Exchange report - incoming students
Home university: Kobenhavns universitet
Study programme: Medicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Spring semester 2014/2015

Arrival and registration

My arrival at KI turned out quite hectic as I had less than 24 hours between a great exam at my home university and start of term at KI, so I ended up having to move to Stockholm with the night train arriving directly at KI in the morning for the start of the semester and missing out on the introduction days. I would have loved to know what I missed out on during the introduction days and I tried to ask but in vain because I ended up struggling a lot to figure everything out. It was pretty clear from the beginning that they were not that used to exchange students at the programme I was following. The first lectures referred a lot to stuff from previous terms that they supposed that we all knew of and to IT systems that I had never heard of before. It took me weeks to figure out how to get into my KI e-mail, pingpong and Ladok because the exchange students in my programme weren't registered in Ladok upon arrival and the administration kept passing me on to someone else (programme administration, international administration, IT support and the library) in my pursue to get access. I also had to fix a SLL card but it got quite complicated as they didn't take foreign ID (which feels discriminating), the international employee at SLL was on sick leave for the first week and I was placed on Huddinge campus and had a schedule that didn't leave room to go to SLL another day before starting at the hospital. So all in all the arrival arrangements and the introduction I got left me confused with a rather bad impression of (the bureaucracy at) KI and unfortunately that impression never changed. All the people I encountered trying to figure it all out were really nice though and did their best to be helpful, including most of the time answering my many e-mails really fast including when being home with a sick child. It still doesn't change the fact that I was really disappointed that the bureaucracy felt so overwhelming, and I am normally pretty good at dealing with bureaucracy, but it just felt unprofessional and like KI didn't really plan for (or cared?) having exchange students in my programme. 
I was very pleased to find that KI got a student health centre. I really appreciated their accessibility and helpfulness and found their help invaluable in figuring out how to get help in the ordinary health system.


I applied for housing through the University Accommodation Center, but I only got an offer that didn't suit my needs so I was all on my own finding accommodation. I needed to find accommodation that would allow my husband to accompany me part-time during my exchange so the offer of a 8 sqrm room that only allowed one person wasn't relevant. I would have loved to accept that for a month though while looking for something that would fit us both, but with a two months notice out of my four and a half months exchange it didn't make any sense. Instead I arranged for private housing. Through friends I learned that someone in my network were going abroad traveling for four months and ended up renting her 35 sqrm apartment in Spånga at the non-inflated rent of 3.500 SEK a month. The standard of the apartment were low (though probably not lower than student housing) and it was fully furnished and a cheap and easy solution as I had short notice and a great exam to study for while having to sort out accomodation. My acquaintance didn't leave Sweden before a couple of weeks into the term but I had some real luck that another friend was going away on vacation for a month and offered me to house-sit free of charge. It was about 60 km from Stockholm, but it worked out just fine for the first couple of weeks as it was simply nice having a place to stay and the good standard of the house made up for the long transportation. The only real challenge was that it took ages getting the Mecenat-card and thereby student discount on transportation as the information on the KI website, which suggested a solution while waiting for the card, apparently wasn't valid. All in all I loved the house outside town and hated the apartment and I would be lying if I said I didn't long to go back home to my own apartment, though all in all I wasn't really surprised by the standard and cost of housing and I am fully aware how lucky I was to avoid the inflated housing prices in Stockholm, especially when subleasing.

Leisure time and social activities

The other students at my programme seemed great. However coming as a very introvert exchange student very far into the programme (semester 9 of 11) makes it a bit harder to make friends, especially as i was split from the other exchange students in my programme and as KI kept breaking the students up into new groups leaving little time to bond with anyone. So while I took a liking in several classmates I didn't get time to get to know them well enough to make any real friends.
I participated in a couple of activities organized by Global Friends. However I dropped out as I didn't feel I was in the target group due to most activities being centered around Solna campus at a time I wasn't able to participate due to studying at Huddinge campus, that most of the other participants went with their study buddies from their programme and the fact that living in Sweden and Swedish are not really foreign to me. I also felt repelled by the alcohol norm at Global Friends as I am a teetotaller, though it was a real shame that even something like a tour of Stockholm focused more on which bars to frequent to drink alcohol than I appreciated.
I should add that I already got friends in Stockholm and I prioritized socializing with them over making new friends at KI. However due to long transportation I didn't have much time or energy for anything but studying including seeing my friends. I came to Stockholm expecting and looking forward to get back to training in my old club and volunteering with my friends as I used to but unfortunately I couldn't get it into my schedule. 


Originally I seriously considered applying for studying the full medicine programme at KI and was pleased with the impression I got when I got to "skugga en student" for a day, but in the end I ended applying for the programme in my country of origin to be closer to my family and friends. So when a formalized exchange opportunity at KI appeared at my programme back home I grabbed it without hesitation. I wanted to study at KI partly because KI has a good name among medical universities and partly because I wanted to learn medical Swedish, study in Swedish and live in Stockholm. I got the needed support from both KI and my home university to sort out all the paperwork pre-departure, and figured out a lot on my own like changing the registration of my name and my civil status at the Swedish authorities so my information was updated in case I would be using my Swedish personal security number during the exchange, though the message that I got accepted for the exchange came quite late in regards to all the planning it took before departure which ended up having to take place in the middle of Christmas and a great exam at my home university. I did try to get some needed information but the Christmas holiday ruined my attempts to plan in advance as I only started receiving information (including which semester I was about to study) about a week prior to departure when I was fully occupied with my exam. I don't recall getting much "study abroad-information", but I didn't really pay much attention either due to my exam and trying to figure out the basics pre-departure as I had to sort accommodation all on my own. It would have been nice with some more information pre-departure like what to bring, like for example stethoscope, working shoes and percussion hammer. Overall it isn't as complicated to go as a Nordic student for only half a year at it is coming from many other places or staying long enough to register at the authorities as living in Sweden (and I do think it was a shame that I wasn't allowed to do that due to the length of my stay). I didn't need any vaccination either and managed to get checked for MRSA in advance while stopping by KI on a trip to Stockholm a month prior to the exchange.

Courses during the exchange period

D9XX01 : Clinical Medicine - Neuro, Senses and Psyche


I truly and whole-hearted wish that my exchange and experience at KI had been a really enjoyable time that I could recommend to everyone, but the truth is that it was a very mixed experience. I did love living in Stockholm (again) and I did learn a lot during my exchange period but unfortunately I also grew a totally unexpected aversion against the bureaucracy of KI. The inflexibility of the system, the unmotivated long transportation, the countless administrative issues I had to sort and the school-like educational methods was a very negative surprise. Much to my surprise I started to grow fonder of my home university during the exchange as it seemed more progressive in comparison with KI. I didn't want to accept this new picture of KI that I got through my first-hand experience and tried to ask my Swedish fellow student how it has been this far and while the luckily confirmed that this was the most unstructured semester so far they also mostly confirmed that my experiences was not just a matter of being unlucky but a trend af KI. So I would say while this is the course that fits well into my study plan at my home university, which is what made this exchange possible at all, it didn't really seem fit for taking exchange students. The structure of the semester is too confusing, the notice of the schedule too short (as little as two weeks notice including compulsory weekend and evening duty) and the support for figuring it all out too little to fit exchange student with no prior knowledge of the ins and outs at KI. Maybe a buddy system within the semester or letting exchange students accompany each other so that they can better support each other during the exchange would help.

Also please, please, please don't place exchange students at the campus furthest from their accommodation. If you need to place exchange students far away you should have a transparent placement system that don't feel discriminating towards exchange students (as in not allowing them to prioritize and paying no consideration to their accommodation while at the same time not letting them know that there is a risk of being placed at other sites than Solna campus prior to arrival and finding accomodation) especially as exchange students only have a few months to experience Stockholm and KI and that time is too easily ruined by being stuck in transportation.

Language and Culture

Unfortunately being a Nordic student I wasn't allowed to take any Swedish language course, though I would have loved to. I considered going to the language café arranged by Global Friends, but got warned that the level of Swedish offered there would be far too low for me. However I didn't struggle much with the language, having lived in Stockholm for a year and studied in Swedish before as well as having been involved as a volunteer in Swedish NGOs for about eight years. Being able to follow the education in Swedish was also a requirement for my exchange. I appreciated getting a chance to learn medical Swedish. In the beginning I noticed that the Latin words was much easier than the everyday Swedish medical words, but in the end it was mostly just psychotic patients and Swedish neologisms that caused me (but also the doctors) any trouble with the language. 

Studies in general

It was very interesting and educational to experience a different study environment. Overall I liked the relationship between students and teachers/supervisors as most of the teachers/supervisors affiliated with the courses were very dedicated to the education of the students. A few of the supervising doctors that merely worked at some of the wards the students were placed at took no interest in our education at all though so it might be worth reconsidering placing student under the supervision of non-engaged doctors. I liked the balance between theory and clinical education as both parts are crucial in becoming good doctors. Starting out learning the basics through lectures and trying out the methods on fellow students proved a good method. However I wasn't impressed by the methods used during the clinical training. It seemed really inefficient to spend half a day only attending 1-2 patients and most often while being too inexperienced to handle the patients on our own. The principle of following a supervisor to meet a lot of patients and see a lot of diagnosis and professional handling of the patients in a short time before handling patients all on your own has previously provided me with a lot better learning experience, and my Swedish fellow students agreed and let me know that they also missed this more educational method that we were all used to from previous semesters.
In general I liked the environment at the courses and wards. I was very surprised by the relaxed atmosphere at the wards. I know "fika" is important but I still wonder how Swedish medical staff can complain about being stressed when a full ward can have morning "fika" together (or just time for "fika at all) and a lunch break so long that I grew impatient to get going again. Maybe this also contributed to the fact that I found that compared to back home fewer doctors seemed to be stressed by having to teach students and instead took their time to explain and were generally nice to us. 
A negative surprise when it comes to the study environment was the impression I got that KI has another view on students than what I am used to. When it came to the structure and endless compulsory elements (that my Swedish classmates let me know was often the cheap solution by KI to make students attend the elements that was of too low quality or not relevant enough to make students attend out of free will instead of improving the quality or relevance of the elements) it didn't feel like an university environment as KI didn't seem to trust the students to be engaged in their studies and eager to learn as I am used to, but treated us a lot more like school-children with a lot of compulsory elements and documentation of participation. I'm still puzzled why KI treats its students like this and not like responsible adults who wants to learn all that they need in their future role as doctors.
The learning I gained during the exchange met my expectations. In addition to the specific subjects of the course, including theory, examination methods and experience with patients, I got to learn medical Swedish and the basics and working methods of the Swedish health system. This was exactly what I hoped for. And then there is always the odd things of being an exchange student like the fact that I actually learned more about Swedish legislation than treatment in psychiatry. 
The biggest difference I noticed between the programme at KI and at my home university is the goal of the programme; what kind of doctors are they educating. While I'm used to striving to become a hospital doctor and struggling to learn the basics of all the specialities I was surprised to learn that the curriculum at KI is more focused on educating GPs. I  would say that KI wasn't demanding the same level of knowledge within each subject as I am used to which came as a great surprise, as did the integrated GP perspective and GP clinic as I'm not used to mixing the specialities. Overall it was a quite interesting experience to gain a GP perspective, but I would also say that the exam felt a lot easier than the exams at my home university. Speaking of the exam I was also surprised (and a bit scared prior to the exam) by the very old-school style at KI. It was the first time through all levels of my education that I had to write an exam for hand and I had expected an university with a reputation like KI to meet the standard of my home university where all exams are written on computer. I was very pleased however, (especially due to the lack of dictionary and writing skills being one of the elements examined) that I was allowed to write the exam in my Scandinavian mother tongue instead of Swedish (as is supported by the Nordic cooperation) to avoid the additional pressure of writing in a foreign language when experiencing the KI examination method for the first time.
A very big issue in my case when it comes to study life, and the life as an exchange student in general, turned out to be transportation. I spent countless hours in the less-than-well-functioning public transport in Stockholm making me too exhausted to maintain much of a social life during weekdays. It came as a total surprise to get placed at the campus as far from my accommodation as possible, especially as I didn't even know of the risk of being placed anywhere but Solna campus prior to arrival and finding accommodation. It surprised me even more that I as an exchange student weren't allowed to prioritize between the sites as my Swedish fellow students were, and that after providing KI with the address of my accommodation I got placed at Huddinge campus for the full duration of my exchange as the only exchange student in my programme to be placed their for the full term and also the one living furthest away of Campus Huddinge as I was living North of town. I never got any explanation and all complaints about it were refused which felt like an unfair and discriminating treatment of me as an exchange student.