Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: Imperial College School of Science, Technology and Medicine
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Autumn semester 2021/2022


Change is the only constant; whilst Karolinska Institutet offers quality education and experiences, the opportunity to study in abroad is always exciting. Having been living and studying in Stockholm provided a comfortable experience, thus the chance to live in a new city, as exciting as London is not an opportunity one should miss. Although both are metropolitan cities, the vibe and pace of the cities are completely different and both need to be experienced as a student. In addition, apart from the attraction London as a city offers, the prestige of the partner university also aids and further lures one in. Imperial College London is not only ranked in the top 10 universities in the world, but is also located in Zone 1 in central London. I decided to go on an exchange to London for two main reasons. Firstly, to engage in British culture which I have been fancying for the longest time; the high-tea culture, the partying scene, even the British accent. Secondly, I lived at home in Stockholm, so I wanted to experience how it feels to live alone. I wasn't sure if it was something I wanted to do for my Master's, therefore, the exchange opportunity allowed me to get a taste of how it would feel in a short 5/6 month duration of time. Furthermore, the process of applying for an exchange semester was explained so well during multiple webinars and seminars, that the ease further motivated me to take on this journey. In addition, multiple labs as well as the exchange coordinator at Imperial were very welcoming and used to respond to emails in a very time efficient manner. Ergo, making me feel safe and invited even before I went to their university in London. 

Arrival and registration

I arrived in London a week prior to my start date at the university, to acclimatise myself to the city and settle in my accommodation. As such no introductory course was offered by Imperial College London since I went there for the Thesis Degree Project, which is mainly lab work only. However, the first week was induction week, whereby I received all the safety training and shadowed a post doc to familiarise myself with the setting of the lab and equipment. In the first week itself I had a meeting with my PI and discussed my project plan in greater detail, in an attempt to chart out the logistics and plan what my contribution to their ongoing research would be. Having said that, the first two weeks were slow as I was mainly doing background research on my topic of research at the lab, and had not started on any experiments as such. Whilst this made me feel panicked initially, taking it slow during the few weeks allowed me to get to know other members of the lab and get an understanding of how the lab functioned on a day to day basis prior to my arrival, thus allowing me to understand how to mould myself to assimilate into their working culture. 


Oh boy, London is expensive. Dare I say more expensive than Stockholm? The cost of living never really hit me in Stockholm since I live at home with my family, however London can pinch a little. The largest cost would be accommodation, train tickets and food, in that respective order.  A pro-tip is can be to use busses instead of the trains since they are cheaper, but with the added downfall that they do take much longer than the tubes. In addition, investing in a 3 month train pass will turn out to be cheaper in the longer run (something I did not realise till very late), so buying one as early as possible will only benefit. Since the semester is for less than 6 months, EU citizens in 2021/2022 did not need any extra visa, however this may vary based on one's citizenship. For day to day expenditure, I bought myself a debit card called Revolut - you can order a physical card or also add it on apple pay. In this, you may transfer a sum of money one time (for example SEK to GBP) and pay a nominal transaction fee only one. At the end of the stay, if some money in GBP is left behind, one can easily transfer it back to their original bank account. Furthermore, getting a Tesco Club Card will bring many chances to save on money - with the Club Card, a meal deal at Tesco (sandwich/ salad/ wrap etc + a small snack + a beverage) will cost only 3 pounds, which is about 36 sek - a very nominal price for a meal from both UK and Sweden standards. 


Since the exchange semester was shorter than a year, Imperial did not offer any university accommodation and neither does it help the student look elsewhere for the same; so the brunt to find affordable and safe accommodation was on me. Many students choose for renting a room in a shared apartment, however I chose to stay in a student accommodation. After lots of research, I found LHA London, a student accommodation in Zone 1 in London near Southwark/ Waterloo. Very well connected to Imperial College London South Kensington Campus, and also to the rest of the city. Here, twin rooms are offered for approximately 145 GBP per week, in which two people share one room and an attached bathroom. Alternatively, I stayed in a single room with a private ensuite bathroom and paid 210 GBP per week. The kitchen is shared amongst 5-6 students. This accommodation offers the ability to interact with other university students as well. It is guarded 24x7 and is a gated complex. Personally, I haven't found or heard of any other student accommodation in this range with such facilities, so it definitely felt like a great deal. However, obviously if your budget is higher, places like Chapters London, and Urbanest are options worth giving a short. These are more modern, but they do book out very much in advance, so it would be difficult to secure a spot in these at the last minute. 

Studies in general

Overall, I did not have any working lab experience in Karolinska apart from the lab work during our courses. Thus, for me working in a lab full time throughout the exchange semester was a very new experience for me. I went to my lab every day around 8 am and left around 4 pm, and I used to take an hour long lunch break around noon. Coffee was always available in the office section of the lab and often I took some biscuits or small snacks to munch as I used to wait during incubation periods during my experiments, while researching or while working on my thesis report. My PI and all the members of the lab were very friendly and made me feel comfortable enough in that I did not feel shy or hesitate to ask them any queries I had. 

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI
This is not applicable.

No courses were offered at Imperial College London since I only went there for the Thesis Degree Project and was thus limited to the labs. As mentioned before, I was simply at Imperial to complete the experimental section of the degree project as a part of the KI course 'Degree Project in Biomedicine' for 30 ECTS. Whilst I was not graded formally by my supervisors whilst I was at Imperial, they assed my laboratory skills and overall method of working as a supplemental assessment sent to KI as a part of the overall grade of the degree project. In addition, they also read my Thesis written report and provided the feedback necessary. The formal assessment of the degree project took place after my exchange period once I was back at KI, and I defended my thesis in a presentation in front of my classmates and teachers in conjunction with the submission of the written report. 

Language and Culture

London's language and culture are not difficult to adapt to, English being my mother tongue made me feel more comfortable in communicating to professors, students, shopkeepers etc. Culturally, the city is more active, fast paced and rapid than Stockholm; something which I was very fond of. There is never a dull moment in London, there is always a new restaurant to try, a party to attend or simply a city to explore. Not to sound too dramatic, but it feels almost like the city engulfs you as soon as you arrive, you never feel alone in London even if you're walking down the street alone. It is always easy to find someone like-minded and compatible, thus the process of making friends is easy and one i truly encourage. Having a group of "go-to" friends in London for activities ranging from buying groceries, to partying will help transform the exchange semester from just a period of 6 months to a wholesome experience. 

Leisure time and social activities

Since I went as an Erasmus student, multiple times a week, fun activities were arranged for us exchange students. Many of them included small trips to towns near London, potluck multicultural dinners, bar-hopping and clubbing. Since I am not too interested or excited by sports, I did not delve into that area too much, but often times I used to see my friends play football in their free time. One can also join some clubs at Imperial - there is a club for everyone, ranging from Mandarin club, Bollywood dance club, swimming club etc. My personal favourite trip/ adventure was to Bicester Village, which is located around 1.5 hours away from central London. One can take the direct Chiltern railway train which departs every 30 minutes from London and takes you towards Oxford, Bicester being en-route to Oxford. Bicester village is a shopping outlet, where the outlet stores of luxury brands are found. In addition, there are very exciting restaurants in the village. Personally, my excursion to Bicester turned out to be a very expensive trip in terms of shopping, however, it was fun to spoil yourself once in a while on luxury goods. if shopping is something you enjoy, it is a must visit and not to be missed. 


All in all, the exchange semester abroad is an opportunity everyone should experience at least once in their life time. Not only does it provide the chance to see another part of the world and learn new cultures and traditions, but also because it helps build new connections. Today, having done my Thesis Project from Imperial College London not only looks good on my CV for future prospects, but also is a stepping stone in my career. This semester has shown me that I am not limited to Stockholm in looking for work in the future after my studies, rather there are so many opportunities and chances that are available out there for everyone. Personally, it helped me understand that living alone is a freedom, which of course comes with its responsibilities one has to endure. But, in the end, I feel like I have emerged as a more mature and well rounded individual, and I would love to have the opportunity to experience it all over again.