Exchange report - incoming students
Sandfly Bay, Otago Peninsula
Home university: University of Latvia
Study programme: Medicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Autumn semester 2014/2015
Email address:

Arrival and registration

Moving to another foreign country, there'll always be some last minute doubts, expecting the worst, even in Stockholm.  These fears were laid to rest almost instantly with multiple, smiley "hej hej"s when I arrived.  You can't help but be taken in by it.  

A Swedish KI student met me at City Terminalen arranged via the "pick-up service".  She handled everything.  I just followed, dumbstruck.  The culture shock was setting, but I didn't care, I was too busy already falling in love with the city.

When it comes to first impressions and to the introduction day, two things are distinct.  This new, weird but cooling looking building we're in; and the fika.  Swedes are meant to be humble, but there was a sense of pride in the air as we were welcomed.  For their iconic and landmark Aula Medica; and possibly their strongest tradition. 

Between all the entertainment of lectures and coffee with kanelbullar, there was also some of more mundane to deal with.  Registering for the library and doing the health check.  We were local now, orderly queuing was the norm.  We broke the social convention and maintained conversation throughout.  Maybe that's because we were being bribed with more freebies by the coordinators, a KI bag, for the ambassadors we now are.  Proudly worn.

We were being spoilt and we loved it.  For two whole days.  Global Friends and Medicinska Föreningen were on hand to keep us reeled in.  Games, afternoon drinks, bbq.  They really do know how to keep their students happy. 


Would you believe I nearly messed my accommodation up? Every thing I read about living in Stockholm clearly said that accommodation was a rare commodity, if you're offered something, you take it. Not me. I was away on holiday when I received the confirmation e-mail. I missed to deadline to accept. Panic.

Fortunately, the administrators at KI are also student friendly. Without asking or hesitation, the offer was extended and I graciously accepted. Whether your priorities are cost or comfort, the standards are universal. Every thing an exchange student could want or need, with an Ikea never far away for the bonus, luxury items.

Generally for exchange students, the social aspect of the accommodation is what we really remember and appreciate. This usually takes the form of a cosy little dinner in a kitchen but sometimes evolves to a slightly larger party. As long as limits are respected (and complaints avoided), it's a rare to find an unsatisfied resident.

Leisure time and social activities

One novelty I benefited from was an all-inclusive boat trip around the archipelago.  48 hours with the same people, with no escape.  Like an alternative team building exercise.  A brilliant idea, fun and relaxed, and a chance to meet the whole group. 

Since the beginning, I've been deeply immersed and involved with my Swedish counterparts.  Being in a course where I was mixed with home students, the social dynamics quickly changed to suit one of an international basis.  Us eager to learn with relentless questions, and them engaged, almost protective of us, there were no barriers.  Everyone was united, together, one class.

It never ceased to amaze me how welcoming they were; genuinely nice people. And this wasn't a façade during the school hours, but was constant, all day, every day. Students for example inviting us to their homes like we'd known them for years.  Friends for life were made in a moment.

I think I have been incredibly lucky this semester.  Everyone I've met, I've got along with.  All the exchange students I lived with, the other exchange students on my course, and all our Swedish classmates.  I don't know if that's due to us all having the same open and friendly personality as exchange students, or just the integrating nature of Stockholm.  Either way, I've enjoyed every minute.

Pingviner och får, Otago Peninsula


My story is not your typical one.  Of Sri Lankan Tamil origin, I am British born and raised, but live and study in Riga, Latvia.  At my home university, I am within a small, international, program consisting of only ten students. 

However, being of different backgrounds, with different motivations and ambitions, I found I was actually more similar to the incoming Erasmus medicine students.   And this is where the seed for my exchange was planted.  I wanted something more, different, better maybe.  I just needed a change. 

So what were my options? A list of schools around Europe. The one that stood out, KI, world famous, home of the noble prize. Who wouldn't want to come here?  I applied, and to KI only.  My coordinator said to choose some others, just in case.  I refused, it was KI or nothing.  Same dilemma when it came to courses, I had my mind set on Surgery. 

In fact I was so excited that I actually completed one part of the process significantly prematurely, much to my coordinator's concern.  The coordinators here though calmed us down and just handled everything with ease.  Then came the waiting game. 

Courses during the exchange period

D8XX01 : Clinical Medicine - Surgery
Clinical Medicine - Surgery, in a word, is awesome. For so many reasons, I almost can't remember them, but it will be a course I'll never forget. It begins from the top and spreads contagiously through each and every one. From a clinical director with limitless enthusiasm; to secretaries with experience of every possible technicality and how to handle it; to doctors who can say they've been there and done that. The syllabus itself is unbelievable. I came here as a student aiming for surgery, but with no real exposure to it. Now I am absolutely convinced. All the main specialities covered in detail, with ample time in theatre, scrubbed in and assisting. Hands on and mind blown. All my expectations were exceeded. Some of the best rotations where those where we were treated as doctors and given responsibility for the patients. Its times like this when students can start to match theory from the text books, to every day practice. A gentle introduction to real, working, life, instead of the feeling of just dropping of a cliff. Perks like this don't come for free. The course is demanding and the students expected to perform. The exams at the end pushed and challenged us all. And that's not a bad thing. We walked away better because of it. The more experience we get now, the better we'll be later.


And here I am, one semester later, having just finished the course.  Only positive memories.  The place.  The people.  The course.  Everything.  Just an incredible experience :)

Language and Culture

"Jag inte talar Svenska."  I did take the language course, learning it fluently wasn't on my list of things to do at the time.  Maybe the course could've been more structure, maybe I could've been less lazy.  I knew enough to survive and most importantly to enjoy the culture, like "fika" and all forms of yes, including that "ooooffff" sound while breathing in. 

I don't regret it.  I have some classmates I am indebted to though for their translating. 

Studies in general

Studying here was humbling. Up until now, my education has been strictly traditional and conservative, with a very hierarchical structure. None of these words are close to appropriate to describe my time at KI. The opportunities I had, and things I've seen and done, I probably would have only dreamed of previously.

The focus is more on the clinical, practical aspects, achieved by working in a safe, controlled environment.  Its ideal, everything is interactive.  Situations which promotes developing the relevant skills and cements understanding.  Students learn from each other, and from their supervisors, ensuring reciprocal benefit. 

I could go as so far to say that this is my perfect training ground.  Top quality facilities, the best doctors, and a supportive student community.  Where competition and personal success is second to a collaborative performance.  Where everyone is talented, and there is no lack of motivation as the passions for medicine still burns.  Okay, fine, I admit it; I'm a geek and get excited by this.