Exchange report - Student at KI
Beautiful Heidelberg
Home university: Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Spring semester 2017/2018
Name: Dasa Svaikovskaja
Email address:


I have always thought of doing an Erasmus exchange abroad. I wanted to fully immerse myself into a completely new environment by experiencing life in another country and to learn how to adjust to the new working conditions. I felt this would help me develop as a person. I chose Heidelberg University because of its excellence in the field of biomedical research and international recognition. I have also been learning German for almost 3 years before starting the program at KI, and have therefore considered Germany as my first-choice Erasmus destination. Heidelberg also seemed like a very nice, cozy student-friendly town to live in.

I felt that the information given to me by KI international coordinator prior to my departure was sufficient. I also searched for the additional information about Heidelberg myself, and asked other students who studied there, quite a lot of questions. Moreover, I got some information from the Erasmus office in Heidelberg when I asked for it.

There was no requirement for me to get vaccinated or get any special medical check-ups done before to my departure to Germany, although I suggest a visit to CityAkuten to ask them yourself.

Arrival and registration

I arrived to Heidelberg on Saturday 13th of January, two days before my lab project started. I had to register at the Erasmus Office (Seminarstrasse 2, Heidelberg) to get my Certificate of Arrival. I also had to pay the Social fee to the university (around 126 EUR for both winter and summer semesters), and register at Bürgeramt / accommodation office  upon my arival to Germany. There were no introduction courses available as my project started in the middle of German winter semester, but Erasmus international coordinator provided me with all the necessary information and encouraged to turn to her shall I have any additional questions.

Otherwise, there was no requirement for me to arrive earlier, and the dates to start and finish the project were rather flexible in my lab. The only requirement for our Degree project was for it to be 20 weeks long.


I received the first installment of my Erasmus grant in the beginning of my exchange, which was very helpful to cover some of my accommodation and travel costs. The main cost of my 4-month stay in Germany was my rent, as I was living in a modern student accommodation on campus Im Neueheimer Feld (where my lab in BZH department was located) – 400 EUR/month. Otherwise, Heidelberg is a small town so one can go around with a bike (economic alternative to public transport), and the food is also really cheap compared to Stockhom (both in the supermarkets and in student canteen – Mensa – around 2,5-5 EUR per decent meal). The Social fee to univeristy (126 EUR for both semesters) is a mandatory one-time “investment“ one needs to make in the beginning of the exchange.

Besides that, financial spendings can vary depending on how much does one like  travel around (train tickets, hostels etc.). Flixbus is a great way to visit places around Heidelberg while being on a budget! All in all, living costs in Heidelberg are still significantly lower than in Stockholm.


There are a few options for those who are looking for an accommodation in Heidelberg for a short time period (4 months, in my case) stay. The most popular way for a student to live in Germany is to rent a room in a shared apartment, or WG (Wohngemeinschaft). Such ads could be found in Facebook groups like:

Also, Studierendenwerk Heidelberg could aid an exchange student with finding accommodation/student housing in Heidelberg, if needed.

However, I did not use their help as I simply posted an ad in one of the Facebook groups 2-3 months before my arrival (in October-November), and was contacted by one girl who was subletting her room for a period of time I was interested in. The room was located in a new student housing complex on campus in a walking distance from my lab, with just one more flatmate who we shared kitchen and bathroom with. There was also a weekly cleaning service included, hence the rather high cost (400/Eur month). There are surely cheaper options out there though, starting from 250 EUR/month or so.

Studies in general

I did not take any courses or classes in Heidelberg other than working on my Bachelor degree project, and therefore I cannot tell much about the teaching methods and study environment there. I can only say that in the lab in BZH department I was working in everybody was very professional and the relationship between my scientific supervisor and I was saisfactory.

As for the differences and similarities between the labs in Heidelberg and my previous lab at KI where I used to work for 6 months prior to my departure, I found it to be slightly more strict and hierarchical in terms of the internal research structure and organisation in Heidelberg compared to KI. I found no significant difference in terms of the laboratory equipment and its quality comparing Heidelberg University and Karolinska Institutet.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI

I went on exchange during my 6th semester (T6) for do my Bachelor Degree project in Biomedicine worth 30 credits (30 h.p.). The project lasted for 20 weeks / 4 months (mid-January – mid-May).

The aim of our degree project was to join an active research group to perform a discrete project related to the group’s research. We were also supposed to participate in group meetings, seminars, journal clubs and other relevant activities in the work place. We were expected to further deepen our knowledge about the specific projects and the subject area of the projects through reading relevant scientific articles. All the aims were successfully approached by me during my exchange at Heidelberg University. I learned a lot about the topic of my research (neurovascular link), deepened my knowledge in that area of biomedical research, learned new techniques and also experienced different a working culture and environment.

At the conclusion of the course, each and every one of us, Biomedicine Bachelor students, had to submit a written report and give a short presentation (15 minutes plus question time) about our projects to our peers and to the examining teacher back home at KI after the end of our exchange. Our project supervisor also had to give a feedback about our practical work in the lab.

I found this way of accessing our degree project fair and relevant for the type of work we were doing.

Language and Culture

I did not experience studying in a different language, as I did not take any courses in Heidelberg university apart from working on my degree project. Working language in my lab was English due to highly international group of researchers. All the scientific lectures given by visiting professors were also given in English. I did use some German though for an external (outside of the lab) communication with the other students studying in Heidelberg University, but this was my own initiative.

I was offered a place in the ongoing language course at Heidelberg University upon my arrival, but the schedule did not really suit me and the price was quite high also (ca. 300 EUR). Therefore, I mostly learned/revised German I knew from before by myself, by talking to people and reading some literature in this language.

As for the cultural clashes, I did not experience any, even though I had a pretty bad conflict in the lab due to my own unprofessional behavior.

Leisure time and social activities

There were a lot of social acitivities obeing organised by Erasmus Network Heidelberg (ESN Heidelberg) during the whole time of my exchange. They organised all kinds of events, from Pub Crawls and Football matches to hikes and trips to nearby cities and towns (Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgard, Schwetzingen etc.). Most of the activities were free of charge, or only required some small payment to cover transport costs and such. I really liked the ESN events I got the chance to attend.

Sport facilities in Heidelberg were also really good. There was a big sport centre (Sportzentrum Nord) located within the walking distance from the uni campus Im Neueheimer Feld, and it offered a wide range of sport activities and classes for the students for free, as well as football, tennis and basketball courts. There was also a swimming pool (not for free, but with a little additional cost). More information about sport facilities at Heidelberg University can be found here:

Regarding the student life, it was fairly easy to get in contact with the other students at different ESN events.  I managed to make a few friends with the Germans thanks to my 2-week stay at the fraternity house (Verbindung), which was some of the most fun 2 weeks of my entire exchange!

I also suggest to join some club/committee and go to different social events and trips outside of the lab and off-campus. This is truly the best way to make friends with the locals and meet other international students as well!

Walking around Heidelberg Castle on a sunny day in February


I cannot help but be grateful for this whole experience of doing Erasmus in Germany. It has been tough in so many ways, yet I learned a lot about myself, my real needs and desires, and grew a lot as a person. I also tried working in a new environment, faced the differences in cultures and customs, and improved my level of German language. Moreover, I gained some knowledge in my field of studies (Biomedicine), learned a few practical laboratory skills and upgraded my sense of professional ethics. I feel that having done an exchange in Heidelberg University will be a valuable addition to my CV and an asset for my future professional career. However, I think that doing an exchange abroad while taking courses and classes with the other students there should be more interesting than solely working on a project in the lab.

Nevertheless, it has been quite an excellent experience, and I would like to encourange current and prospective KI students to go on exchange themselves!