Exchange report - incoming students
Home university: University of Minnesota
Study programme: Medicine
Exchange programme: INK
Semester: Spring semester 2012/2013
Name: Zachary Beatty
Email address:

Arrival and registration

My arrival was a little bit hectic. My housing was changed shortly before my arrival and the new housing did not have a weekend key pick-up option, and my plane ticket was already bought, so I had to spend the first night in a hotel. Then, since I was awaiting my student ID to buy a metro pass, I hiked over to KI and there was tons of construction and the maps I was given had North not pointing to the top of the page. Needless to say I was late, missed the MRSA screen, had to take a bus 45 minutes to Huddinge to get this done, and missed my first half day of clinic. So I guess my point would be to be a little bit more prepared than I was.


I applied for housing through UAC. I stayed in the studio apartments at Olof af Acrels Vag. My initial impression of the housing was that it was a good value for a big city. And if I had to do it again I might stay there again. I did feel a little bit isolated though and perhaps a dormitory style apartment with communal kitchens and the like would have led me to meet more people. Also my building was surrounded on 3 sides by construction and there were significant renovations within the building as well (the apartment across the hall), but this probably won’t be a problem for tenants by the time this would be read by anyone. But I couldn’t have been any closer to the KI hospital.

Leisure time and social activities

I did not participate in any of the Global Friends events. I was only there for a month and none of the activities during that time really interested me greatly. Karaoke night happened right before I arrived, which I would have definitely gone to… Anyways I was more interested in getting a sense of Swedes and Sweden and wasn’t sure I would necessarily get that at a Global Friends event. I hung out mostly with a couple of other US medical students rotating at KI and thankfully our supervising resident (Swedish) took pity on us and took us out a couple times and showed us the hot-spots in Stockholm. I also knew a Karolinska student who had rotated at my home university and had matched into residency there so we met up as well. On 2 of my weekends I travelled. Once a loop to Copenhagen and Gothenburg and another time to the Swedish countryside (Mora) and rented a bicycle. Although I did meet people on these trips, I travelled by myself, which most people probably aren’t in to. I was a little disappointed in a lack of contact with Swedish medical students rotating in my department, as I had envisioned them being my primary social network. They had their own clinic however as I shadowed different doctors in their clinics so there was essentially no overlap.


I chose to go on an exchange because I didn’t do a semester abroad during college and I really regretted it. I chose KI because first and foremost because there was an exchange between my home university and my flight and housing would be covered. There is a strong Scandinavian heritage in Minnesota, and I’m a pretty serious cross-country skier so I have a strong affinity for Scandinavian culture as well.

As for information provided I felt a little bit misled about the amount of English that would be spoken. Maybe it was just wishful thinking, but I kind of pictured the situation to be more like in Ireland, where people speak the Gaelic language on the side just kind of for fun, but important stuff still happens in English. This was definitely not the case in Sweden. I’m not sure which side it came from, my home university or KI, but I definitely got the impression that there would be more English than there was.

As for the application process, it went pretty smooth and was a pretty easy process actually. I didn’t need any new vaccinations or anything else special that I can remember.

Courses during the exchange period

ELA001 : Dermatology and Venereology 1
I did the clinical rotation in dermatology. Given the language barrier, I thought the course did a pretty good job of compensating. For one, dermatology itself is a very visual and procedure oriented field, so often a full patient history wasn’t necessary to get the salient learning points. We were required to keep a “Patient Log” which actually kept me a lot more engaged than I otherwise would have been shadowing a doctor speaking in Swedish to a patient. We were also required to do 3 case reports with literature reviews throughout the course, which I also felt was valuable. Without these two tasks I think I would have felt a lot more discouraged and likely would have just zoned out the majority of the rotation.


Overall, I would still recommend the experience. While it probably didn’t further my medical knowledge as much as a course at home would have, I didn’t expect it to. I certainly will remember it more than whatever other easy 4 week elective at home I would have taken in its place. I learned about a different healthcare system, got to know and spend time in an absolutely beautiful city, met a lot of friendly (if not particularly outgoing) people, and learned some dermatology as well. It was a good experience.

Language and Culture

I did some self-study audio courses, a little before my arrival and some after I got to Stockholm. I have to make a plug for the “Pimsleur” language program. It’s an all-audio course that I’ve used for other languages as well. It’s fabulous for practical stuff and I would highly recommend it. Being able to confidently say hello, goodbye, how are you, I speak a little Swedish, I’m from Minnesota, and count to 100 are all very useful and the patients will love you for it. Yes they speak English in Sweden, but they don’t choose to, and patient encounters WILL NOT be in English even if the patient speaks English.

Studies in general

First and foremost there is an obvious language barrier. Yes, most people speak English, and the doctors will all be completely fluent, but patient encounters are not in English, even if the patient is fluent as well. They don’t want there to be any miscommunications, which I understand, but it was pretty frustrating when a patient would make their introduction in perfect English, start giving some history in English, and the attending physician would switch the conversation to Swedish. I totally understand, it was just frustrating.


In general however, the learning environment on my clinical rotation was not all that different than it would have been on a shadowing-heavy US rotation. The attendings for the most part were very helpful briefing and debriefing me after patient encounters and allowed a surprising amount of participation on procedures. The patients were also generally very gregarious. I can’t really imagine a US patient allowing a non-English speaking student without a name-tag to take a scalpel to any part of their body.