Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Spring semester 2019/2020
Name: Saima Kivimäki
Email address:


I decided to go on exchange because I’ve always wanted to study abroad and I thought that exchange would be a good experience for my future career. I also really enjoy travelling and learning about different countries. I wanted to go to Germany because I learnt German in school and I thought this could be a nice opportunity to refresh my language skills as well as get to know the culture better. I chose particularly the University of Tübingen because it was recommended to me by some incoming exchange students and the labs seemed interesting to me. There was no information of this university from KI and the information from Tübingen was unclear as well. In Germany the semester times are different to the Swedish ones, so winter semester is from October to March and the summer semester from April to September. Since I was going to stay from January to May, I was not sure which semester I was supposed to apply for and when the deadlines were. On top of that, I was only going to do the research project for my thesis, not take any courses. Luckily the international coordinator in Tübingen was really helpful so I got answers to most of the questions. Apparently, you need to apply for the summer semester but make sure you communicate with the international coordinator so that you can be registered for the university already in January.

Arrival and registration

I arrived in Tübingen two days before starting my work in the lab. My nice flatmates picked me up from the Stuttgart airport but otherwise you can also take a bus from the airport. After arriving to the city, you need to enrol to the university at the international office and they’ll tell you to go to different places to get the student card, register to the city etc. This might take some time and the opening hours of the offices are limited, so I suggest visiting the international office as soon as possible. Since the German and Swedish semester times differ, in January I arrived right in the middle of the German winter semester. At this time there was no introduction courses or mentor program but later in March such programs were organized for the exchange students. I participated in the buddy program where I got two local students as my buddies. At that point I had already been in the city over a month so I didn’t need help with finding my way around but it was nice to get to know some other students. The university also tries to match the students according to their interests so the buddy programis  a good way to find like-minded people.


I had to pay 88 € semester contribution for the university but otherwise there were no additional costs for studying. Although people say that Tübingen is one of the most expensive cities in Germany, the living costs are lower compared to Stockholm. The food is cheaper and going out for dinner is pretty affordable. One can buy warm lunch for 3-4 € from the mensa (university cafeteria) and there are several options, usually at least one vegetarian. Students can get ticket for the public transport for whole semester for 105 € but if you stay January-May, you’ll need a ticket for both winter- and summer semester. Since I had a bike, I didn’t need to use the public transport at all. I could recommend having a bike in Tübingen but keep in mind that the city is really hilly and you need to be fit to get up to the hill where most of the labs are located. What was surprising to me was that in Germany it is really common to use cash. Supermarkets and some restaurants take card but in most of the places you need to have a special German EC-card or pay in cash. I would estimate that my monthly living costs were around 700-800 € including the rent. This of course depends on how much you go out, travel etc. As Germany was in lock-down during the covid-19 pandemic, I probably didn’t spend as much as I would have in normal situation.


The university didn’t guarantee housing for the exchange students but it is possible to get a room if you ask the international coordinator. You can also apply for rooms through the Studierendenwerk but they only rent out the rooms for the whole semester. In Germany it’s really common to live in shared flats (WGs) with 2-6 people and this is the way I also ended up living. Most of the WGs are really social and people also do things together in the free time. I was always cooking and eating dinner together with my flatmates and they really became like family to me. I can highly recommend using the website where people are searching flatmates or you can even write your own post. I shared the flat with two other people and paid 370 €/month. We even had a small garden where we grew some herbs and vegetables and had barbeque. In general the rents vary between 300-600 €/month. Tübingen is a small city so basically you can walk everywhere and the public transport also works well. Therefore, it is possible to get accomodation really close to the city center but it’s also ok to live a little further away.

Studies in general

I didn't take any courses because I was only doing my Bachelor's thesis project.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI

I was doing the degree project for my Bachelor’s thesis in the department of virology. This 30-credit-course involved about 4 months of laboratory work and a written thesis and oral presentation in the end. I had not worked in a lab before so I can’t tell how the German labs are in comparison to the ones at KI. My lab was used to having students so it was ok that I didn’t have much lab experience. I got great support from my supervisor and all my colleagues quickly adopted me to the group. We usually ate lunch together and with the other students sometimes went out for beers after work. With the lab group we had weekly meetings where everyone was supposed to present their new data. In addition there were weekly progress reports where someone from the department gave a presentation and seminars from visiting researchers.

Language and Culture

I didn’t take any courses so I didn’t experience studying in different language. Most of my colleagues in the lab were German and they were mainly speaking German together but were also happy to switch to English. All the visiting researchers gave their presentations in English so it was easy to follow. Since I had learnt German in school, I could quite well understand what people were talking about although it took a while to get used to the Swabian dialect. In general, young people in Tübingen speak good English and my impression was that they are really excited to get to know international students. The university offered a language course but it was quite expensive so I didn’t join it. Instead I joined a Facebook group “Tandem Tübingen” where people did language exchange. I found a German girl who wanted to have someone to speak Swedish with and in return she spoke German with me. It was a fun way to learn and also get a local friend. I didn’t experience any big cultural shock and I felt really integrated in the end. The thing that mostly surprised me was that everything apart from bakeries and some restaurants was closed on Sundays but you get used to it quite quickly.

Leisure time and social activities

Tübingen is a really student-friendly city and there are a lot of things going on. The city has a really relaxed and open-minded vibe. It’s really common to be vegetarian and live ecologically friendly, so there are lots of eco-shops and vegetarian restaurants in the town. During the semester, the city is full of students and many activities. I would recommend checking out the sport courses organized by the university ( since there is a huge variety of different sports for a really cheap price. I for example joined the water polo course which was a fun way to try out something new and meet other students. Unfortunately, due to the covid-19 outbreak I didn’t get an opportunity to discover so many social activities in Tübingen. However, I really enjoyed walking and running along the Neckar river or going for bike rides to the surrounding villages. There are also a lot of nice cities, castles and nature areas nearby that are perfect for a day- or weekend trip. In the middle of the old town there is the Hohentübingen castle that serves as a museum for ancient cultures. The must-sees a little outside the town are the beautiful Hohenzollern castle and the chapel in Wurmlingen. Tübingen is quite small so if you want to experience more city life, you should take a trip to Stuttgart which is 45 min away by train. I also traveled to Frankfurt and Würzburg which were great places for a weekend trip. The most convenient way to travel to other cities is the Flixbus and you can get really cheap tickets. The train system also works but it’s more expensive and there are often delays.


I would honestly describe the exchange as one of the best periods of my life. I was a little bit hesitant to leave from Sweden and start my life all over in a new country but I’m really glad that I did it. I made some really good friends during the exchange and spending time with them made my time unforgettable. I also really enjoyed living in Tübingen because it is smaller and more relaxed city than Stockholm with a very alternative and open-minded atmosphere. In general, I think the exchange had a positive effect on me. Besides lab experience, I gained more self-confidence and became more independent. Living in a foreign country way sometimes challenging but most of the time things worked out well, which gives me confidence to move abroad again in the future, possibly to Tübingen.