Reserapport - KI-student
Lärosäte: University of Otago
Utbildningsprogram: Läkare
Utbytesprogram: INK
Termin: Vårtermin 15/16
Namn: Charlotta Dagnell

Innan avresa

My path towards doing an exchange during my medical studies at KI is somewhat different from most students. I started my medicine studies at the age of 31, having already a family with husband and 2 small children. My husband got the opportunity to go abroad to do a post-doctoral fellowship for 2 years in Christchurch, New Zealand. It didn’t take us much thought to take the opportunity of a life-time to move abroad as a family, but it took us over one year to plan such a big move. I had one year of medical studies left, and we were expecting our third child. My primary focus for the next two years living abroad would be to stay at home with our newborn and to support our two other children who would start school in an english speaking country. But I also wanted to make sure to get some experience myself from the health care system of New Zealand, so I decided that making an exchange period of 8 weeks during my last semester at the medical program would be a great opportunity for me. I have been an exchange student in Australia for one year during high school so I already had a good experience from living abroad and I think that contributed to our curiosity to live abroad as a family and also get my children to experience another country. 

Since it was already decided that we would move to Christchurch, I looked for an exchange with the University of Otago that I found out had parts of their medical studies in Christchurch, even though the majority is based in Dunedin. Once I was accepted for exchange, I got in contact with the University of Otago who helped me arrange a clinical rotation at the hospital in Christchurch. Because I was already living in Christchurch a while before I started my exchange period, I was also flexible in terms of when I could do my clinical rotation and I think that in turn gave me the opportunity to choose more freely what specialty I wanted to do my rotation in. 


Since I was moving to New Zealand for a duration of 2 years and together with my family, the VISA process was different for me compared to if you only go for the 8 weeks of studies. I could apply for a visitor’s VISA which gave me the freedom to study for up to 3 months. The VISA procedure is quite straight forward with good information on the immigration of New Zealand home page ( However, do the VISA application well in advance (6-8 weeks) of your travel and allow for 2-4 weeks for approval. The papers are sent to the Immigration office in London and you need to send your passport there too. Flights should be booked before applying for the VISA. 


It’s a very long and expensive travel to New Zealand, so when you get this fantastic opportunity to go, I would suggest you make the very most out of it and plan for at least a couple of weeks extra time before or after your exchange for travels. There are several routes to fly to NZ, we flew with Lufthansa/Singapore Airlines Frankfurt-Singapore-Christchurch. It was a very comfortable and smooth travel even though it took us almost 30h to reach destination. Another common route is via Dubai and Sidney/Melbourne. Look for good prices for flights well in advance since it varies quite a lot. 

Ankomst och registrering

I would recommend to arrive a few days to 1 week to acclimatize to being on the other side of the world before starting your exchange. It takes a few days to get rid of the heavy jet-lag. I visited the secretary of the University the week before the start of my clinical rotation, who helped me arrange all the practicalities including ID-cards etc. The University also requires a MRSA screening on site before you can start your rotation. They help you sort that out and it takes a couple of days to get the result back. I was also given an email-list of all other exchange students registered at the same time, as well as being added to the email list of all final year medical students attending the hospital for the semester. 

Arriving at the airport in Christchurch it’s a pretty short bus ride into town. In general, everything in town is easily accessible with bus, even though driving your car or taking your bike is the most common way of getting around. 


Accommodation is expensive in Christchurch, even though I cannot say exactly what the cost is for hiring a room/apartment in town.

Food is about the same cost, or a little cheaper, as in Stockholm. There are big supermarkets where you can get hold of cheap deals in terms of buying groceries. I would recommend Pack n’ Save for the cheapest deals. Going out on the pub and cafés/restaurants is cheaper than Stockholm.

A single bus ticket is about 15 kr (3.20 NZD), but you can also get different types of travel cards that makes the trips cheaper. 

I would calculate on approximately the same living costs here as in Stockholm. 


The University of Otago gave out information about places to stay in Dunedin or Christchurch. Christchurch experienced a big earthquake in 2010/11 and is still undergoing a huge rebuild, therefore accommodation in Christchurch is very expensive, at least if you look at prices for renting a house. We rented a furnished house during our stay, but again, it’s probably not what you would choose coming for a shorter period of time and alone as a student. There are back-packers accommodations in the central city, close to the hospital, but I would also suggest looking for accommodation out towards the beaches. A popular place for young exchange doctors is in Sumner, which is right on the beach, about 10km outside of the city, but definitely biking distance to the hospital.  Christchurch overall is a flat city and biking around is very easy. There are also good bus routes around town, so don’t be afraid of placing yourself a bit outside of the city center. Also, because of the big rebuild in the city, there isn’t much of a vibrant city center at the moment even though much will happen to the city center within the next few years. One way of looking for accommodation is through the web-site which is similar to “”. The house standard in New Zealand is generally poorer than in Sweden, especially in terms of heating of the house. We experienced going through the winter months in New Zealand in a freezing house. They often heat the house through heat pumps and/or log fires, but the houses are often very poorly insulated which means that the heat goes straight out the windows and through the walls and creates a damp atmosphere indoors.  If you come in May-June, be prepared by bringing warm pajamas and woolen socks! 

Studier allmänt

The medical program in New Zealand is 6 years. The 6th year is a full clinical rotation year when you function as a “Trainee Intern/TI”. The first 5 years are mostly theoretical with shorter clinical visits throughout the 4th and 5th year. They don’t seem to integrate clinical experience with theory in the same way as in Sweden. After the 6th year you do 2 years as a “Medical Officer” also called “House Surgeon”, equivalent to our “AT-tjanst”. After 2 years as a “house surgeon” you are a “Registrar” and you need to pass a big theoretical as well as practical exam before you can start your trainee within a specialty (ST-tjanst).  A senior doctor is called a “Consultant”.

When you come as a final year medical student you will function as a “trainee intern” which is similar to what we are used to in the clinic as “kandidat”.  You get to follow the team of doctors (usually one TI, one house surgeon, one registrar and one consultant) during the ward round as well as going with the consultant to outpatient clinic (mottagning). You will learn how to take clinical notes which are still done with pen and paper (!). The consultant and/or registrar usually leads the rounds and the house surgeons do all the paper work, referrals, blood sampling and discharge notes etc. The clinical work is quite similar to Sweden and you will recognize most routines at the hospital wards. 

Kurser under utbytet

Kurser motsvarande termin 11 på KI


I did 8 weeks of clinical rotation within Cardiology at the Christchurch Hospital. This exchange period corresponds to the 8 week SVK on term 11 at KI.  

Christchurch hospital is a large university hospital with most specialties available. If you are interested in medicine or surgery you will find it all here. 

The Cardiology department is large and have all the interventions available including cardio-thoracic surgery. They have 3 wards where one of them is CCU (critical care unit). 

During my rotation, I was assigned to one of the cardiac teams consisting of two house surgeons, one registrar and one alternating consultant. The team follows their patients from the Emergency Department to discharge and follow-up at the outpatient clinic. The team also takes on the same patient when/if they come back to hospital, i.e. the consultant sees their own patients. I think this is a very good system that is not commonly seen in Sweden. The cardiology department always had 4 working teams covering the inpatients at the hospital. 

During my rotation I had a good opportunity to see all the aspects of cardiology from the emergency department, ward work, outpatient clinics, interventions like Angiograms/PCI’s and electrophysiological interventions (pacemakers, ablations, electric cardioversion) as well as watching cardio-thoracic surgery (by-pass and aortic valve replacement). The clinic also had regular meetings (surgical, radiology) and teaching seminars that you were welcome to attend. The supervisor did not do a detailed schedule for me, so you have to make sure yourself to ask to get to see everything that is available and what you are interested in. And when you ask, you are most welcome to come and see/join. If you are more interested in interventions you can also choose to spend more time in the catheter lab and less time on the ward.

The atmosphere at the hospital was very friendly and collegial. The junior doctors are called by their first names and the consultant usually by his/hers last name. The consultant is most often willing to teach and answer questions, very much a similar atmosphere amongst the colleagues and students as in Sweden. The registrar doctors are also usually very good at teaching and have a good clinical knowledge and experience. You don’t have to be afraid to ask questions and also ask to participate and do things. The doctors quite often take blood samples and puts in needles, so if you’re eager to get experience in that there are plenty of opportunities.  The drawback was that I didn’t get access to their electronic health care system and therefore I could not independently look up lab-results, X-rays and do discharge notes. So after the daily ward rounds when the house surgeons do all the paper work/computer work, you need to find other things to do like going to the emergency department, to the cath lab, outpatient clinic etc. 

Språk och kultur

New Zealand is an english speaking country even though the “kiwi-accent” is somewhat of a challenge to understand at start. They talk fast and it will take you a while to get familiar to their different slang. Even after living here for over one year, i struggled to grasp the coffee-conversations at times at the hospital. The medical language is full of abbreviations, so you just have to ask to be able to understand what they are talking about and what is written in the clinical notes! 

The culture and way of living is quite similar to home even though you do recognize differences in the way of living. The lifestyle is much more easy going and not as stressful as in Sweden. I found a big difference in equality of opportunity between women and men where women here are much more likely to stay at home with the kids and become house-wives. For us, coming with children and also having a baby while we lived here, it became very obvious how different the opportunities here are for working women with small children, since parental leave and subsidized pre-schools are not to be compared to the swedish system. 

Fritid och sociala aktivteter

The opportunities for out-door activities and travel are endless on New Zeeland. Tramping, mountain-biking, cycling and skiing are very popular activities here. Christchurch is a city with close proximity to the beach, hills and mountains. The city has a beautiful botanic garden just next to the main hospital. This is a wonderful place to take a stroll or a jog in the afternoon. The colleagues at the hospital often met after work at the pub or for a breakfast before work on the fridays. They also met to kick some ”footie” on the beach after work, or go for a run. 

We took the opportunity to travel as much as possible during our holidays and long weekends. We explored the whole south island which is a tremendous beautiful island with so many contrasts to offer. Make sure not to miss a visit to the west coast, the Abel Tasman national park up north, as well as going south to Wanaka/Queenstown for some bungy-jump (!) as well as going further south to the Fiordland and Milford or Doubtful Sound. If you’re a keen tramper there are several beautiful walks that can be done that will take you a couple of days to complete. E.g. Queen Charlotte’s track up north, The Abel Tasman track, or the Milford Track.


We as a family feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to come and live in this beautiful and unique country New Zealand. If you enjoy outdoor adventures and nature this is the place to visit! 

Im also very grateful for the opportunity to do an exchange with the University of Otago in Christchurch and get the experience of the health care system and medical education in New Zealand. I found it quite similar to Sweden in terms of quality of care and education. For me, it has broaden my knowledge within cardiology specifically, but also about medical education in another country, and about health care overall and how it can be run in different ways to what we are used to. I think this is an important knowledge that i will bring with me into my future career as a doctor in Sweden.