Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Study programme: Biomedicine (Master's)
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Spring semester 2019/2020
Name: Monika Lukoseviciute
Email address:


During my Bachelor’s Degree studies in Biomedicine at Karolinska Institutet, I have discovered that a career in cancer research is such an inspiring path to follow. This research area motivated me to seek challenges which would contribute to my development as a specialist of international level. Therefore, doing the degree project abroad seemed as an ideal opportunity. Initially, I wanted to go on exchange to ETH Zurich. Unfortunately, It did not fly and I was nominated to go to the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg. Of course it’s good to have plan B in case your plan A does not work. However, my honest advice - make sure your plan B excites you as much as plan A. If you do not feel thrilled about going to Heidelberg, just do not go. Otherwise, it will be a struggle.

Honestly, I was struggling to find a laboratory where I can do my Bachelor Degree project. My classmate could not even find. I did not like any laboratories in the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg so I decided to search a laboratory in the German Cancer Research Center. Take time to find the laboratory you really want to prepare you degree project and then keep writing to professor until you get the answer, researchers can be busy. It needs stubbornness and patience to be noticed and get the answer.

In order to get more information about your upcoming adventure, contact previous students who went on exchange to the same university and KI international coordinator. It can be stressful so start preparing early.

No VISA or vaccinations were required.

Arrival and registration

I arrived to Heidelberg just 3 days before staring my degree project in the laboratory. I suggest to have an extra day or two in order to enjoy the city and visit the campus. In addition, you will have to visit Heidelberg University Student Advice Center (Seminarstraße 2, Heidelberg) where you will register your arrival, get your student card and all necessary information.

The Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg did not offer any introduction courses because my degree project started just in the middle of winter semester. Also to my knowledge, there was not any mentor programme.

The view from my room


At the onset of my exchange studies, I got the Erasmus grant - around 12 000 SEK. 

The Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg has winter (October - March) and summer (April - September) semesters. As you might guess, my exchange period (January - May) overlapped these two semesters. Nothing to worry about if you are working on your degree project in the laboratory. However, it is very important to highlight that you have to pay for both semesters (overall around 200 EUR). As a result, you become an official student and get your university card. 

No visa. No vaccinations.

In my opinion, the cost of living in Heidelberg is lower than in Stockholm.

  • I spent around 350 EUR/month on rent 
  • I spent 0 EUR/month on public transport (I walked 8 km every day) 
  • I spent around 200 EUR/month on food (it depends how often you go out or eat at the restaurants)


It was a real struggle to find an apartment. Since I was coming in the middle of winter semester it was very hard to get a room at the dormitory. So I received an offer to rent a room in the flat just 5 days before my arrival to Heidelberg, needless to say it was very risky and stressful. I strongly recommend to start searching for accommodation around 2-3 months before your arrival. Dedicate your time and read/post ads in websites such as,, Contact accommodation service,, ask your supervisor to send the request to people working in the same department (who knows maybe someone is subletting a room). 

Some facts about my accommodation: 

  • As I mentioned above, I have payed 350 EUR/month for my room (In Stockholm I was paying 3200 SEK).
  • The flat was located in Wieblingen, around 4 km from my laboratory.
  • I have found my room in From my experience, facebook groups do not work.
  • The shower was located in the kitchen, literally.

Studies in general

I was working on my Bachelor Degree project in the German Cancer Research Center. For this reason, it is impossible to describe teaching methods, relationship with other students or the study environment at the university. Despite that, I can say that in my laboratory I was surrounded by many international and very intelligent researchers. I believe that the way you feel in the laboratory, work flow, motivation and many more things depend mostly on your supervisor. My supervisor was critical, demanding, always ready to put me back on the earth, but really helpful. From the beginning I was told that it was a laboratory, not a kindergarten so I would have to work independently and on my own. In comparison with my previous laboratory at Karolinska Institutet, I had a very sweet and kind supervisor who taught me a lot, but I also felt way more relaxed.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 1 at KI

My Bachelor Degree project was worth 30 credits and supposed to last 20 weeks, however, due to the global pandemic I spent only 2 months (20th of January - 18th of March) working in the laboratory. 

As I mentioned above, I was working on my Bachelor degree project "Investigation of modulatory roles of interferon in adult neural stem cells" in Molecular Neurobiology department in the German Cancer Research Center so I did not take any courses in the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg. 

My supervisor was strict and demanding. After a week working with my supervisor and learning new methods, I was working independently all the time. Every Tuesday we had a journal club and every Friday we had a looong meeting. I had to actively participate in all activities, give questions, discuss different scientific articles and present my data. Overall, it was very challenging, but I learned new techniques, deepen my knowledge, improved public speaking and critical thinking skills. 

At that time when the global pandemic reached the peak, my laboratory was shut down and I decided to come back to Stockholm while borders were still open. I continued to write my Bachelor Degree project with my obtained data even though so many more experiments were planned to carry out. My supervisor guided me during all this time and answered to my questions, however, it was my full responsibility to write thesis.

Language and Culture


The Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg offers German language courses, however, I have not taken any courses. In essence, I knew that I would spend my all time in the laboratory surrounded by international people and, thus, English would be the main communicative language. It is important to mention that I had almost none knowledge of German and I did not have any troubles talking in English in the supermarkets, restaurants or any other places. Despite that, it would be very useful to have some knowledge of German. I have noticed that German people appreciate when you are able to talk in German.


  • Talking about cultural differences, I would say that Germans are very demanding and hard working people. They are strict and want to see the outcome of your work. For instance, I could leave the laboratory at 18h and see that other people are still hard working. Also we had constant laboratory meetings (at least 4h every Friday) in which we presented our obtained data. It is challenging, but you can learn a lot and improve your skills significantly. 
  • Germans are very serious about putting their trash in the right bins. Don't forget to read how to recycle in Germany. 
  • Public transport is very slow in Heidelberg. I mean veeery slow and inefficient. Cycling is the best mode of transport. I would recommend to rent a Swapfiets bicycle for a few months, it is very useful for an exchange student. 
  • Germans are very straight-forward and never sugarcoating their speech. In the beginning it can sound rude, but hey at least it is honest. 
  • Supermarkets are closed on Sundays.

Old town

Leisure time and social activities

No doubts that leisure time and social activities are very important part of every student's life. Talking about myself, I had very little spare time and I did not participate in any social activities or events. The main reason was my very intense work in the laboratory where I spent the biggest part of the day. After the laboratory, I was reading various publications related with my degree project. During the weekends, I was running or walking in the nature near my home. Another reason was the global pandemic due which the most public events/activities were highly restricted and prohibited.


It was a very challenging experience, however, I believe it will be very useful for my future professional career. I believe that students who have exchange experience will always have an advantage. As a person, I faced so many challenges such as being apart from my boyfriend, my friends, familiar environment or feeling anxious about the global pandemic while I was away from home ("I don't always go on exchange, but when I go, the global pandemic starts"). I just want to say that exchange period is not only pubs, having fun and careless time, it is also tough in so many ways: adapt to new working environment, new culture, new people, loneliness, psychological issues etc. But I am very grateful for all lessons, new people and challenges which I faced during my time in Germany. I think I have grown a lot, but it was not easy for sure. As a student, I learned a lot of new techniques, how to work independently in the laboratory, be responsible and think critically. My advice: don't be afraid of challenges, but prepare for them. This is the best way to grow and learn about yourself.