Strategies for Success at KI

This blog is a follow-up to Our Study Counsellor Answers FAQs, in which I interviewed the Biomedical Programmes’ Counsellor, Cecilia Forssman.

Cecilia will be leaving her job as a counsellor soon for another position at KI, and so I felt this would be the best time to gain insight from the wisdom she garnered over the years. In our conversation, we discussed general as well as specific ways to cope with stress and other emotions while studying at KI, ways to engage and be involved in your education, and the best strategies for international students to succeed while studying in Sweden for the first time.

FRANCISCA: What kind of academic and personal support is KI providing during the pandemic, especially within the framework of hybrid/distance learning?

CECILIA: KI is a medical university and so many experts that talk about the pandemic in the media come from our clinic or research environment. KI is aware of the difficulties that come with the pandemic and has gone to great lengths to provide the same level of quality education as pre-COVID-19. All teachers and staff have worked really hard to convert the face-to-face learning to distance learning but for programmes like Biomedicine, 50% of education used to be in the lab. Hence, some of the adaptations included switching the physical labs to virtual platforms such as Labster simulations. We must appreciate that it is thanks to Sweden’s excellent infrastructure of IT and internet services that we have a good foundation for online learning. The university has also made several adjustments since the pandemic started to ensure that students were able to finish their courses, complete their thesis and get their degree.

All in all, I suggest you reach out for help to myself (i.e. programme counsellor), to your course coordinators, or to your classmates, if you are feeling overwhelmed. I promise I will try to help you cope with feelings of loss of control and isolation and will also gladly refer you to other resources. You can learn more about how you can try to reduce stress and some tips for online learning during the COVID-19 situation.

FRANCISCA: What events/opportunities does KI have in store for the Global Master’s in MTLS and Biomedicine in 2021?

CECILIA: Here are some events coming up:

1. Welcome to join a seminar with state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell

Anders Tegnell as state epidemiologist working at The Public Health Agency of Sweden, he is often seen in Swedish- and international media, he will talk to you, global programme students at KI, about the health care structure in Sweden and also the pandemic strategy and situation in Sweden.
Time and date: Friday, February 19, 13:00 pm – 14:00 pm on Zoom.

2. Lunch seminars with the Student Health Centre

The Student Health Centre invites you to attend lunch seminars on a variety of current topics.

Psychological sustainability for students. Time and date:  April 7, 12:00 pm – 13:00

Public speaking anxiety. Time and date: April 21, 12:00 pm – 13:00

3. Workshop: Q&A about writing a master’s thesis

Time and date: 9 February, 16:30 – 17:30

4. Other ongoing support:

Make sure to check your inbox for more updates!

FRANCISCA: In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges that international (non-Swedish) students have to overcome when starting their studies at KI?

CECILIA: Some of the major challenges that international students have to face when coming to Sweden involve anything from accommodation to figuring out our education system. For example, as per Swedish culture, the emphasis on group work is a big change for a lot of students that come from countries or universities where education is more individualistic. We focus a lot on collaboration and consensus between students, staff, and researchers, even at a competitive university like KI. We want our students to learn and succeed in their studies.

Most importantly, I encourage everyone to be engaged in your own learning and I want to highlight that YOU are a part of KI, you make up KI, and it’s important that you do your part. It means you have rights and responsibilities, you can read the President’s blog, engage in what’s going on, join a club, be a student representative, take part in organizations to improve and influence student life and academics. Make the most of your studies, make friends, ask for help, reach out if you feel you are stuck in a corner. Make sure to fill out the course evaluations at the end of your courses so they can be improved upon for next year’s students.

Another challenge that some students have is in regards to the expectations for academic integrity. Make sure you understand what cheating is considered to be at KI. Do not copy some else’s work without a reference. Think for yourself and put it in your own words, that is also part of the learning process. Make sure you know what counts as cheating at KI and in Sweden.

Some last advice I would like to inpart on you is more about how you can take advantage of the people and the opportunities you get as a KI student. Make the most of your time at KI (and your studies) by making friends, use the resources and network at KI, and take opportunities of being a union member or participating in the book club Project wisdom, as well as participating in seminars offered frequently in different fora at KI and in Stockholm. Finally, if you can, try to go on exchange abroad for your Degree project.

FRANCISCA: What has been the most impressive thing you have learnt through your job as a programme counsellor?

CECILIA: When starting out at KI or any new work environment that is of an international nature, you come in with a lot of preconceptions/biases of which you only become aware of through talking and engaging with international people. So for me, my biggest realization was understanding my own biases and also learning to recognize that KI’s student group is very diverse and multicultural. There is a lot that I have learnt from every student I have been in touch with over the years!

That’s it, folks, that is all the advice and answers you will get from this interview with Cecilia Forssman! I would like to personally thank Cecilia for her time and help with this blog.

You are welcome to contact Cecilia or Malin (from early-February onwards) by email or check out more ways they can help you on their profile page.

Photo Credits: Erik Flyg

Francisca Leonardo - Molecular Techniques and Life Sciences

Francisca Leonardo - Molecular Techniques and Life Sciences

Hej! My name is Francisca. I come from the faraway land of the supreme maple syrup, aka Canada. I’m the blogger for the Master’s Programme in Molecular Techniques in Life Science at Karolinska Institutet. I love to write about my experience as a student in my programme, a newcomer to Stockholm, and a rookie at life in general. In my free time, I enjoy playing tennis, making music, sketching the city’s landscapes, and reading about anything and everything that interests me.


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