during the exchange:

  • Rent (4 bedroom big shared house, all included [internet, water, electricity, laudry etc.]): 5,600 SEK per month
  • Groceries (normal diet, not vegan / vegetarian): 2,000 SEK per month
  • transport (if you live close to uni you can walk, that is why I did not use it much, you pay according to zones, not like in Sweden, so if you want to go to the city, with student discount it would be like 40 SEK round trip)
  • GYM (with pool and different exercising facilities included): 600 SEK month
  • going out is expensive as in Stockholm: a big glass of beer would cost you around 70 SEK, and a hamburger at a restaurant: 100 SEK.

Living expense per month (including 4 nights out): around 10,000 SEK per month

Other important costs

  • VISA: 2,000 SEK
  • English proficiency exam (TOEFL iBT): 1,500 SEK
  • plane ticket: 8,000 SEK (STHLM-BNE)
  • trip to airport: 140 SEK
Staying in a shared house will reduce your living expenses and will bring you a lot of good moments with your new friends!


When it comes to accommodation, the rent prices in Brisbane, in the area I lived were quite similar to Stockholm student accommodation, but the housing options are usually more spacious and I would say luxurious, with some housing optinos having their own pool and gym facilities.
In contrast to Stockholm, you do not need to enroll to an electronic queue or book with millions of years in advance. There is plenty of accommodation options and usually it should not take more than a week to get one once you are there.
Initially I thought that the accommodation would work as in Sweden, so I contacted many landlords well in advance, like 6 months before my arrival, but all of them told me that it was too soon. Hence, I saw in many blogs that the way it worked in Brisbane is that you arrive to a hotel / hostel for the first week and do as many in-person inspections as you may consider necessary until you find your right place. And that is exactly how I did it, and it work perfectly, before I week I had found the perfect spot.
There are several websites that display accommodation options, the ones I used were and
Finally, I do not think a student would have problem finding an accommodation close to the Griffith University campuses 8even within walking distance), as there are plenty of options everywhere. However, the option of living in-campus exists as well, as Griffith has its own in-campus housing options, I heard that they were good but smaller and more expensive compared to what you could find outside campus, so I guess it depends on the student preferences.
Take into account that if you are planning to live outside campus, you should inspect the house in-person, not pay anything in advance and request the landlord to follow the RTA (residential tenancies authority) procedures (most of them follow them), just to avoid any problems!
My house in Brissie

Studies in general

With regards to the supervision of my Master's thesis in general, I can not say other thing that the Centre for Applied Health Economics was extremely supportive, not only my supervisor was always interested in what I was doing, but I could easily ask for help to anyone in the Centre. All of the personnel were extremely good professionals in their fields but most importantly willing to share their knowledge and experience with you, if you are planning on attending to this Centre for exchange studies or developing your thesis project and you are concerned about being alone with your project, you can relax about it, as you will have the great professionals and persons helping you out!
Two senior researchers and an associate professor (my supervisor) helping me to solve one part of my thesis, they were in my computer for over two hours!

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 1 at KI
This one does not apply to me, as I did not take any courses at Griffith, I only developed my degree project and I described the general perspective of my experience under the studies tab.

Language and Culture

Before going to Australia, I had heard that it was a very diverse and culturally rich country, now that I have been there I can say that it is definitely true. In Griffith and in Brisbane in general, many different nationalities study and work along with each other in a very relaxed environment, I actually made friends not only from Australia but from many other countries, without finding not a singly difficulty in getting alone with them, Australian people and people living there are usually very open and friendly!
With regards to language, I do not thing I found any difficulty in getting around in the academic or the social area with my level of English (TOEFL iBT score: 105). However it was funny to get used to their accent and common language words, as they are quite different from English spoken in European countries and in Sweden, but definitely not a problem at all!
An Australian and an Iranian friends from Griffith Uni, and a possum in the background.

Leisure time and social activities

I believe that leisure time its a topic in which Australia speaks for itself! Being Australia a big touristic country (the backpackers and the surfers paradise) I think any student will find it super easy to find things to go and to in the city. In addition, Griffith University does a particularly good job when promoting students interaction either through social or sports events, all of them oragnised by alumni unions and most of them for free! (including free food and free cinema tickets).
With regards to the city, Brisbane is a very beautiful city, with meany sports and cultural activities to do all year round, especially around the city centre, where they even have a man-made beach! With its superb weather conditions all year round, many people gather over that area and enjoy the pools, the beach (man-made), restaurants, picnic areas, walking areas by themselves or with friends, definitely there is no way you can get lost in getting there!
The ultra famous man-made beach in the South bank area near Brisbane city centre, just beautiful!


I can only say that this exchange was not only the greatest academic experience I have had in my life (and I have been lucky to study in many places), but also one of the most amazing travel experiences I have had the joy to live so far, as I was enjoyed meeting people from parts of the world that are very distant to Europe and America. Furthermore, getting to know them and work with them gave me the opportunity to keep on learning how things are done in different settings to take the best from them for my personal experience. Aiming (as my final goal in life) to apply all those life changing experiences in the setting of my home country to improve the health and the health care system of Mexico. I thank Karolinska Institutet very much for giving me the chance to live this incredible experience!
A life changing experience in Brisbane!