Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: Griffith University
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: INK
Semester: Spring semester 2017/2018
Name: Leonard Fredrik Sparring
Email address:


If you're in the process of deciding whether to go on an exchange I cannot recommend it highly enough. I know that some of the friendships I made during my exchange will remain with me for a long time. Also, having an internationally spread out network may prove to be very useful in your future career! Especially so if you will be in research.

For the choice of my exchange university I had mainly two criteria. Firstly, I knew I wanted to do something related to neuroscience. Secondly, I wanted to have a diverse set of opportunities to experience my host country without having to spend too much time on the journeys. Griffith satisfied both of these conditions, with the added bonus of being located in one of the few conserved bush areas in the vicinity of Brisbane.

What you really have to pay attention to is the VISA process. If you are traveling with INK I suggest going for a student VISA. You should definitely apply for this VISA well in advance as the time for processing varies quite a bit. Also make sure you consider what you are bringing with you into the country, as Australia's border control is notoriously strict.

Arrival and registration

The semesters work a little differently in Australia. If you're going to do a project at a University, the facilities may seem a bit deserted during the first few weeks as most students have not begun their semester at this time. This also means that you will have to wait about a month before you retrieve the arrival information. I recommend talking to your PI for your project if you are having any issues.


Australia is an expensive country but I would say it is on par with Sweden for most items. The biggest problem financially is the actual travel. You will get a grant for the airplane ticket, but you should expect to pay a lot of it as well. Don't forget to budget for the VISA fees.


Housing prices in Brisbane are comparable to Swedish prices. If you are staying at Nathan campus I recommend you not to stay in the dorms unless you are willing to pay extra for living close to University. However, the closest grocery store is quite far away anyway so even then you would have to get used to taking the bus or biking a bit. I recommend staying in a hostel for the first week or two and look for places to stay during this period. During my first week, I stayed at the breeze lodge hostel at kangaroo point and took the bus back and forth to Nathan.

Commuting is also a very confusing experience in Brisbane. Expect to get lost the first ~5 times. 

Studies in general

I only did a project during this exchange, so I cannot say anything about the courses at Griffith. If you will be doing a project I have some suggestions that I think you should pay close attention to.

First of all, start researching what groups you are interested in joining well in advance of deciding where to go. Try to primarily choose a group, and let that dictate your choice of university, rather than the other way around.

If you get a response from one group, don't settle with it too soon. Rather, contact several groups and keep your options open. I want to particularly stress the importance of having a supervisor that you get along with well and is interested in your project personally. Now, this may seem difficult when you have not met face to face, but try to see if you can schedule a skype-conversation with both the PI and your daily supervisor, for example by 

In regards to the choice of group, I would suggest factoring in the research-methods into your decision. Ideally, you want to learn a technique that is on the rise and will be used more in the future. Of course, it should be a fun one as well. Try tomake sure you have a detailed plan for the project before you go.

As for biomedical research in Australia, get used to inductions. For me it took about two weeks before I was allowed to perform all the laboratory methods I was expected to do hands on. I recommend two things relating to this. First of all, try to speed up the process as much as possible, even if it means that you will be nagging on them a bit. Remember that you ideally will only spend one semester with this project. Try also to use this period for doing other things related to the project. For example, I setup the structure of my thesis, my referencing system (zotero), and wrote most of my background during this period. This will prepare you for the practicalities of your project as well.

Another thing is to not be afraid to ask for help if a method is not working or you are having trouble with it. Although you may want to seem independent, you are not expected to be. Use this opportunity to learn good laboratory practice.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 1 at KI
I did not take any courses during this exchange.

Language and Culture

Language will most likely not be a problem for you. There are a few things that separate Australian English, but they are mostly quirks that you will get used to within a week. For example: Instead of saying "How is it going?", they would say "How are you going?". Culture wise I think the atmosphere is very relaxed. and laid back. This is a bit of a trap for your project. Try to keep up the tempo you would expect to require back in Sweden.

Academic studies are not very strict in Sweden. Similar to in Sweden you are not expected to talk to professors using their last name. I would say it is quite difficult to become friends with Australians compared to how it is when you travel in other countries and I did see a lot of cultural segregation. Food-wise Australia was a wonderland. Expect to find food from many different cultures, especially common was Asian food from many countries.

Leisure time and social activities

If you are mostly doing the exchange to experience the typical leisure activities of the country, I recommend going to the gold coast campus. This is where you will find nice surfing and sunny beaches. The Nathan campus is in a sort of bush jungle, where you inevitably will have to dodge snakes and spider webs on your morning commute.

The university will give you a few opportunities to experience the country via trips. I did go for one trip to Byron Bay. I can highly recommend this one if you want to get a gentle introduction into surfing, get to know other international students or do some snorkeling/diving. There is also a big chance of seeing dolphins!


In conclusion, I am happy that I went for an exchange to Griffith University. I learned a lot and got to meet a lot of friendly people. If I would repeat this process I would make sure to find out also what other groups in the university can offer for projects. There is good research going on in this university, but the groups are not as well financed as some of the other Australian universities, such as Monash and Sydney, so you are more likely to find more quality research going on there. Nevertheless, Brisbane/Gold Coast is really located in a perfect spot for experiencing other sides of this exchange semester. It really is perfect for packing in many experiences during your project.