Exchange report - Student at KI
The beautiful view from Bray head on my way on a hike to Greystones.
Home university: University of Dublin - Trinity College Dublin
Study programme: Toxicology (Master's)
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Spring semester 2017/2018
Name: Emma Gustafson
Email address:


I adopted a dog from Ireland when I was 19, when he died last year I didn’t have anything that bound me to Sweden. And I have learned that having no reason to stay is a perfect reason to go!

I was never planning on going abroad, I was very comfortable in Sweden and I was really annoyed that the information “lecture” on studies abroad was mandatory – why couldn’t the people who was interested sign up for that and the rest of us make something useful with our time? As I’m sure you have guessed by now I changed my mind during that lecture. It didn’t seem too hard to go abroad; the partner universities were supposed to help you organize most of it and there was an option to go to Ireland! At this time point my dog was sick and I knew that I would have to put him down before it would be time to go anyway, and apart from my dog being Irish, I’ve always been drawn to the nature and mystical stories about that country.

After a few days of thinking, I knew I had to go!


I believe I had very good support from both KI and Trinity College, I got all the help I needed regarding forms to fill and very soon I was appointed a contact person at Trinity who offered to help me find a suitable research group for my master project.
My friends gave me shoes to match my new home country!

Arrival and registration

My research group was not located at Trinity campus but a few kilometers from there, i.e. on the other side of Dublin city, St. James Hospital. It was very flexible when I wanted to arrive and start working but I was informed that there was an introduction week for international students I could attend to get comfortable with the university. At the day of my arrival, Trinity college had representatives at the airport to welcome the students and gave out information about how to get around and a welcome package with useful information. A very much appreciated gesture! Since my everyday life did not involve the university I didn’t attend any introduction courses. There was a Facebook group for the international student where loads of events were posted, during January and February they organized loads of events to attend if you wanted to get to know people. In addition to this, Trinity has loads of extra curriculum activities and sports clubs you can join. All from hiking clubs, horse riding and pf course - Rugby!


When you are used to the living cost in Sweden you will find the Irish life quite cheap. You get a beer for €5 (just don’t go to touristy Temple bar!) and you get away with €10 for a decent dinner at the pub. However, public transport is expensive even though you get student discount. And the system is a mess, not even the Irish are fully aware on how things works, what to pay and which is the best way to get from A to B. Luckily, Dublin is a small city and with a pair of good shoes you can keep the costs down by walking instead of taking the bus or trams in the inner city. If you do decide to use the public transport, get yourself a student leap card (the university hand these out) and you will pay maximum €30 /week. This allows you to also go with the trains outside the inner city and do a bit of hiking or just enjoy a pint of Guinness with a lovely view of the sea.


I’m sorry to say, Dublin is a mess when it comes to accommodation. The recession (yes, you will hear this word a lot because they seem to never get over it!) took its toll on the city and the rents has literally went through the roof! If you want to love city center, it is going to cost you, and you will probably have to share a room anyway. The standards are generally lower than what you will be used to in Sweden, and soon enough you will stop laughing at those horrible carpets – they will keep your feet warm in the cold stone buildings.


I decided to live a bit outside the city center, closer to the lovely nature and rent was cheaper. With a student leap card and the Irish Rail app for the DART, I got along just fine. With the DART it took me 20 minutes to Trinity college and from there I often walked 30 minutes to other side of Dublin where my hospital was located. I could take both busses and trams to get there faster, but as aforementioned, this city is made for walking! Just make sure you have enough time to get stuck behind all those slow walking tourists, they seem to be everywhere, especially when you’re in a hurry.


I found my accommodation through “The ideal flat mate Dublin” on Facebook which I can highly recommend. There is a lot of ads on several pages and as for other cities, is a chance to get tricked into paying money for something that does not exist when you arrive. Be sure to speak to previous tenants AND if avoidable, don’t pay anything until you get there.

My morning walk, just 10 minutes from my house!

Studies in general

Here is when my story will go a bit darker and not especially representative for Trinity or Ireland. My Italian professor really was a mess, which I should have guessed beforehand when he could come up with a project title two week prior to arrival. It is safe to say, he was not the planning type. It was more so that he thought we could come up with something once I got there. And then change his mind about it three times when all was planned. I learned a lot doing this, but when the lead time on orders for things you really need in order to start the project things get unnecessary stressful. In my mind, this is not the way you take care of a master student. Again, I want to stress that he is probably not a good representative for Irish education and how things are done. Trinity is a well renounced university and speaking to my fellow students at the lab who was Irish, they agreed; it’s not Ireland, its him.

To also mention something positive, the relationship between student (me) and him was very relaxed and I felt I (almost always) could speak my mind about things without him taking offence. And if he did, he seemed to get over it fairly quick.


We were located in the basement of the hospital in a room with one (covered) window and what appeared to be a lack of heating. This was fine though, we had some small electrical heaters and the warm atmosphere from the Irish lads really made up for all the faults with the facilities. My fellow students took real good care of me, brought me out to pubs and helped me with everything I needed. Although, coming from KI and being used to the standard of equipment we have, I was a little bit chocked when I saw the lab. Again, the lads made up for this as well and who need pre-stacked pipette tips anyway? Putting those tips-things into boxes yourself for autoclaving is a little bit therapeutic after all.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 1 at KI

I did research for my master thesis during my time at Trinity and no credit transfer is needed since KI is the examining university.

Language and Culture

Irish culture is very similar to Swedish, with the exception that people really like to speak to each other and does not avoid eye contact in the streets. It is impossible to feel lonely in Ireland, someone will always speak to you while waiting for the bus or while standing under a roof waiting for the rain to pass (you will be waiting forever though so buy yourself a good raincoat before going). The warmth and care of the Irish people is what I love the most about this country, if you are lost there is always a friendly face to ask. But just one tip, when they greet you with “Hi, how are you”, they don’t care about how you are! Just answer with the same phrase.

I have learned to drink beer! Also something I never thought would happen. However, with added blackcurrant - not popular among the Irish!

Leisure time and social activities

As mentioned previously there was loads of things to do with the large variety of social- and sports-clubs arranged by Trinity such as boxing, archery and Gaelic football! There are so many things to choose from, and you will always find friends who want to join. In addition to this, there was an international students group on Facebook that arranged many events such as pub-quiz, well since it is Ireland after all, there is a lot of pubs involved in the activities outside school. There is a lot of student life in Dublin, mostly centered around Pubs and drinks but always with an additional twist like “let’s go to this castle and look at the garden, afterwards we are going to the pub”.

Trinity Sport:

Trinity Society;

My favorite place in Dublin, Howth! Should be pronounced as Hoat (think: coat). This is a perfect place for a hike, ice cream and seafood!


This experience has changed me so much! I mentioned in the beginning I never thought I was the one going to go abroad for studies. As it turned out, the professor wasn’t great but I have learned to deal with those situations, in which I’m sure I’m going to find myself again later in life. With this experience I will be able to handle these situations when they arise, feeling secure in the correct way to react. Actually, I decided quite early on during the exchange to apply for a PhD in yet another country - and got the position! I would never have applied for a 4 year stay abroad if I hadn’t had this experience prior to that. I know now that things sort themselves out (if you want them to) and you will get friends, new routines and you will find your place. I have made so many useful and valuable connections with young researchers (and older) which I’m confident will help me in my professional career.