Exchange report - incoming students
Home university: National University of Singapore
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: INK
Semester: Autumn semester 2014/2015
Name: Yanhui Li
Email address: sapphire_bubbles93@hotmail.com

Arrival and registration

I felt very welcomed on the first day I touched down in Stockholm, as there was a special pick-up service for exchange students. A student ambassador picked me up from the Central station (T-Centralen) and brought me to the hostel I was staying in. She was really helpful and even gave me a brief overview of the map close to my area and told me the best routes to travel to school. 
Introduction day was also very well-planned and each of us received an individualized welcome pack with essential information and a book of discount coupons to many museums and fun things to do in Stockholm. The talks on introduction day also gave a good overview of the school and what we could expect in the semester.

Acommendation

I applied to Pax and Strix which were closest to the school immediately after I got my letter of acceptance from KI, but it was still too late as many people already had secured accommodation in those hostels. I was then allocated to Jagargatan 20 which is 45 minutes away from the school. I would advise future exchange students to create an account on the KI housing website immediately after you have been nominated by your home university for the exchange and apply for housing. You will be more likely to get the accommodation of your choice then, as the letter of acceptance comes rather late in June.

The housing cost is a tad expensive for student housing, but considering the fact that housing in Stockholm is expensive on the whole, I guess it can't be helped. My room had a small wash basin and a cabinet and was about 3m by 3m, which is one of the smallest rooms available under KI housing. The rooms in Pax and Strix are significantly larger but the rent is only slightly more expensive than mine, so I feel the rent for Jagargatan 20 can actually be lowered to be fairer.

Leisure time and social activities

There is an organization called Global Friends that organizes social gatherings for foreign students, and even provides a Swedish buddy service. Medicinska Foreningen (MF), the student union, also publicizes their activities well, including regular friday bars where students get discounted beer. Also, the international committee of MF organizes events for international and exchange students, and they have a booth in the welcoming day fair to provide more information. Alternatively, you can look for them on facebook as it is a very well-updated page.


Pre-departure

I have always been interested in biomedical research and I am considering applying for graduate medical school. Thus, when I found that NUS offered a partnership with KI for student exchange, I set my sights on applying to KI. KI is a well-established focal point of biomedical research and is a top medical university in Europe. In addition, I chose to go there during the fall semster so that I could witness the announcement of the Nobel Prizes and attend the Nobel lectures. It was truly an inspiring journey.

The KI website was manageable for navigating and looking through the courses available. As i was an exchange student in the biomedicine course, I did not have to be vaccinated.

Courses during the exchange period

1BI012 : BACH-Molecular medicine
This is a very broad course covering many aspects of the human body and diseases involved. I liked this course very much as it provided a good foundation for me to build on further knowledge in future. I also relished the chance to interact with clinicians, besides scientists that most of the time teach biomedicine courses. There was also an opportunity to view an angiography demonstration in the hospital with a surgeon explaining the process to us.It made what we learnt in the lecture come to live.
IEE047 : BACH-Biomedical project for exchange students
This gave me a chance to do research in the department of cell and molecular biology at KI, which is a well-known department with good publications. I gained research experience in an international environment, and learnt many new techniques along with thinking skills. I also got the chance to attend several scientific conferences and retreats and heard many presentations on others' research and got to network with other scientists. This was truly a remarkable opportunity, considering that I am planning to apply for PhD studies when I graduate.

Summary

Overall, I had a wonderful experience at KI. I only wished exchange students in biomedicine could be allowed to shadow physicians for a short time as enrichment, as I tried requesting for that but was turned down on many avenues. It is a waste that I went all the way to a top medical university but had little opportunity to have insights into the clinical aspects of KI and Karolinska hospital.

Language and Culture

I participated in Language@ KI, in the Level A2 beginners course. This consisted of weekly lessons conducted by KI students and it was really helpful as the teachers provided many handouts to facilitate our learning. Also, we could suggest topics or specific themes we were interested to earn and the teachers tried their best to tailor the lessons according to our needs.

There was also a 3-day Swedish crash course at Studiefr√§mjandet provided by KI at the start of the exchange. We got a textbook and a teacher to teach. However. the teacher was not very proficient in English and thus he could not teach us swedish very well since there were communication problems. Also, he only managed to teach the first 3 chapter out of the whole book. I would have liked it if a few more days could have been allocated to the course so that we could finish the contents of the entire textbook.

Studies in general

The Swedish study environment is very focused on team work as we had quiet a few group reports and presentations to prepare. We even worked in pairs for the laboratory component. Many assignments were on a pass/fail basis so it really allowed us to focus on learning and exploring without worrying about getting good grades every step of the way. It is also a very flexible system and students are able to negotiate with the teachers on certain aspects as such the way they would like some aspects of the course to be conducted. Feedback is highly appreciated and sought after. We even had a course council at the end of the course to provide detailed feedback and discuss our views with the course coordinators.

Most of the assignments and presentations throughout course in NUS are graded and part of the final grade, so it is more stressful. Also, most lectures in the Life sciences course in NUS consist of more than a hundred students, or at least 50. The student-teacher ratio is much better in KI, as my class in molecular medicine only had about 30 students. Interaction with the lecturers was so much easier, as we could raise our hands halfway through the class to ask questions or clarify doubts before the lecturer continued.