Studying abroad opportunity – MSc Health Economics, Policy & Management

Not only the students of this course are receiving end of the top-notch teaching quality at Karolinska Institutet but also having access to the range of attractive exchange studies programme through its’ partner Universities.

Among our class of 2021-2023, I have interviewed my amazing classmate, Romana Höltschl, who is currently going for exchange study at NUS, Singapore. Read further to learn her experience so far.

Q1: Could you introduce a bit about yourself?   

Hi all! I’m Romana and currently completing the final semester of the Master’s Programme in Health Economics, Policy and Management. Prior to my studies at Karolinska Institutet (KI), I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in European Public Health from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Born in Austria, I moved around for many years, gained work experiences in public affairs and consulting, although initially pursuing a professional sports career. 

Q2: What motivates you of exchange studies?

Having lived and studied on various continents, I’ve always had the urge to explore diverse parts of the world while contributing to minimising health inequities on a global scale. Let’s say it’s a combination of extreme wanderlust and hoping to achieve the best possible health outcomes for individuals and communities worldwide. After a wonderful time studying abroad in Australia during my undergrad, I knew I’d like to take such a valuable opportunity again if it arises. I therefore happily applied to exchange studies within the present Master’s Programme, motivated by chances to first-hand experience health system divergences, learn from experts in my interest fields, and build further enriching networks.

Q3: Which university did you do as an exchange student. How long is the program?

Upon going through the list of KI’s partner universities, it soon became clear that I was favouring the National University of Singapore (NUS) over others – based on its attractiveness in terms of location, research area and expertise. Luckily, my wish turned into reality and so far I’ve been very pleased to be an exchange student at one of Asia’s top universities. Since I’m collecting data for my Master’s degree project here in Singapore, my research period at NUS only lasts for 3 months, from February to April to be precise, rather than a full semester. Choosing this duration was quite flexible, thus done together with my project supervisor in accordance with the respective timeline. 

Q4: What were the requirements, processes, and challenges in applying the exchange study program?

While the application process was pretty straightforward for me and the staff at KI and the host university were very supportive, a lot of self-initiative was required. Applying for exchange studies consisted of two main steps: 

  • Application at KI: To be nominated for exchange studies, I had to submit KI’s outgoing exchange application form alongside a current CV, motivation letter, and letter of reference. Although the corresponding deadline was the 1st of October 2022, I was able to submit these documents a few days later considering that I initially had other plans for my Master’s degree project and was still sorting out formalities.
  • Application at the host university: Once nominated by KI, I could apply to NUS’s Non-Graduating Programme (Research). The documents required for this step included a current CV and official academic transcript, a letter of support and agreement from my project supervisor at KI and the proposed project supervisor at NUS, respectively, as well as a detailed research training plan. 

Challenges I encountered during the application process were primarily time-related. Given my late application for exchange studies, I’ve been very lucky that NUS accepted it. Finding project supervisors both at KI and NUS went more smoothly than expected in view of the limited timeframe, which should however not trigger others to apply after the deadline. With that, I’d like to emphasise the importance of getting started early, ideally before the start of the fall semester if you’re planning to go abroad in spring – it will save you avoidable stress 😉 

Q5: What are the benefits of doing the program and if any, expected challenges? ☺ 

I must say I didn’t expect any major challenges when departing to Singapore as moving abroad isn’t something I haven’t done before. Yet, feeling jet-lagged after arrival resulted in me having a little culture shock. Knowing I needed to give it a bit of time, this situation luckily settled down quite quickly. Other than that, I’ve been well aware that finding and sustaining a balance between studying and exploring my temporary home will be essential for successfully completing my Master’s degree project. Up until now, I think I’ve managed my time relatively well and don’t anticipate additional challenges. 

There are multiple benefits of participating in such an exchange programme, including opportunities for personal and professional development, gaining fresh perspectives, boosting one’s language skills, getting access to a wider range of career paths, and, as cheesy as it sounds, making lifelong connections. The biggest benefits for me personally are/follow from acquiring new knowledge and skills from experts in my research field, collaborating with inspiring people, becoming familiar with a different way of looking at public health problems, and, as far as my studies allow, travelling to surrounding places. Going on exchange has also enabled me to further align my passion with my career goals, which I believe has greatly benefitted my present and future endeavors. 

Q6: Any tips for the perceptive students. 

If you toy with the idea of going on exchange during your studies at KI, I’d highly recommend you to do so. It’s a unique experience from which you can grow a lot. When scrolling through the list of KI’s partner universities, remember to not only base your choices on universities’ reputations but also on their destinations since living environments can significantly impact how you perceive your study abroad experience. Cultivate an open-minded, positive attitude and simply enjoy the moment. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, give it some time and know that this is only temporary. You’ll also soon become more comfortable with the uncomfortable. What always keeps me going is knowing that I can always go back home and count on a strong support network wherever I am.   

Probably my most useful advice here is to plan early: Think of where you’d like to go to, collect relevant information from several sources, approach and meet with potential project supervisors if you’re visiting another university for degree project purposes, and attend the kick-off event for outgoing exchange students. Last but not least, try to stick to a healthy work-life balance shortly after the start of your period abroad. It may be tempting to treat it as an extended holiday initially – just be aware that you actually need to get your degree project done and should put the valuable learning opportunities presented to you to good use 😉

On that note, I truly hope that you’ll all have a wonderful time during your exchange studies should you decide to embark on this adventure – All the best!

Hope this blog will inspire some fellows who are considering to study abroad. As usual, if you have any enquiry, please feel free to reach me at 🙂

Naw Hlaing Oo- Health Economics, Policy and Management

Naw Hlaing Oo- Health Economics, Policy and Management

Hej! I am Naw, currently attending MSc Health Economics, Policy and Management. Originally from Myanmar (aka Burma), one of the South-East Asia countries. Before joining KI, I completed my first degree in Medicine and then attained MSc in Clinical Dermatology from University of Hertfordshire, UK. Recently I also completed an executive learning program known as "SouthEast Asia Leadership in Medicine- SEAL" at Harvard Medical School. I love international traveling and learning different cultures. Follow me to see lot of blogs related to Asian students, personal experience on my course and exciting traveling experience. ;)


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