Gyms in Stockholm

A perk of being an epidemiology student is that you’ll always have more specific answers to the question “why should I exercise?” than “because it’s good for you.” I feel like we have been learning about ever more associations between exercise and good health outcomes on an almost daily basis this semester. Maybe you’ll agree then, that it’s a bit ironic that epidemiology as a profession tends to be such a sedentary one.

20140930_110218The blue poster says “Exercise! The Poor Man’s Plastic Surgery!”

While it’s true that KI has a student gym, it’s unfortunately located in Huddinge (Andrew showed it to you here a little while ago), which is inconvenient for most students. Now that it has already started getting dark earlier and is therefore more difficult and unpleasant to exercise outside, it’s especially important to find viable alternatives to the KI student gym. Luckily, there are several such options. Other bloggers have already mentioned Friskis&Svettis, which is an inexpensive gym with multiple locations. However, I want to put in a good word for the Stockholm city gyms and swim halls. I have been a member since the beginning of this year and have absolutely loved going there several times a week with a friend from KI. If you buy an inexpensive student membership for one year (which you can cancel after six months if you aren’t staying for a whole year), you have unlimited access to the gym, group classes, and pools at 11 different locations throughout the city. For a little more, you can also access two additional pools, including the famous Erikdalsbadet, which is Sweden’s National Arena for swimming!

20141009_133048Ad for the Stockholm city gym

Regardless of whether you decide to sign up for a gym or figure out another way to keep moving, such as taking long walks or completing a workout video at home, keep in mind how much physical activity will enhance your life here in Sweden, especially during these colder, darker months. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you. :-)

Where Should I Live?: Stockholm or M/s Isabelle

Hello Everyone!

In my last blog, I gave a hint that an exciting event is awaiting me for the weekend. Were you asking ‘what?’, ‘where?’, bla, bla. Here is the answer as per my promise. I have visited my second country in Europe: Riga/Lativia. My excitement was not only about visiting a new city but it was also my first travel on a ship.

The trip was started on Friday October 17th, at 17:00 from Slussen, …When I first see our ship (M/s Isabelle) on Baultic sea, I started to walk faster and faster (I don’t know why?).

1.M:s Isabel

Immediately after we get into the ship, I found myself waiting for a large three-gate lift. I have asked a friend of mine if he knows the name of this beautiful giant ‘building’. He just pointed his fingers towards the ten-floor picture of Isabelle on the wall of the lift. Oh! I forgot I am already in the ship.

Floors of M/s Isabelle

Floors of M/s Isabelle

In the ninth floor, I was directed to my room (9117), which I shared with three other team-mates. On Friday night we spent some time on the common area of floor 9 and on the top of the ship…taking photos, chatting and enjoying the scene around.

This is we on top of M/s Isabelle

This is we on top of M/s Isabelle

Later, since the weather was colder, I preferred to have some sleep and warmth in my room at about 10:00. Unfortunately, I wake up in the morning. OMG! Did I check in to a modern hotel or to a ship???

We arrived to Riga on Saturday morning 10:30. We walk a lot, took pictures, went to a shopping mall, open market and restaurant. One of the amazing things I saw in Riga is a bridge hanging countless number of locks in both of its sides. A closer look at it helped us to understand that each of the locks is contributed by a newly married (or may be probably engaged) couples in the city (This is just our wise guess from what is written on the locks). Do you wish to open one of them? You may try but you have to get the key from the water under the bridge.

Lock ornamented bridge of Lativian couples

Lock ornamented bridge of Lativian couples

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Saturday night was special. I felt that it would have been much comfortable and fun to live on M/s Isabelle than in my home, city or whatever you call it. I have enjoyed the sauna and jakuze with my friends. You cannot imagine how I was happy about my first exposure to jakuze. We have also bought ‘something’ from the duty free shop for a cheap price, enjoyed the live music in the upper floors of the M/s. It is amazing! You can get every thing you need.

Thank you KI-Global Friends for organizing and sponsoring the trip. Adeeb was very committed and had multiple tasks to make the event the best it could be. He, really, deserves the biggest acknowledgement. Thank you for the team members who shared me some of the pictures in this post.

See you next time!


Installationshögtid – “Teacher Installation Ceremony”

Even though the name may seem quite abstract, last Friday 17th of October a couple of us Digital Ambassadors -Olivia, Alicia and I- were lucky enough to attend the ceremony where new Professors are awarded and introduced to KI and where several prizes were granted.


Aula Medica hall while people took their seats

I have to say, we were a bit scared at first because they told us the ceremony was going to be in Swedish, and even though we are trying to improve, it is too soon to say we know what is going on. However, we had a nice book with information and it is not that hard to follow Swedish when you use words like professorer, kardiovaskulärt, neurobiologi, etc. So we decided to be brave and go, despite the possibility of going and maybe not understanding a single thing, and in the end it was completely worth it!

The ceremony started at 17:00, so around 16:30 Olivia and I got to the magnificent building Aula Medica. Once there, everything was so fancy and nice. So professional. Except one thing that made us laugh: the appetizer were hot dogs! Imagine such a building, surrounded by brilliant minds wearing their most elegant suits and dresses, enjoying a hot dog, with all its dangerous “ketchupy” consequences. However, this is one thing that has really fascinated me since I have been in Stockholm, and it is how casual things can be; how familiar and sweet Swedes tend to keep things.

So, after leaving our coats and enjoying the fancy French sider we were served, everyone started to go into the hall. The whole ceremony, even though it was a bit long, was always entertaining and inspiring. They started with precious classical music played by the Medicinska Föreningens Kammarmusikensemble. Then what they call the Procession, where all the teachers come into the room, followed by the welcome given by Karolinska Insitutet’s rector, Anders Hamsten. After this, the ceremony itself started including the “Installationstal å de nya professorernas vägnar”, where the new Professors were received including a really elaborated and sweet video of every professor explaining what they are working on and a bit of their personal background; then the recognition to all adjunct and visiting professors and in the end the “Prisutdelning”, which means the awards ceremony where different prizes were given such as “Mottagara av Karolinska Insitutets Stora Silvermedalj 2014”.

Between these different parts there were incredible acts performed by several artists including a piano and a guitar solo. In addition, The Real Group performed, which is a vocal group from Sweden. I honestly had never heard about it, but Olivia, Alicia and I were impressed by how entertaining they were.

To end, and as an apology for not mentioning one by one all the brilliant professors and researchers that were there during that evening, I would like to thank and congratulate them all. Thank them for being such an inspiration. I knew Karolinska Insitutet was an international place, for example in the Toxicology Master almost every student is from a different country from around the world. However, all those professors have normally been in several countries before Sweden, getting to know different cultural and academic organizations but in the end deciding to come to Sweden for good. Taking this into account, Sweden, and specially Karolinska Institutet, has to have something that makes people want to come and not leave. All of these professors and researchers, all these brilliant minds, are one of the things that make people like me want to come and discover this stimulating atmosphere. I hope all the other reasons to why to come to KI are unraveled and presented, at least up to some extent, through these blogs.

PS: If you want to see more pictures and videos about the ceremony you can see them on Instagram by searching #kiglobal

Study facilities at KI

Hello everyone!

It’s been already two months since our programme started and right now all the Tox Students are almost in the middle of the Target Organ Toxicity course. Contrary to the first introductory course, this one is based mostly on group and individual work. We are expected to solve medical problems connected to certain body organs, such as heart and liver. Evaluation of our work is based both on a written report and the presentation that has to be given in front of another group and one of the tutors. Between the group projects our knowledge is also assessed by short tests that aim to make sure all the students have basic information on the topics such as genotoxicity or liver toxicology. All of these activities require reasonable amount of time spent working together, and since all of us live in a different districts of Stockholm, most of the students decide to stay at the campus and do their work right there. How can you work together without losing your time on commuting from KI to someone’s place then? KI’s study facilties help you to overcome this problem:

  • In the IMM building (Institutet för miljömedicin – The Institute of Environmental Medicine), where we have our lectures, we are provided with a separate computer room. In this room you can not only search for some information on the Internet, but also print any relevant data thay may be important for you. Additionally, you also have access to many medical textbooks that you can use while being there and, if you are overwhelmed by the number of details you have to know for the next project or just feel tired, there is always a coffee machine and a kettle next to the computer room where you can have a free tea and coffee.
  • Since all the computers at IMM tend to be occupied quite often, we have to look for another place to do our group project. There are plenty of study rooms available in the library, but you should remember to book them beforehand as those may be occupied regularly as well. The study rooms consist of a computer, whiteboard and projector so that you don’t need to gather around the small screen to see the details of your work.

Intensive work in the study room in the library :)


Secretary of the group writing down our ideas.

  • In case all the study rooms in the library are booked, you can always use computer rooms situated in the main building of KI Solna Campus. You can access them using your KI card; these are bigger though and are available for students without booking, therefore shouting at your group members is not recommended there.
  • If you’re in a hopeless situation that there’s no computer room available, you can always bring your own notebook, because both IMM and KI main building are covered by free Wi-Fi Internet. It’s enough to know your login details handed to you during the registration process.

Now, when you finally can work on your project, it’s time for me to sign off.


Kick off 2014: Words of Acknowledgement to Swedish Institute (SI)

Being a student at Karolinska Institute has endowed me an unparalleled opportunity to be part of several networks and social events. Almost every weekend, or sometimes even more frequent, there is some sort of ‘get together’. I am just talking about ‘larger’ events which would give me the chance to move away or to some part of Stockholm. The list of in-campus sort of meet-ups is much larger.

Last week (October 10-11), I attended a very interesting kick-off program organized by SI. I was very happy with the event and thus wanted to write a post on the highlights of it. By the way, in addition to granting a full scholarship to several hundreds of students including myself, SI is working hard to secure some number of seats in every relevant seminar organized in Sweden. That is why I have been looking for a way to say THANK YOU to SI.

This second phase kick off 2014 was attended by 283 students from 66 countries who are attending their education in 19 Swedish Universities. All presentations and discussions were in Skogshem & Wijk Hotel while accommodation was also at Lovik and Rönneberga. Since I had class on Friday afternoon and I was very confused about the subject (Microeconomics) in its earliest stage, I decided to go to the kick off after class.  

Friends who were able to attend the whole afternoon told me that they had enjoyed the SI welcome message and a couple of discussions on cross-culture introduction and others. As soon as I arrive at Skogshem & Wijk, I have participated in a hot small group discussion on the theme of how to strengthen our networking and in what ways could SI support the networking.

For me the second day workshops on leadership (Leadership skills for efficient communication and Leadership for sustainable development) were very special. The program at Skogshem & Wijk was concluded by inspirational closing remark of Ms. Mari Anne Walz (Deputy Head of the Talent Mobility Unit, SI). …’we picked you because we believe you can meet the challenges your countries are facing…’ Oh! What a great expression!

Finally, the kick off was ended on Saturday 16:30 by a guided sight seeing of Stockholm, which heightened my interest of knowing more about the city. Sorry narrating the number and kinds of people I met, the delicious foods I had and the places I saw would take me beyond my word limits.

I am excited about the coming weekend event…I can’t tell you now…just have patience…

Have a nice weekend!


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KI Scholarships 2014 – A Story Behind

Studying abroad has always been my dream ever since I could remember. I grew up seeing both my parents got their degrees abroad and it became the source of my inspiration. However, I have known from the start, that without a scholarship, my dream will always be a dream. For most people who come from low and middle income countries like me, scholarships play an important role for the sustainability of our education. Without a scholarship, pursuing a higher education, especially out of the country will be a real challenge.

That is why, when I first received the results of the university admission this year, I was not 100% excited. I was worried. I did not know how I am going to make it this year. The scholarships to which I was previously applying did not yield in a fruitful result.

I was about to give up my dream to go to KI and looked for other opportunities when I received the notification e-mail of my acceptance as one of the KI Scholarships recipients for Global Master’s Program which would cover the tuition fee for the whole study period. When I received that e-mail, I could only be like 8O 8O 8O and thinking, oh God, why? Now what should I do???

My first step was, of course, to look for additional source of funding. I tried to apply for another partial scholarship provided by the government, but even as I write this blog post, the results are still not available yet. Many people questioning me for being persistent about going to KI. Many people even suggested that I should turn the offer down and applied for other scholarships/schools instead. But I knew I couldn’t and I didn’t want to. At that very moment, my family, who had always known my dream then finally decided to support me. I didn’t come from a wealthy family, far from that. But my parents had always tried to give their best for their children’s education, so with their support, I was finally able to fully utilize the KI Scholarships this year.

Last Tuesday, there was a KI Scholarship Ceremony, where the scholarship diplomas were being conferred to the awardees by the Vice-Chancellor of Karolinska Institutet, Professor Anders Hamsten. At that moment, I really wished I had had my parents there because I knew it meant as much for them as for me. It had also been a wonderful evening since I got the chance to meet so many important people from KI as well as other talented awardees from Master’s Program in Public Health Sciences, Health Informatics, Toxicology, and Bioentrepreneurship (not to mention the fancy reception afterward, but that’s another thing).

KI Scholarship 2014 awardees with the Vice Chancellor of Karolinska Institutet, Professor Anders Hamsten and Dean of the Board of Higher Education, Professor Jan-Olov Höög. (Photo taken from Prospective student at Karolinska Institutet Facebook page

So… to end this post, I would like to thank Karolinska Institutet for providing us such a huge opportunity, and for my beloved family, for the continuous support to help me making my dreams comes true. I will always do my best for you.

Until next post!


Communicating in Science or: How I learned to stop worrying and love oral presentations

A week ago, our class finished the first course in the Biomedicine Master’s Programme, namely Applied Communications in Biomedicine, as well as our stay in Huddinge. We now have lectures at Karolinska Hospital. So we are slowly but surely finding our way back into Solna campus’ heart. The commute time has been cut in half. But here’s the catch: I have to stand next to the bus driver during the whole ride because we are packed in like sardines on the 507 bus to Solna. You win some, you lose some. Instead of getting side-tracked into a rant about public transportation, which would be very French of me, I would like to focus on something positive: my scientific communication course.

Why is a course in communication so valuable to this programme? The benefits of science are diminished when we are unable to communicate our findings to others: scientists, government officials or the general public. How can we expect to make any sort of impact on the world if we fail to share our ideas effectively? If my high school and undergraduate years have taught me anything, it is that communication in science, written or oral, is often evaluated but very rarely taught. This course enabled us to develop this valuable resource in a class setting. Through group discussions, we helped each other assess our strengths and weaknesses in written (abstract), graphic (poster) and oral (rhetoric) forms of communication.

And the best part of this course: seven whole days dedicated to the art of scientific oral presentations!!

Full disclosure: I hate oral presentations. When delivering a talk, I tend to forget basic things such as breathing, full stops between sentences and, sometimes, whole volumes of the English language. I’m guessing a lot of you out there may feel the same. Unfortunately, we can’t all be Hans Roslings. So I was pretty much dreading this particular week.

Enter Peter Lind, our rhetoric lecturer.

It is hard to pinpoint how he does it, but Peter creates this positive learning environment in which you can find your own presentation style, identify the strengths and weaknesses in your delivery, and improve through trial and error. He offers constructive criticism and advice, which actually helps you get on the right track. You learn how to become more critically aware of your own performance, as well as those of others. And this will stay with you! Indeed, with many of my classmates, we now tend to automatically analyse the body language, voice tempo or level of eye contact of every scientific presenter we encounter. This newly developed critical superpower is a gift as well as a curse ;) Or as Haizea, a fellow biomedicine student, half-jokingly puts it: ‘Life after Peter Lind is never the same’.

So thank you Peter. You’ve made us realize that we scientists are not lost causes, but simply outstanding public speakers in the making.

And BTW, it sure beats the ‘picture your audience in their underwear’ tip

Since standing up in front of the class is already trying - I decided not to increase everyone's stress levels by taking pictures of them....

Since standing up in front of the class is already trying – I decided not to increase everyone’s stress levels  by taking pictures of them…. instead here are some pretty snapshots of Stockholm's cobbled streets and large bodies of water

…so instead here are some pretty snapshots of Stockholm’s cobbled streets and large bodies of water

Stockholm at first sight: Chronicles of a First Timer

With more than a month of stay in Stockholm, i seem i can qualify myself to provide an insight of my impressions of the city.Popularly known as the capital of Scandinavia. Was it love at first sight? am yet to decide on that.  But travelling from the center of Africa to Stockholm,i always expected an initial rough ride,but it has been rather surprised by easy of adaptation curve i have undergone at least before the dreaded Swedish winter starts.The first annoyance was Google directing me to Swedish web pages automatically and translating pages or looking out for engleska all the time… have learnt to leave with that nevertheless. And an expensive cost of living compared to Uganda was immediate shocker.

Picturesque old city

The architecture is a mixture of new and old structures. With more modern buildings in most parts of the City. But ancient structures stretching hundreds of years remain a sizable proportion of it. It is in the ‘old quarter’ where i enjoy most. It seems like walking back in history. The artistic impressions of the structures and sculptures, are a photo opportunity i always find jaw dropping…Most historical houses  in Gamla Stan include museums,palaces and lots of cafes.


Palace Guard


Modernity meets Tranquility                  

My first sight from the air of Stockholm was a spectacular natural settings straddled with water and on ground i was not disappointed,Swedish love for nature cannot escape the  eye throughout Stockholm .Green parks dotted throughout the city,uncharacteristic of most modern cities currently.The city’s beautiful parks and their environmentally friendly policies and practices. Recycling bins, bike trails, and eco-friendly products were everywhere. Stockholm and it suburbs provide a perfect definition of a beautiful city.


Efficient and ‘Affordable’ Transport

Public transport seems to work efficiently fine. With buses,boats,trams and train system working on time and clean up to now. The maze of lines for metro was initially overwhelming blue,green and red,bus numbers and colors which seemed infinite. Determining the shortest possible routes to use was quite a task…until decided to try all and interpreted the mapping system of the metro system. The underground integrates fantastic artistic drawings.Biking is still trendy in Stockholm,took a while to get familiar to the cycling lanes

Stockholm metro system

Stockholm metro system

Stockholm Street

Stockholm Street

More than just the meatballs

I took up the new food flavors with lots of reluctance but the meatballs have been great. After a few food poison bouts in the initial weeks, a typical reaction to alien food. I seem to have physiologically adjusted  to the Stockholm flavors. Purchasing foodstuffs is  always been a challenge. Most menus and food markings are in Swedish,typically pictorial representations  and Google  translator always came to my rescue when  making purchases though it is not strange to buy totally different things from what you intended..

 ‘Fika’ land

‘Fika’ is the magic word in Sweden,it is a uniquely Swedish tradition which initially seemed strange to me at first, never being a coffee fun,. I could not  understand why every meeting, discussion has to include fika breaks periodically.The ages old phrase ‘when you go to Rome do what the Romans do’ came to my aid ….. but I have now adjusted to it and actually look forward to the short social breaks throughout the day.

Why I aspire to be a ‘latte pappa’…

After having arrived in Sweden, it’s not long before one is quietly, diplomatically, and modestly informed by a Swede (or an expat, wishing they were a Swede) of a few of the things that make their country a unique and special place to live.

One item that regularly makes an appearance on the top-five list of Swedishness, alongside the likes of ABBA, fika (“have you heard about fika?”), Volvo, and do-it-yourself furniture, is the country’s amazingly egalitarian welfare system. In particular, the generosity of Sweden’s paid parental leave scheme shines brightly like a beacon of aspiration for voting mothers – and fathers – the world over.

For each child in Sweden, parents get to divide 480 days of leave between them as they wish, receiving 80 percent of their salary, up to a maximum of 946 kronor (137 USD) per day for the first 390, and 180 kronor a day thereafter. What’s more, sixty days of leave is reserved for each parent, and if either take more than their minimum, both receive a “gender equality bonus” of 50 kronor per day. Not bad, is it?

Whilst women still take the majority of days, in 2012 men took on average 24 percent of all parental leave(1). Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see young fathers pushing around their blond haired, blue-eyed bundle in a remarkably practical but fashionable stroller, clutching a coffee (and the change from their 50 kronor equality bonus) in the other hand. Hence the affectionate term, “latte papa”.

Whilst Melbourne (my home town) may be the self-proclaimed epicenter of coffee snobbery in the world – a city where concerns about your skinny-soy-chai-latte’s temperature rate on par with those of global poverty – Sweden, I’m informed, ranks third in per capita consumption of humankind’s favourite stimulant(2). Only the Dutch and the Finns surpass it on the podium of caffeinatics.

It may not be long, however, before the latte pappas make a resurgence and drink Sweden back to the top. After all, combining coffee with paid parenthood isn’t far from every young father’s dream!

Tack til for the imagery!

Tack til for the imagery!

(1) See

(2) See

Why everyone is talking about thesis?

Thorildsplan station

Thorildsplan station

I know, we are becoming annoying with the thesis topic. But is part of being grown-up, being second years. First, you complain about not having idea about your topic and later you say that your thesis is absorbing all your energy and you do not have time or mood to write posts and those things.

Once upon a time I had a thesis topic and a supervisor but such is life and I had to drop it, especially because it was related with my country and somebody else (actually two people) are already researching on that topic.

After that drawback I thought in other ideas related with Colombia that I had to abandon. I asked for suggestions or topics of interest from current research groups at KI without results. But I still want to work in something related to Health Policy (my favorite course, so far). I brought some ideas from Colombia and I was considering them. I realized that one of them could make not very happy some part of the Pharmaceutical Industry and actually it had not really a clear outcome. And, as Göran Tompson told me in one class: “Do not fight with pharmaceutical industry”. Especially because I want to work again in that sector.

Other topic ideas were related with the field my sister is expert in. But she knows about it in the aeronautics field. It also has to do with systems complexity and interfaces human-system. And you will see some of this in our Policy course (and maybe something else in Management)

But my mind does not keep quiet or steady and she (yes, is a she) keep thinking in new ideas. One of my favorite topics for many years has been human communication. These includes how to give a speech, how to write, how to prepare a Power Point file and how to manage mass communications among many other topics. And I had another idea about mass media, Health authorities and conveying messages during health crisis, outbreaks, etc.

Laura seems very relaxed, in her post, about this thesis thing, and maybe other people are also calmed. I look very frantic but I think I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and it is not the train, my friends. Maybe this is a quite insane post but that is my current life (and delivering final assignments and presentations in the Advanced course in Health Economy).

But although I wrote not really clear ideas here, writing helps me to clarify my thoughts and discard some useless stuff that has been hanging on my notes.

Åkeeshov station

Non vialoence. Åkeeshov station, T-Bana