Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Autumn semester 2021/2022
Name: Sara Peltola
Email address:


For a while I have been considering a career in the pharmaceutical industry after I graduate. I feel like Germany would provide good job opportunities for me since numerous pharmaceutical companies are based there. Therefore, the main reason for my exchange in Germany was to gain an experience of living there to see if it is a country where I could see myself working in the future. I also saw the exchange as an opportunity to start building my network there.

After upper secondary school I wanted to study abroad. I was initially considering the University of Heidelberg for my undergraduate studies but because of the absence of bachelor’s programmes taught in English (and my extremely limited German skills) I gave up that option and ended up in Sweden instead. Therefore, I was very excited that I still had the chance to experience the student life in Heidelberg.

The application process to the University of Heidelberg was very confusing. The semester dates differ a lot to the semester dates at KI which caused some inconvenience. My exchange period followed the dates of the KI spring semester 2022. Upon my arrival to Heidelberg, it was the end of their winter semester and I finished my exchange during their summer semester. It is good to note that if you go on exchange during your degree project in the KI spring semester you should be nominated for both the winter and summer semesters at the University of Heidelberg. Most of the information I received from the University of Heidelberg during the application process was targeted for people following the semester dates at the University Heidelberg and therefore not applicable to my case. Therefore, from time to time I felt very lost with the application. However, most of the time it was possible to reach the Erasmus coordinators for questions and everything worked out in the end.

Specific vaccinations or certificates were not required for the exchange. However, due to the COVID19-pandemic having all your COVID-vaccinations made your life definitely easier during the exchange.

Arrival and registration

I was working on my bachelor’s thesis project during my whole exchange period and arrived in Heidelberg two days before the start of my thesis work at the lab. I would have wanted to arrive slightly earlier to explore the city before starting the lab work but that was not possible due to the previous course I had at KI.

All the introductory events for Erasmus students are arranged only in the beginning of the semesters and as I arrived at the end of the winter semester, I was unable to attend any of them. Still, I feel like I received all the necessary information regarding the bureaucratic things that had to be done after arrival via email. The university offered a buddy programme where one student at the university was assigned as your buddy and helped you with questions and concerns. The programme would have also started in the beginning of the winter semester and thus I did not participate in it.

View of the city from the castle.


Living costs in Heidelberg are notably lower compared to Stockholm so I was able to spend more money on things like eating out and traveling. It is good to note that all Erasmus students are obligated to pay a semester fee of 103 € per semester. As I was nominated for both the winter and summer semesters I paid 206 € in total.

If you want to save money on groceries I would recommend Lidl and Aldi as they are the cheapest grocery store chains. The food at the Mensa (canteen of the university) was not extremely cheap so bringing your own lunch was often cheaper than eating at the Mensa.

Hochschulsport provides a large variety of different sport courses for students which are very affordable. The courses available for the current semester can be seen on their website (only in German). It is good to note that most of the courses are extremely popular and are usually fully booked within a few minutes after the booking is opened. 

When it comes to transportation, I would recommend getting a bike if possible since it is the most convenient (and probably the cheapest) way of getting around. Student cards (which every student receives) can be used as a ticket in the public transportation during weekends as well as after 7 pm on weekdays so getting a separate ticket for public transportation might not be necessary.


As all the student apartments were only rented for the duration of one whole semester I was not able to get student accommodation. Fortunately, I received a lot of useful links for apartment hunting from the secretary of the lab I was conducting my thesis at. 

Gästezimmer-Zentrale Heidelberg – a private intermediary agency 

I found the place where I lived through this agency. The process of getting an apartment was very quick and easy. I ended up sharing an apartment with an elderly German woman. I had my own room, but I shared the kitchen and bathroom. I did not find this type of accommodation ideal as I was seen more as a guest rather than a tenant. Unfortunately, my landlady and I had very different personalities and did not get along the best way. Also, my landlady had a lot of rather odd rules. For instance, I was not allowed to invite any of my friends there. On the good side, the apartment was only 5 minutes away by bike from the Neuenheim campus of the university where my lab was located. 

Guesthouse of the University of Heidelberg. The rents are notably higher compared to other options. 

Sites for finding a VG (shared apartments, popular amongst students). I would recommend this option since you would have a good chance of making friends with your flatmates. 

The living standards in Germany are very similar compared to Sweden. When it comes to the rents, they are generally lower than in Stockholm. I paid 450 € per month (including everything) which was on the more expensive site.

Studies in general

I did not take any courses from the University of Heidelberg during my exchange, so I only have experience from the research group I was working at. The laboratory equipment was on the same level as it is at KI. The groups seemed to be less international compared to the research groups at KI and communication between the group members was more formal compared to what I have been used to in Sweden. At least in the group where I was working everyone was supposed to refer to other people using their titles and surnames rather than first names. I heard that this is also very group-dependent and apparently people in most research groups are not acting this formally all the time.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI

I took the Degree Project course offered as part of my study programme at KI and performed the research for my thesis at the University of Heidelberg. I did not take any additional courses at the university of Heidelberg. As my thesis project was graded at KI I did not have to worry about credit transfer.

I was very satisfied by the supervision I received. I was lucky to have two supervisors that were both very helpful and encouraging. What I appreciated the most was that I was given the chance to plan my project and experiments rather independently with the help of my supervisors which made me learn a lot and gave me a better understanding of the project and the methods used.

Language and Culture

In the lab I was able to communicate in English. Overall, it was rather easy to cope with my everyday life using English. However, knowing German would definitely have made it easier and it also would have increased the feeling of being included. I would have wanted to participate in a German language course during my exchange but unfortunately there weren’t any suitable options for me. Most of the German language courses were also organized per semester which made me unable to attend them. I was offered an intense German course online lasting for a few weeks. The lessons were organized during daytime within the office hours so unfortunately, I was unable to attend this course as well as it would have compromised my lab work.

This was not my first time in Germany, so I knew more or less what to expect when it comes to the cultural differences. Nevertheless, the most shocking difference I faced was the way that people give feedback and comments. Germans are very straightforward and honest which can seem rude or offensive if you are not used to that.

Leisure time and social activities

The Erasmus student network Heidelberg was organizing a lot of different events from hiking to parties at the end of my exchange period once the COVID-regulations went down. All their events were posted on their Facebook group: 

In their events it was very easy to meet new people from all over Europe. However, the closest friends that I made I met through the research group I was conducting my thesis at. The group was rather big and there were fairly many other students.

Heidelberg is a small city full of students so there are always a lot of different events going on. There is a very large variety of different bars but only a few clubs. For clubbing it is better to go to Mannheim which is a bigger city close to Heidelberg. Nevertheless, it seemed like house parties were more popular compared to clubbing. During the summertime many students gather by the Neckar River to hang out, play games and drink with their friends which was very nice.

I am not the biggest hiking person but I still went on many nice day hikes around Heidelberg. Many people were using an app called Komoot which recommends different hiking routes near you. My favorites were Strahlenbourg Loop hike and a hike to Königstuhl.

As I mentioned before, Hochschulsport organizes a lot of different sport courses. I got access to their gym during the lecture free period in March. The gym was small but well-equipped. Moreover, the people there were very friendly and it was easy to make friends there which I haven’t experienced at the gyms in Sweden.

A view from Strahlenbourg Loop hike.


All in all, the exchange period was better than I expected. Even though the application part was a mess and my living situation was not ideal I feel like I would not change anything. I experienced a lot of new things and situations which made me grow a lot both personally and academically. I met many amazing people and gained a few very close friendships that I am extremely grateful for.

Heidelberg is a very beautiful city and probably one of the best parts of Germany. I definitely want to go back sometime and possibly work there in the future. I feel like I got everything that I was looking for from the exchange. The whole experience will be valuable for my future career and I feel I have made a lot of valuable contacts. I would definitely recommend Heidelberg as an exchange destination for all other KI students!

Heidelberg Palace