photo of wall outside of Karolinska Institutet

How accurate were my expectations of studying at KI?

As I watched the sun set over the Swedish landscape from the plane window, I got the first glimpse of my home for the next two years. It still felt surreal that within a few hours, I would step foot on the campus of Karolinska Institutet (KI) to study in the Master’s Programme in Public Health Sciences – Health Promotion and Prevention.

I began to reflect on the past year: the stress of the application process and the difficulty of completing my bachelor’s degree online––all set in the backdrop of the uncertainty and tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as the plane cut through the clouds as we prepared for landing, my mind wandered to the future. How will my time at KI challenge and change me? What will it be like to live in Sweden? Will the programme live up to my expectations?

I decided to quickly write down my expectations of studying at KI in my phone so I could come back later to see in which ways KI and living in Sweden surprised me:

photo of plane window
  • a diverse and interesting cohort of students
  • a lot of group work and learning from peers
  • collaboration is valued over competition
  • course material is interesting and applied
  • I develop a better work-life balance

Now that I’ve spent two months studying at KI, let’s see how close my expectations of studying at KI are to reality.

The people

It did not take long for me to realize how incredible the cohort of students in the public health sciences programme is. During class discussions, my peers would share their insights, shaped by their diverse educational background and––for many––years of work experience. Over lunch or coffee and kannelbullar, I got to hear what sparked their interest in public health, which public health issues they want to help address in the future and what drew them to KI. One aspect that continues to surprise me is that while each of my peers is incredibly intelligent and has inspiring life and work experiences, they are all so down-to-earth.

photo of group of people
Having lunch with peers on campus. Image credit: Simone Storey

The program

The programme’s emphasis on collaboration and group work was one of the factors that made me want to study at KI. While completing my bachelor’s studies in the United States, I noticed myself becoming increasingly competitive and starting to prefer working individually over working in a team––which can be problematic if you are preparing for a career in a transdisciplinary field that depends on effective collaboration. I was thus very curious to see if the master’s programme really fosters a collaborative environment or if the competitiveness of getting accepted to KI would translate into further competition in succeeding in the programme. After having been a part of more group projects than I count, I can happily confirm that learning through collaboration is at the core of the programme’s teaching methods.

Speaking of teaching methods, the course material is taught by professors who specialize and conduct research in the specific topic. This helps ensure that the course material is applied and informed by current research.

Life in general

I have absolutely loved my time at KI so far and that is largely due to the getting to learn more about the field I’m passionate about (in person!) with incredible peers. Yet, a further aspect that has had an immense impact on my time here at KI is that “I develop a better work-life balance”. Learning to schedule regular breaks and prioritize time to spend with friends and in nature has helped me reduce my stress and therefor learn more in my studies. 

Concluding thoughts

The green treetops I flew over two months ago have now turned into a vivid patchwork of yellow, orange and red and, next to me, my study material for the upcoming exam in Methods of Studying the Distribution of Health is covering my desk. Thinking back to myself writing down my expectations a few minutes before landing in the Stockholm Skavsta Airport, I am quite surprised how accurate these were. (I did spend a lot of time reading the student blogs 😊)

I hope I was able to provide a bit of an insight into my first impressions of studying at KI. If you have any further questions, I am happy to answer them at 

– Sarah

Sarah Pechtl – Public Health Sciences, Health Promotion and Prevention

Sarah Pechtl – Public Health Sciences, Health Promotion and Prevention

Hej! My name is Sarah and I’m excited to share my experiences as a Public Health Sciences, Health Promotion and Prevention student with you! I grew up in Salzburg, Austria but completed my bachelor’s degree in the United States where I studied nutrition and sociology. When I learned about KI‘s emphasis on collaboration and the diverse student cohort, I knew that KI is where I wanted to pursue my master’s degree. In my free time, I love having “fika” with my peers, spending time outdoors, exploring Stockholm and––on colder days––knitting.


Lotte Heimes

Lotte Heimes

Thank you for this "journey" into your life at KI and the Master’s Programme in Public Health Sciences – Health Promotion and Prevention. :) With a bit of luck we might even get to know each other in the coming fall!



I love how you shared your thought Sarah, I look forward to joining you come autumn 2022... I can't wait to share this awesome experience...

Manasvini Moni

Manasvini Moni

Lovely blog! So glad to have you as a classmate Sarah ❤️

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