Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: The University of Newcastle
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: INK
Semester: Spring semester 2017/2018
Name: Veera Leskelä
Email address:


I have always loved traveling and wanted to see Australia. I thought going on exchange would be a great opportunity to both see Australia and its amazing nature and get to really know the culture and working environment there and learn from it myself as I would stay for almost 5 months. As a biomedicine student, I would only do my degree project while on exchange so I searched both Brisbane and Newcastle universities for interesting groups, and ended up sending an application to both universities. I got a spot in Newcastle and have not regretted it!

I did not need to get any vaccinations in addition to those that I already had. As a KI student I got insurance from Kammarkollegiet and did not need to worry about that either.  You will need to apply for a student visa when you get confirmed as an exchange student. I got all the information needed about the  process from UoN  after getting offered a spot from KI and also help from the exchange coordinator at KI and the whole process went smoothly. 

Arrival and registration

Our term was supposed to start in mid-January, but the term in Australia starts later in February or even March. However, because I did not do any courses I talked with my supervisor and asked if it would be ok to start earlier. You will need to do this if you want to finish your project and graduate on time. You should also keep in mind that travelling to Australia from Sweden takes more than 24h and you will probably be jetlagged for a few days. I ended up flying to Sydney and staying there for a couple of days before traveling to my new hometown Newcastle, so I started my project a week after the recommended time.

When I got to my lab the first weeks were still quiet and things were running slowly because of most people being on summer vacation. In late February there was orientation/introduction days for new students, called the "O-week". I did not participate in most of the activities, as I was busy in the lab and most of them seemed unnecessary to attend to as I was not taking any classes. 
Merewether Beach in Newcastle


The biggest costs for me were the flights and visa. You can find more information about the visa at . It can take up to 2 months to receive the visa, however I got mine one day after sending in the application - you should still mot count on that!

Accommodation in Australia can be quite costly. I stayed in a shared student house and paid 180AUD/week so around 5000kr/month. I would say this was the average price for a room near the city or campus. Public transport was also quite expensive as there was no possibility for a monthly card and I had to pay 7 dollars (45kr) every day just for the bus trip to campus and back. However after 8 weekly trips you will pay half price so you can travel to Sydney during the weekend for around the same 45kr. I decided to buy a bike that I could use for shorter trips, even though Newcastle was not very bicycle-friendly city as most Australians like to drive everywhere.

Food and other supplies are a bit cheaper than in Sweden. For example on campus you could bigger lunch for 10 dollars (65kr) or smaller pastries and pies for just 2 or 3 dollars. They have 3 different grocery stores: Aldi, Woolworths and Coles, Aldi being the cheapest.


You can find accommodation either on campus or off campus. I decided to stay off campus. My house was located almost halfway between the city and campus in an area called Hamilton. The main campus is about 30min bus ride from the city and around 20min from Hamilton. UoN has also a city campus where I went to study when I didn't need to do anything in the lab. You can find information and look for accommodation at . The prices shown are usually per week. I would recommend staying off-campus if you arrive earlier than the semester starts as I did.

I shared a house with 4 other students. I had my own bedroom and we shared a big kitchen, 2 bathrooms and a small backyard. The standards are maybe a bit lower than in student apartments in Stockholm but my house was well equipped for a student house and I was satisfied with it overall. My flatmates were also very friendly and we got along well!
Newcastle city campus

Studies in general

If you are a third year biomedicine student as I was, you will only do the degree project course during your time on exchange. My supervisor was very welcoming to me on my arrival and helpful throughout the project and I was very satisfied with the chosen topic aswell. Overall I would say that the atmosphere is more relaxed than in Sweden, and I got to work quite independently compared to how the project is usually organized in Sweden. However whenever I had a problem there was someone to ask from and they were happy to help me.

The most important thing is to be in contact with the university right after you have been nominated for an exchange spot and find a group that you like. You can read about their research groups at I told the person I was in contact with which topics I was interested in and he suggested a project to me so I was lucky and found a group quickly. We planned the project and my arrival during the fall semester. The rest of your studies there will depend on your group and project just as it would in Sweden.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI
I only did the degree project during my exchange.

Language and Culture

As a biomedicine student you have already studied everything in English, so this course is no different. Some Australians  can speak with an accent and very fast which took me some time to get used to. They also use a lot of slang - but this is more something fun to learn than a problem really. Newcastle is a lot smaller town than Sydney for example (population around 300 000 compared to 4.3 million) and you can feel it in the atmosphere. People are friendly and approachable and there is no rush. Easy-going is really the word to describe this town. There were no major cultural clashes - however you will notice some differences such as the cashiers at grocery stores and cafes will starting a conversation with you instead of just the usual "hejhej", which was quite funny in the beginning as I (and other Swedes) did not expect it. 

Leisure time and social activities

University of Newcastle has an exchange student network that arranges different trips and activities in and outside Newcastle. I went to some of them and I can recommend it as it is a good way to meet other exchange students and see the area! I also met up with the other exchange students from KI that were there at the same time as me.

There are a lot of restaurants, cafes and bars where I lived in Hamilton and also in the city on Darby Street and prices are usually cheaper than in Sweden. Newcastle has many beautiful beaches where you can surf, play beach volley etc. -  definitely where you will want to spend most of your days off.

You can also rent a car to go see the surrondings of Newcastle as there are many more beautiful beaches and areas around. I would recommend going to Nelson Bay (about 1h away) to see the sanddunes and then hike up Tomaree Mountain for a beautiful view. I also visited Seal Rocks for a camping trip a bit more up north. Newcastle is also close to the Hunter Valley vineyards. The exchange student network organizes a trip there at least once per semester and it's definitely worth a visit! You should also visit Sydney and see the famous opera house, Bondi beach and a lot more. The train from Newcastle to Sydney is fairly cheap as I said but it takes 3h. I visited Sydney 3 times during my exchange and saw for example the amazing fireworks by the harbour on Australia day. 


I would definitely recommend going on exchange to Newcastle and Australia. It was an amazing experience as I met a lot of wonderful people, saw Australia and had fun while writing my thesis. You will learn a lot during the thesis course where ever you do it  but I think doing it in a completely new environment taught me more - about working in a different culture and with different people but also about being more independent. Going to the other side of the world alone can sound quite scary at first but will be very rewarding in the end!