Exchange report - incoming students
Home university: Barts & The London School of Medicine & Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London
Study programme: Dentistry
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Spring semester 2016/2017
Name: Victoria Sampson
Email address:

Arrival and registration

On my first day in Stockholm, I was incredibly nervous. I didn't know a single person and had just arrived at the airport in a foreign country. Thankfully, Karolinska organised a KI pick up service in which a student picked me up from the bus station and took me to my accommodation. She helped me buy my first train ticket and showed me the easiest way to get around Stockholm and back to my accommodation. Unfortunately on the day I had arrived, there was a snow storm and it was incredibly dark. I honestly dont know that I would have done without my KI Buddy picking me up and helping me with my bags! 

Stockholm is renowned for being lonely at times, especially with the cold and the darkness during the winter. To my delight, on my first day i was already proved wrong by having a KI buddy pick me up and a warm welcome at my new accommodation.

A few days after my arrival, I had my official first day as an erasmus student. I was invited to the Solna Campus for an induction day, an oppurtunity to meet fellow erasmus students from all across the world and to learn more about the three months to come. It was fantastic to meet other students not necessarily from Dentistry, but from other subjects too. To this day, some of my closest friends from my erasmus are actually the students i met at the induction day. We were all in the same position, not knowing anyone in a country we were not familiar with, but all with the same aim to make friends and to learn. After the induction day, we arranged to meet at a bar to get to know eachother better and from that day on, we kept in contact and continued to meet, regardless of what campus or accommodation we were in.

For those who were not able to make it to the induction day, there were still opportunities to meet other Erasmus students at other occasions. Global friends organised days out to visit parts of the city, or activities, where we could all meet eachother in an exciting environment. 


Stockholm is known for its lack of accommodation so I was really lucky to have been offered accomodation through the University. I was living a bus ride away from my campus and only about 30 minutes away from the center of Stockholm. I had never lived alone prior to Stockholm so was therefore apprehensive. However, my room was far larger than anticipated and even the shared facilities were also very clean. We had tv rooms, balconies and even games rooms! Everyone along my hallway came from all different walks of life. There was an amalgamation of PHD students, masters students and Erasmus students from across the world. Although there were times where there were issues on cleaning or noise, especially because there was such a wide variation of ages and people, overall, my housing was great and good value for money. I

My accommodation was probably the largest that Karolinska offered however, it was also the farthest from the city centre. Tubes run throughout the night and usually we were able to get home on one direct tube back. I personally was happy with the trade off between space and proximity to the city centre. As a Londoner, I am used to a daily commute, so 30 minutes to the centre was nothing however space for me, was a luxury (and great when hosting parties!).

Leisure time and social activities

I really appreciated the effort the students and faculty put in to welcome us! I still keep in contact with quite a few students from Karolinska and intend to come back to Stockholm to visit!

Having lived in London most of my life, it was really refreshing to meet new faces and people from so many different cultures. The students I met at Karolinska were not only incredibly friendly and sociable, but also very driven and hard working. Seeing students strike a balance between the two has motivated me to do the same, and also shown me that it is possible to do both! 

From the beginning of my Erasmus, I tried to really immerse myself in the social life and culture of Karolinska. I started by attending the annual one week Ski Trip to Åre within my first two weeks of arrival. I thought that if worse comes to worst and i make no friends, at least i can ski!! Instead, I actually had some of my best moments during the ski trip. The people I was placed in a chalet with were all so accommodating and friendly that there was absolutely no worry of 'making no friends'. They all spoke english to me, invited me to parties and even helped teach me to ski! If anyone is thinking of doing the Erasmus i strongly recommend the Ski trip, as it is a perfect way of meeting some real Swedish students not in a university environment. After the ski trip, the Dentistry Society (Odontologiska Foreningnen) organised coffee mornings twice a week for everyone, they invited us to their own homes for dinner, organised for everyone to attend the OF bar on Fridays and always informed us of any social events. In short, I could not have asked for better hosts!!

There is this urban myth that Swedish people are very cold and not interested in making friends. Whilst it is true that it is sometimes difficult to make friends in Sweden, once you 'break the ice' with one, they will forever be your friend, as i learnt from my erasmus. The students have a really tight knit community at Karolinska and therefore it can be quite daunting as an outsider however if you are willing to put yourself out there and try and socialise with them, they will happily reciprocate.


Since the beginning of my university career, I have been interested in doing an exchange program abroad. Having lived and studied in London for most of my life, i was yearning for an experience abroad and to hopefully help me develop both personally and professionally. The Karolinska Institutet was naturally my first choice, due to its state of the art facilities and its position in the league tables. Furthermore, I had never visited Skandinavia let alone Sweden! With one of the biggest exchange programs, I was eager to apply and hopefully be accepted on a wonderful opportunity. I also was not excited by my degree anymore. I had been studying at the same place with the same people and living in the same area for now four years. Although my university is fantastic, I needed a refreshing change in order to hopefully reignite my passion for Dentistry and to also appreciate where I live and my friends and family more. 

When I was accepted, I was thankful to be given so much information and to be able to make informed decisions on where I lived, how to get there and even recommendations on where to go out when in Stockholm! From the first day of acceptance, I was emailed both by teachers and students at the Karolinska to welcome me and express their excitement. This of course made me even more excited to go!

There was a lot of paperwork however with the guidance of both my home university and Karolinska, it was done quickly and smoothly. I did not need any vaccinations or medical checks, just an mrsa test upon arrival. 

Courses during the exchange period

ETL002 : Child and Adolescent Dentistry - Odontology
I was really happy with the fact that the university trusted us enough to allow us to treat adult and child patients alone. For the first month, we had a lot of training in labs and also on clinics. Although initially it was frustrating to have to re learn a lot of things (for example at my home university we only write notes on paper whereas Karolinska writes everything electronically) and made you question your competence, it also definitely helped me improve some basic skills and reinforce some of the stuff i already knew. At the beginning we had very little VUX allocated slots meaning our exposure to patients and our clinical experience was limited. However, the university was incredibly accommodating to our needs and concerns and offered us extra VUX sessions if needed. I really loved the Ortho clinic as students at Karolinska are able to do more complex cases than at my own university. The teachers were also very hands on and wanted to teach us everything. I really appreciated that in all of my three months at Karolinska everyone made an effort to speak in English and sessions both on and off clinics were conducted in English to accommodate us. Ped was sometimes difficult as many of the patients could not speak english if they were too young. Also, they often did not attend their appointments. Overall I had a great experience. In terms of improvements, i could only say to give more VUX slots from the beginning of the Erasmus period so that students have a greater exposure and are able to do more complex treatments.
ETL001 : Comprehensive Care - with subject specific courses
The orofacial pain course was very different to anything we had done in London. Although orofacial pain is very important in London too, there is no course specifically dedicated to it. I really enjoyed the sessions on orofacial pain and also how interactive it was. For example the students were able to make splints for each other, test pain scales and even mimic orofacial pain by injecting saline solution into their masseter muscles! Previous to theses sessions i never really appreciated orofacial pain and thought it was an unknown concept however once i was able to feel the pain patients feel, i now think i will treat patients differently and act quickly to find a solution.


My Erasmus was an unforgettable experience and has definitely helped me develop both personally and professionally. I have become more confident treating patients (If i can do it in Swedish then i should be able to do it in English now!). I have also gained focus and determination in what I want to do in the future and the types of people I want to surround myself around. The Erasmus allowed me to be independent and to also meet people across the world with similar goals and determination as me. 

Stockholm itself is a magical city and its proximity to so many other countries in Europe makes it a prime place to do an Erasmus. You have the possibility to travel to Denmark, Norway, Poland, Latvia, Russia etc for less than £100! Although Stockholm is only 2 hours away from London, the society and culture is so different that I didn't even feel like I was in Europe anymore. The fact people could all speak english meant that i also always felt safe and knew i could navigate myself around and be fine. The nightlife was very different to London (in a good way). Once we had explored Stockholm a bit, we found clubs and bars we really grew attached to and by the end of my erasmus, we didn't even mind where we were, as the company was already good enough. 

Language and Culture

I decided to particpate in a Swedish language course with BBi that Karolinska offered to me. Although i cannot say I am fluent in Swedish, the lessons definitely helped me! Most people in Sweden can speak English so it wasnt a problem if you didnt take the lessons however I decided that if i was to go the erasmus, i wanted to completely immerse myself in the culture, the language, and the university. I also thought that if i did have a patient who couldnt speak English well, i could try and get by with some swedish. This actually did come in handy when treating children who may not speak English well, and also when navigating the computers and writing notes for patients, as the whole computer system at Karolinska is in Swedish. By the end of my three months there, I could write notes in Swedish and navigate the computer system well. 

The lessons were an hour and a half every Tuesday evening and were located in a nice area meaning you could always go for dinner afterwards with some friends. The course was  a great way to understand the swedish culture more but also to make friends. Alot of Erasmus students I met external from the language course regretted having not taken the course, as it is free and very interesting. I would definitely recommend taking the course, and contrary to some people's belief, you will definitely be able to devote an hour and a half a week to learn some Swedish!

Studies in general

My experience as a student at KI was interesting and a real learning curve. I twas not pertinent to learn Swedish however I went and took lessons once a week just to learn a little if ever treating a non English speaking patient. However, all teachers and students spoke English to an incredible standard. The Swedish study environment also was very motivating for me. Most students I met worked very hard and also usually had an external job in dentistry in the evenings. In London unfortunately, we are not able to work in a dental practice until we graduate. The exam system was different too. Whilst we have one very stressful big period of exams in the summer, the Swedish students seemed to have lots of exams periodically but worth less. The relationship that students had with teachers was also very different. They were very friendly towards each other and incredible relaxed. They address eachother using their first names and the students are not afraid to question a teacher or to voice their opinion. I found that really interesting and actually a really nice environment to work in. 
What was really great about my ecperience was that the Erasmus is a really big thing at karolinska. 

At my home University, only three people were chosen from the year to go on an erasmus, however in Sweden, approximately 30 students go on erasmus' from Sweden to other countries, and Karolinska accepts around 20-30 from other countries. Therefore, the University was perfect at welcoming us all and helping us integrate into Karolinska students! We had weekly meetings with the head of the Erasmus and also staff who were solely working to make us happy. Furthermore, because most students go on an Erasmus from Karolinska, the students themselves are also very accommodating, organizing parties for us and inviting us on trips with them. Overall, the organisation of the University and the integration of the exchange students with the Swedish healthcare system and with the Swedish students struck out to be the most spectacular thing Karolinska achieved.