Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Sorbonne Université)
Study programme: Biomedicine (Master's)
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Spring semester 2015/2016
Name: Jacqueline Montano
Email address:


This was my second Exchange, for my Bachelor Thesis I did an Exchange in University of Newcastle in Australia. Therefore, right after my arrival from Australia I knew already that I was going to apply for Another Exchange for my Master Thesis.

I have been studying French during high school and I wanted to do an Exchange within Europe and then I chose Paris. I chose UPMC (Unversity Pierre et Marie Curie) also due to its reputation.

The application process was no hassle since I've already done it Before, but there was a lot of uncessessary papperwork wanted from UPMC or France in general. The Contact person from the host University (UPMC) was also a difficulty to get a hold of if you send a direct mail from your student email otherwise it was needed to go to the adminstration (Malin Ahlen) and ask to email the Contact person at UPMC to ask for documents or just information in general.

However what I found extremely difficult was finding a lab Group. First and foremost, the website UPMC is in French and when translated most of the information needed such as email of Contactperson is gone. There are no specific links to institutes found easily on the UPMC website, I spent a few Days trying to click around to actually find what I needed. However, once i got a hold of email adresses, about 5% answered. So I would suggest that maybe in your email to the lab professor, CC someone of high authority from KI such as Malin Ahlen as well as using your student email adress. I experienced 2 rejections despite skype interviews and their answer when I received the rejections was: "We decided to continue with Another student who is fluent in French". And I was not fluent in French. However I received an answer from a Group without skype interview which I also found odd, but was still glad that I found a position.

Arrival and registration

There are two Airports in Paris Charles de Gaulle located North of Paris and Oly Airport South of Paris. To get to Paris was easy and you just need a train ticket. The train system is a lot bigger than Stockholm, but functions similarly like an SL card.To get to Paris from the Airports you can take the RER. A ticket to and from the Airports COSTs 10Euros. A heads up when travelling with a lot of luggages in the Parisian subway system- there are barely no escalators or elevators and extremely crowded and be careful of pickpocketers.

I left Sweden on a friday(the day my course ended) and started in the lab on the following monday(in Paris). I myself had no direct Contact with the labgroup and therefore had to find out my way to the institute all by myself, there was no help from the lab Group whatsoever. When I arrived to the door of my lab Group my welcome was somewhat of a surprise but they immediately jumped me into the introduction of my two Projects. I had two parallel Projects, one for my Master thesis and Another one was if I wanted to stay and do my Ph.D. My first day was already too intense, they showed my immediately how they specifically pipette a certain way and the Machines they used for PCR etc. My first day I finished at 6pm.


Train ticket similar to SL card: 70euros/month that lets you travel anywhere within Paris region (all 5 zones) allows you to take the bus, RER, SNCF and metro. at my institute I got a 50% discount, and students usually get a discount for train tickets. They can be purchased at any train/metro station.

Food stores are closed on Sundays, but there are a few open (only express shops), therefore I advice to do shopping on saturdays. Geant Casino on the 13th arrondisment, has cheap food similar to ICA Maxi. Otherwise, there is Lidl, Carrefour which is similar to ICA and then Monoprix and Franprix similar to Hemköp. To buy plates cups and cutlery, I advice you to go to Geant Casino, otherwise its quite hard to find such stores.


I lived at CIUP (,I again found the Contact information miraculously on the UPMC website after Days and Days hunting around in that website. Which was only designed for French speakers.

CIUP is located within Paris region at and there is a RER trainsstation with the same name, Cite Universitaire. The train line is RER B and from CIUP to the city which in the inner city of Paris take approximately 10mins. You can even walk from CIUP to the inner city which takes about 35-40mins. The closest metrostation is Port Dórleans, the subway or the trainsystem in general in Paris is a bit compliated even for me after living there for about 5 months.

So I contacted CIUP from the UPMC website and from there on it was quite Quick on how I received a room there, and they asked for preferences if wanted to live in a studio, room with shared toilet and shared kitchen. At CIUP there are about 30 or more different houses. I lived at Fondation Deutch ( and its location was perfect because it was Close to the trainstation as well as the supermarket. My first reaction to my building was that it resembled Harry Potter, with a Clock Tower and old Buildings.

The room i received was a room with toilet and then shared kitchen with my 12 other neighbours. The room was spacious and the standard was good. Fondation Deutch is the oldest building at CIUP and it was not unitl 2015 that they renovated the building and therefore the renovations were just finished Before my arrival. You receive a small space in the fridge and a cupboard both have the ability to be locked. However the was no freezer just a fridge, therefore no ice Cream stored in the fridge. Other than that, once every week there is a cleaner that Cleans your room. That empies you trash and vacuums and dusts your room. Then twice every month your sheets for the bed is changed. All of this is schedueled and noted on the notice board in the building. It was really nice with shared kitchen, that's when you met your new neighbours and sometimes you'd Cook with them and eat dinner with them. Sadly since Fondation Deutch is an old building, there are no elevators just stairs but there was only 2 floors in the building so it was managable.

Laundry. At Fondation Deutch there were about 200 students living there and unfortunately there were only four washing Machines and four tumblers. And again unfortunately you have to pay by inserting coins and every wash per machine was 3.5 euros.

Payment of rent. The payment was straightforward and extremely simple. If you are not perhaps planning on staying in Paris after your Exchange or start a membership deal at gym or other events or even for you mobile operator then you don't need to open up a bank in Paris. And to avoid bureaucracy simple DO NOT OPEN A BANK ACCOUNT, it will first of all take ages until you are able to open a bankaccount and then complications just get worse when you want to Close down the bank account. But back to the rent, I paid by credit card every month, just as simple as that. However, you need to be pushy for the administration to get their jobs done! It was extremely frustrating when they had not paid back the deposition free after 3months.

The location of CIUP was Close to my lab. I took the RER B train towards the city and it was only 4 stops between home and lab. Busses were also available to the lab, which is good in case of a strike with the trains which happened a lot in Paris.

Studies in general

It was a complete shock for me when I arrived at the lab, because they were not expected to see me that day on my arrival eventhough I sent mails about day of my arrivals. I had no help what so ever in regards to locating my self to the lab, and immediately on my first day I had to work until 6pm. Once again my arrival to them was a shock and they were not prepared. The entire first week consisted of me finished 6-7pm everyday and by the third day I was already independent in the lab.

it was not easy to be a member in the lab especially if you are a foreigner and do not speak French well at all. The lab Group did ask me to join them for lunch, but seems to have no interest in me.

My first impression of the lab was that they wanted me to be independent as fast as possible so that I wouldn't need their help or supervision, note also that I received two Projects in which I later turned down the other Project because it became to stressful for me when I was supposed to write my thesis report.

Despite the fact that they tought me Everything quickly to be independent I appreciated in since I could work alone most of the time and focus on my Projects. I Believe that there was somewhat of a language barrier between me and the labmates. During the labmeetings they would switch to French, even when i am in the meeting.

The students (masters students, PhD students) had to (it was a MUST) come earlier than the professor (team leader) and leave after the team leader as gone home. It was a bit frustrating because there were Days the professor left the lab around 6, so then you had to stay until 7pm. Coffebreaks were indirectly not allowed.

Nevertheless, I still managed to do labwork and write my thesis paper but extremely independetly.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 4 at KI

Master Thesis Project 30HP

This Project corresponds to 20 weeks, 15 weeks lab work and 5 weeks Writing.

Language and Culture

It was not a pleasant experience since there was a language barrier, most lab members did not speak English and during meetings they would switch to french.

The University did offer language Courses but they were in 7-8 pm in the evening and sometimes I would still be in the lab doing work or too tired.

However, outside the lab I managed with French. I've studied french during highschool and earlier so I have a Little knowledge and understand a few Words. It was difficult sometimes when there would issues or strikes on the subway or train and they would then announce it in French.

Leisure time and social activities

Because I was obliged to work sometimes during the weekends to look after the mice in the animal facility I was not able to plan anything during weekends. not much social activites during weekdays after work since I worked sometimes until 8pm. There were social events at my accomodation, and thats where there was student Life. Not much social interactions from the lab.

Where I lived at CIUP, there were great events. Every friday my house or building Fondation Deutch had an apero- kind of like an afterwork gathering with the students. Sometimes in the main building there would be events too such as talent show or just parties. Towards the summer when spring semester is finishing off, there is a yearly Farewell festival where there would be activities on the campus garden and then by evening there would be a party at the main building.

I enjoyed the student Life outside the lab, because i got to meet a lot of people with different nationalities and background. At Fondation Deutch, there were a lof of master students of Phd Students who have similar education so it was also good to hear postive feedbacks from their labgroup and also to talk about the good and bad stuff.

I was affiliated to Intitute Curie and not UPMC therefore I got no knews about the partner University and their arrangements on social activities. 


The Exchange thought me to toughen up and work independently. Surprisingly, although I work independetly and only got a few feedback on my thesis report, I still managed by the end to write a good report of which I am proud of and of course to present my work.

I learnt that there will Always be adjustments and adaptating to different work Environments. It was hard with interacting with lab mates and it was difficult with the language barrier but I kept thinking that it is only temporary. I managed to make good friends at CIUP and enjoy my time outside the lab.