Exchange report - Student at KI
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 abroad, in a different university. I wanted to fully immerse myself into a completely new environment, to experience living in another country, to learn how to adjust to the new working conditions, and also to grow and develop as a person. I chose Heidelberg University because of its excellence in the field of biomedical research and international recognition. I have also learned 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, upon my request.
There was no requirement for me to get vaccinated or get any special medical check-ups done before to my departure to Germany. 

Arrival and registration

I arrived to Heidelberg just 2 days before my project started. There was not any requirement for me to come earlier. Moreover, the dates of our Bachelor degree project were rather flexible, e.g. we could start working in the lab any time in the beginning of January (we just needed to make sure the project lasts at least 20 weeks. Therefore, I came to Heidelberg on 13th of January and my project in the lab started on 15th.  
There was no introduction course for international student at the time I arrived  (as it was in the middle of German semester), nor any mentor programme offered. 


As for the costs, I had to pay a Semester fee for both Winter and Summer terms (as my stay in Heidelberg was spread over two of them) which was around 126 EUR. I found an accommodation by myself via Facebook group. My rent was ca. 400 EUR/month, but it was a new student housing on campus with weekly cleaning service included, so the rent was rather high compared to other available options. There was no need for visa, vaccination or no other additional costs. I also found the food to be much cheaper than in Stockholm, both in terms of grocery shopping but also meals in student canteens (around 3-4 EUR per decent meal). I also found the Erasmus stipend I received in the beginning of my exchange sufficient for cover some of my accommodation and living costs.
Student network (Studierendenwerk) in Heidelberg also aids in finding accommodation for the exchange students, so perspective students might want to contact them. Useful link:


Heidelberg University had options for the incoming international exchange students. However, I found my accommodation by myself via the Facebook group. I believe there are options for every budget, as there are different housing opportunities available. Most common way for students to live in Germany is to share a flat, or a WG (Wohngemeinshaft). This is usually the most affordable option (prices per room in such shared flat can be from 250 EUR/month or so), but the standards vary greatly. 
My accommodation was located on campus, 10 min walk from my lab in BZH department, so this convenient location and the new type of the apartment were contributing to the higher price (400 EUR/month). I found the ad in following Facebook group:
also this one is useful:
I signed a contract with a girl (who was going away to do an internship herself) via Studierenwerk. She was officially subletting her room to me (I was a subtenant/Vermieter in German), and I found this way of acquiring housing to be very convenient. 

Studies in general

I have not attended any courses/lectures in Heidelberg University and therefore cannot tell anything about the teaching methods and study environment there. However, I performed a 4-month long degree project in one of the labs in Biochemistry (BZH) department there. I found the relationship with my scientific supervisor to be satisfactory and the environment in my lab to be OK to work in.
There were not too many differences between my former lab at KI where I used to work in prior to my departure, and lab in BZH Heidelberg, in terms of the equipment general research facilities.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI
Degree project Biomedicine Bachelor’s Program (Term 6). We, Biomedicine Bachelor students, had to join an active research group to do a discrete part of a bigger research project as well as participate in the group lab meetings, seminars etc. The assessment of our degree project was done by examining the thesis we wrote based on our practical experiments in the lab, and the consequent presentation/defense.
I found the format of our degree project to be a good way to assess both the theoretical knowledge and the technical skills of the students. The only concern I see about this (doing a 20-week long project in a lab in a foreign country) is that there is always a slight chance that a student will not find him/herself comfortable in this new research/working environment. That was exactly my case.
However, this experience have thought me the importance of good communication skills between people, as well as increased my awareness about such concepts as research confidentiality and ethics. 

Language and Culture

I did not take any courses or classes in Heidelberg, and the working language in the lab I was doing my project in was English. Therefore, I did not experience studying in a different language, even though I actually improved my German there while talking to the locals and German-speaking students I met outside of the lab. Heidelberg University was offering an intensive German course but the timing wasn't suitable for me and the price was quite high also.
As for the culture, I found it rather difficult to make friends with German people, despite some of them being friendly and open. I also experienced a lot of bureaucracy issues with getting registered at Heidelberg university... and when I was leaving from my exchange. Nevertheless, it was interesting to explore German culture and talk to German people. I also was lucky to live in a German fraternity house (Verbindung) for a couple of days, and this experience was beyond crazy and fun! 

Leisure time and social activities

As for the leisure time in Heidelberg, I found the Erasmus Student Network Heidelberg very active and great at organizing all kinds of event and social activities, starting from trips to nearby cities and towns (like Stuttgart and Frankfurt), and finishing with picknics, brunches, pub crawls and football matches. There is also quite a number of bars and night clubs for those who are keen on spending a Friday night out, as well as beautiful castle and gardens all around the town.
Sports facilities in Heidelberg were also great, plenty of group trainings to choose from (most of them free for the students!), gym, football and tennis courts and swimming pool. Sportzentrum Nord (the one I went to the most) also was located really close to the campus Im Neueheimersfeld, where most of the classes for medical students take place and majority of research labs are located. 


I think it's hard to underestimate the influence of exchange on both student's personal and professional development. I would myself being thrown completely out of my "comfort zone", and I did feel pretty uncomfortable and lonely in my exchange spot for quite a number of weeks in the beginning. I had to learn to work in a new research environment, adjust to the rules and customs there. I would not say it was bad or anything, it was simply very different from my previous lab experience back at KI. I also found it challenging sometimes to immerse myself into German culture and make friends "with the locals", even though I succeeded in the end. As for my professional development, I definitely found the exchange beneficial as I learned new techniques and was encountering some ethical dilemmas I never thought of before.
All in all, I would recommend other people to go on exchange, and more specifically, to Heidelberg University... But I also would advice to be prepared for the exchange period to be challenging, especially emotionally and mentally.