8 questions with a Public health sciences student- from Malawi, Michigan, and to Sweden

As a Swede, I don’t like to jinx the weather by officially confirming that we are now finally approaching spring. But warm breezes, sparkly sunlight, and managing to not freeze your toes after being outside may be some indicators that spring is, in fact, here! With that being said, I am welcoming the spring by introducing you all to one of my distinguished classmates from the PHS c/o 2025 cohort, Caroline!

Meet Caroline!

Hi there, please share with us where you are from, and your academic, as well as work background.

 “I was born and raised in Malawi in Southeastern Africa. I went to Michigan for my bachelor’s degree where I majored in Social Work and minored in International Development. After graduating, I worked as a counselor for adolescents living with HIV in Malawi. After two years I applied to the master’s program in Public Health Sciences here at KI.”

“I decided to study in Michigan after I spoke with a high school alumni who was interning in the U.S. Before speaking to him, I didn’t think it was possible unless you came from a wealthy family. But then I found out that there were scholarship opportunities that could fund my education abroad. This motivated me to increase my academic and community involvement to become a strong candidate for the scholarship. I think I had a similar “go-getter” mindset when applying to KI. I wanted to try something new and study in a new location. So I did my research on available scholarships that could finance my travels and education and went from there. I feel very grateful to have gotten the Swedish Institute scholarship the first time, as it can take applicants several years/attempts.”

Academic Pathway and KI

Why did you decide to study at KI?

“The reputation. I did not think I would qualify for KI at first. It just sounded too big for me even though I worked hard felt like I was a strong candidate. Amidst this impostor syndrome, I also got motivated by telling myself, “maybe you can grow into someone you want to be academically at KI, and live up to its name”. Another factor would be convenience. I found the housing options for non-EU students fairly flexible, the links clear and useful, and the transportation from the accommodations in Solna to be accessible where many things from entertainment, restaurants, shopping streets, or libraries, are all reachable within an hour. And since KI is a research-heavy institution, the number of projects that are based in Malawi has also been attractive. This opens up opportunities for me to grow with KI even when I go back home.” 

“I was also inspired to pursue Public Health Sciences due to the low health literacy I witnessed back home. Health literacy in particular is limited to those with access to education. But I also think the process of educating people about health is lacking in social science-based approaches. For instance, in my culture, salt is a big thing and people love it. Although there is evidence that salt can influence your blood pressure, as a social scientist I see very little merit in communicating to community members about the pure biomedical health consequences without taking into account the cultural, social, or behavioral backgrounds of the community. By taking a social science approach to balancing perspectives from health professionals, I want to ensure that community members are aware of basic health needs and information.”

What influenced you to pursue the HPP track?

“I still consider myself a social scientist and want to specialize in health while also maintaining a social scientist lens. I also didn’t feel I had enough background to throw myself into more extensive data analysis or epidemiological methods, and my priorities ultimately lie in improving the community itself.”

Life in Sweden

What have been some highlights of studying here at KI?

“My highlight with the program has been our class! I’ve met genuine friends that have become very big parts of my life since I moved here. Like I can just text the class chat to hang out, to ask about class etc. It’s great to share a space where we can collectively love and sometimes dislike numerous topics as a team!”

“For KI, or at least our department, I also like our course leaders and lecturers. Since studying here I developed a research interest and emailed some of the guest lecturers. And they have been very responsive, flexible, and willing to help me. I’m currently a part of the Global and Sexual Health research group at GPH as a result. I feel lucky because I don’t think all schools offer this type of dynamic between students and professors/lecturers where faculty are open to receiving feedback and interacting with their students in a friendly yet professional way. I was nervous to reach out since I didn’t really know the lecturer I reached out to too well. But I was very glad I took the chance!”

What is your favorite Swedish word?

“Is it cliche that when I’m on the bus, I look forward to hearing the word, “nästa” (next in Swedish) followed by the bus stop I get off at to go to class?” (It is not cliche in my opinion).

Have there been any challenges for you living in Sweden?

“For Sweden as a whole, the language. I find myself using multiple apps to translate things outside, but also small tasks like placing online orders. The delay and inconveniences that come with translation can be off-putting.”

What lies ahead?

What would you tell yourself one year ago?

“I would tell myself that I am good enough for KI, and now that I will grow so much based on the small decision to study here. You will find so many opportunities…and you will learn how to cook!” (In the most unbiased way possible, Caroline makes scrumptious meals. And muffins!)

Do you have a dream profession?

“Right now I want to teach. While I’m not really sure about becoming a professor, I am interested in teaching community health because of how it integrates the greater society with health. Studying at KI and deepening my knowledge of public health has made me feel so enlightened.  And this in turn has made me want to show people how different their lives can be by teaching them basic health information.”

Thank you to Caroline for sharing stories on your journey to KI! I hope you got yet another glimpse of our lives as Masters students at KI. Stay tuned for more student highlights. Until then…make sure to soak up the sun if you are in Stockholm!

Risa-Public Health Sciences

Risa-Public Health Sciences

Hej! I am Risa, a Japanese Master's student in Public Health Sciences starting my studies in 2023 at Karolinska Institutet. Having been interested in the multidisciplinary, globally applicative, and cooperative nature of the public health field, paired with my familiarity with KI’s global reputation, I’ve always had the desire to study at KI. I enjoy curating playlists, petting cats, and going on scenic walks around Stockholm in my free time.


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