Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: Syddansk Universitet
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Autumn semester 2021/2022
Name: Marlene Rietz
Email address:


Why to go abroad when studying abroad already

It takes a certain adventurism to move to Stockholm from abroad in order to study at Karolinska Institutet. Like many of my classmates, I had always been fond of travelling, and moving away from Germany before I came here. However, in my two years here in Sweden, I had become quite comfortable with my life in Stockholm. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it felt like everyone learned to appreciate their cozy, familiar apartments more then usual. When applications for an exchange semester started opening up, I was suddenly really unsure whether I should apply or rather stay in my comfort zone including my boyfriend, friends, and the student union Medicinska Föreningen. 

The Decision to go to Denmark

My final decision to apply for an exchanged was not based on the countries of choice. I decided to apply for an exchange, because I knew that this would enable me to write my bachelor's thesis at a research unit which I had been following for quite some time. For me, the research that my prospective supervisor at the University of Southern Denmark was doing convinced me to study abroad. Next to that, Denmark, a neighbouring country both to Sweden and my home country Germany seemed like it would both be a bit familiar but would also introduce me to new foods, habits, and a second nordic language. My university of choice was a bit surprising for most of my classmates. At Karolinska Institutet, most people were reporting about exchanges to Copenhagen, and I never met anyone who studied in Odense, the city which I was about to move to. However, information on Erasmus+ and all required steps was very detailed and helpful.  

One problem that arose before the exchange was that my supervisor was working for the Faculty of Health Science, but Karolinska Institutet only had an active exchange agreement with the Faculty of Science. After a bit of a scare, the international coordinators and I were able to work out that I could do the exchange as a Erasmus+ traineeship there instead, and everything was prepared for my departure. Since Denmark is so similar to Sweden, I was not required to get any special vaccinations. However, I had to take a quick COVID-19 test before entering the country. 

Arrival and registration

From 0 to 100 - On the train, and off we go. 

In the end of January, I finished my last course at Karolinska Institutet. Then, students who were going on an exchange were expected to get ready to leave, since we had to start the research for our thesis on the following Monday. For me, this was quite easy, since going to Odense only required taking two separate trains, and I had booked my train tickets in October already. I would highly recommend doing the same, since price differences between tickets booked in October or two weeks before departure can be up to 800 SEK (SJ + DSB, 

When I got to the University of Southern Denmark, the only one waiting for me was my supervisor and his group. All administrative efforts were handled by the secretary of the department. I never heard anything from the international staff or Erasmus+ responsible international coordinator from the host university. Since most other exchange students arrived in the beginning of February, there was no introduction for me, and I did not get invited to these courses after I arrived. This was a bit of a bummer. I did not get a mentor at the University of Southern Denmark, but one of my colleagues that I shared an office with was always there for me when I had questions. She really was the best, and I can imagine I'll stay in contact with her even after the exchange. Thank you, Anne. 

At the university, there was something called the ESN (Erasmus Student Network). A group of Danish students that liked to organise events for exchange students. Activities that were offered were welcome parties, walks through Odense, and other fun things. To find their events, I highly recommend liking their Facebook page ( Other fun ways to talk to other exchange students were Facebook groups such as "SDU Odense 2022 - International & Erasmus Students in Odense". 


Scandinavia - Awesome but expensive
Having gotten used to Swedish prices, I would say that I knew what to expect before I moved to Denmark. In Sweden, I did not buy a lot of things, and most of my money during a month was spent on food, accommodation, and maybe second hand sports equipment or clothing. With the Erasmus+ Traineeship grant which sums up to approximately 610€ per month, I knew that most of my expenses would be covered during the exchange. The Danish and Swedish Krona are quite similar in the exchange rate, however with 10 Danish krona being around 14.4 Swedish Krona, it is easy to underestimate Danish prices when thinking in Swedish currency. Therefore, I can recommend always having a currency converter app on your phone, because it takes a while to get used to the difference. 

When arriving to Denmark, I first realised one upsetting thing: My coffee addiction would likely either make go broke, or cause me headaches. A cup of Cappucino costs around 50 SEK on average, sometimes more. Luckily, my research group offered free coffee. I would say that most of my spendings went towards rent, groceries, renting a bike (, and buying occasional meals or bus tickets. Groceries in Denmark are a tiny bit more expensive than in Stockholm. For lunches, meal prepping was the cheapest option, but the cafeteria at the university also offered a cheap salad buffet every day. Instead of buying a bike (because you NEED it in Odense), I recommend renting one with Swapfiets. A seven-gear bike including repair service only costs around 180 SEK per month. For train and bus tickets, I used the Fynbus app and the DSB app. For trips to Copenhagen, one should buy tickets as early as possible. Buying the ticket around two weeks in advance compared with one day in advance can sometimes make a difference up to 400 SEK. 

Other than these expenses, and possibly the occasional shopping trip, you do not need to calculate in large sums of money for the student union, vaccinations, or visas. 

You can recognise Swapfiets bikes by the blue tire.

- It doesn't get easier to find accommodation. By just sending a quick email to this address, I had a room within a day. Once you email them, they send you a form to fill out, incl. gender, age, length of stay, budget etc. Then, they check if there is a matching accommodation available, and you hear back from them rather quickly. All this is organized by the University of Southern Denmark, so no need to worry about scams or anything like that. My biggest advice to you if you're studying at SDU: Message them now. 

In my impression, accommodation in Denmark is a bit more expensive than in Stockholm. However, I just rented a room and not an apartment, so I was able to keep my costs in Odense to about the same as in Sweden. In general, housing standards are nice, and everything felt very Scandinavian. I ended up living in Folkebo, 2km south of the city center, and SDU was only a 10 min bike ride away. I lived right next to a bus stop, so it was easy to get to the train station, but I mostly biked. There was three grocery stores within walking distance, and a cute little bakery was right across the street from my house. My accommodation was a big room with four large windows in the house of an older woman. She had made it a habit renting out her children's old room to exchange student, and proudly informed me that I was her 12th tenant. The housing was very basic, and the kitchen was quite small, but I was quite happy to save some money rather than living in a fancier place. I can recommend not focusing on the accommodation too much, because spending money on travelling around and exploring new cities is so much better. 

Studies in general

The Unit for Exercise Epidemiology
Let me start this paragraph by mentioning how glad I am that my exchange brought me to this amazing research group! Like in Sweden, there was little hierarchy, and everyone interacted with each other like a friend rather than a colleague or supervisor. That way, everyone had a say in discussions, and the research environment was quite inspiring. As an exchange student, this was especially helpful since I felt that I had five supervisors rather than one. On my first day, I got an office, an access card, and access to all data, and I felt like part of the team right away. At lunch, the whole research group would sit together everyday to eat, chat, and have a coffee. That was my favorite part of the day.

Since I did not participate in actual courses but only researched the whole time, it is a bit hard to compare SDU to KI. However, I would say that at SDU, researchers were a bit more relaxed than at KI. Additionally, my research group had an additional focus on some topics related to computer science, bioinformatics, and biomechanics, as SDU is not just a medical university. I especially chose SDU for their special focus on sport science. At KI, there is only few groups investigating the effect of exercise on human physiology. 
The campus looked really nice during spring.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI
Bachelor Thesis in Medical Science (Biomedicine)
Rather than a course, this more felt like the first opportunity to freely research, analyse, and think. It is nice that we are able to write our thesis based on 30 ECTS of research, rather than 15 ECTS like some other universities. I believe that this way, students can really find out if they like academia, or if they would rather work in the life science industry. The only form of teaching available were your supervisors and colleagues, and the only information provided by KI was a handbook on how to write and defend your thesis. While this was nice in a way, I think many students had imagined a bit more support. If you had a bad supervisor, you had to face many challenges on your way to graduation. This is why I am so glad that I ended up in amazing research environment. 

Our work was examined by submitting our written bachelor's thesis, and by defending it in front of half of our class. Researchers at KI who work with a similar topic were assigned as examinators, and one student acted as peer reviewer. Questions asked were most often very fair and encouraged some discussions. 

During this course, I learned to research independently, to write code which automatically analyses data for more than 24h, and to always ask questions when interpreting results. I also learned that statistically significant results are not a necessity, and that insignificant conclusions can still have important implications. Most of all, I would say that I learned most from my colleagues: How I want my career to look like, and how to get there. 

R Coding Extreme

Language and Culture

Before I went to Denmark, I was told horror stories about the Danish language by my Swedish friends. Some even told me that Danish would sound like Swedish with a potato in your throat. However, I was sure it would be fine since I knew Swedish and German. And this was true! When I talked slow Swedish with my German accent, I was able to be a part of Danish conversations. With time, I could understand almost everything people talked about at the lunch table. For important discussions or when I couldn't understand something, my colleagues switched to English. My favorite language-related memory from Denmark was when in May a colleague mentioned that I was fluent in Danish, which was absolutely not true, but felt very nice! He said that since I understand them and they understand me, that meant I am fluent. 

Leisure time and social activities

The ERASMUS+ student network arranged several social activities. This included walks, parties, and hikes.  If you'd like to get in contact with other students, this would be a great option. Since the BSc. Thesis does not include courses, one sometimes has to get creative to meet other students. On one day per week, I went to the SDU running club. The university of Southern Denmark has amazing sports facilities, including a running track, swimming pool, and several gyms. I love sports, so I was very happy SDU Sports offered activities like running, gymnastics, fotball, and more (FB Page). Next to that, I played Floorball in a local woman's team once a week (Odense Floorball). While Swedish Innebandy felt a bit faster than Danish Floorball, it was still very fun.

During the weekends, I often biked to the city center. Odense is a very cozy, small city, but there is loads of cafes, restaurants, and shopping opportunities. Next to the old town, there is a big shopping mall that you can go to if you are searching for something specific. Since I love the beach, I sometimes went to Nyborg and Kerteminde to take a walk at the sea. Kerteminde is an amazing destination if you ever get any visitors, and there is a lovely fish restaurant right at the water. Next to that, Vaffelhuset, an ice cream shop is famous on the entire island of Fyn. To Nyborg, you can get with a 15 min train ride, and Kerteminde is a 30 min bus ride away. In addition to trips to the beach, I also went on some trips to Copenhagen, the capital which is only 1h 30min away. No matter how often you go there, you'll always discover new places. My favorite things to do there was second hand shopping and finding great food. I can highly recommend watching the food documentary "Somebody Feed Phil" on Copenhagen, before visiting. 
Happy Marlene in Copenhagen.


In conclusion, I am more than happy that I went on this exchange. My goal to work in academia has grown immensely after this experience, and I will always value my Danish colleagues. While I sometimes struggled with being away from Stockholm, I have discovered new opportunities and role models in Odense.