Sakura: A Spring in Stockholm

Cherry blossom in Kungsträdgården

Sakura (cherry blossom) in Kungsträdgården

When I was a child, I had a chance to move to Japan with my family. It was the first time I lived in a four-season country, and I still remember how distinct the changing was from one season to another. Summer was identical with sunshine, autumn with red and yellow leaves, winter with snow, and spring with this beautiful pinkish cherry blossom, or as I used to call it: sakura.

Back then, if I remember correctly, when the spring came, they would have this tradition to have a picnic under this cherry blossom tree, or hanami. Unfortunately, my first memory with sakura and hanami was stained with a little accident. The night before I had my first hanami, my head hit the edge of a cupboard handle (I didn’t even remember how that was possible), which eventually made my first photo under the cherry blossom trees decorated with an ugly white patch on my forehead.

With my parents

Under the cherry blossom trees with my parents. I didn’t look very sad here. Perhaps I’d already forgotten how painful it was :P

After I returned from Japan, I somehow felt sorry that I might not be able to see it again. Although there was a botanical garden in Indonesia that had a collection of cherry blossom trees, I never had a chance to visit it when the flowers were blooming. However, after waiting for 21 years, I finally got the chance to see those wonderful flowers blooming again. Not in Nagoya, Japan, but right here in Stockholm, Sweden. <3

When I received the news that the first cherry blossom had already bloomed in Kungsträdgården, I didn’t wait any longer to visit the place. It was still cloudy and windy, but I finally got the chance to see it again! I was sooooooo happy! XD XD XD

First picture

My first picture with sakura after 21 years. No patch on my forehead now :P

Afterwards, I couldn’t restrain myself from visiting the same garden again and again and again. The peak was when there was a ‘Cherry blossom day’ (Körsbärsblommans dag) on 18 April (I hope I translated it correctly :P ). The weather was quite perfect: warm, with sufficient amount of sunshine, which might explain why there were soooo many people there ^^’

Around the garden, there were booths that were selling a variety of foods (sushi, shrimp chips (?), and candies) as well as displaying some Japanese traditional arts, including origami (paper folding), ikebana (flower arrangement), and calligraphy. There was even a place where you could actually try wearing Japanese traditional clothing (kimono). Some of my friends did actually try them and they looked great! :D

All in all, I was really happy to be able to see the cherry blossom once again and enjoyed all the festivities around. Welcome spring! :D

Interview with a KI Alumni-I

Hello every one!

One of the frequent questions I have been asked by prospective students is related to possibilities after studying at KI; and what previous alumni are doing. I thought it would be much better to ask the alumni themselves and contacted a HEPM alumni asking if she can answer some questions. Her responses were the following:

What influenced you to choose KI when you decided to further your education?                                                                                                           


Nargis Rahimi

A dream of improving maternal and child health in low resource settings and contributing towards a world where everyone can have equal access to basic health services they are entitled to. I chose Public Health because I truly believe that preventing diseases is so much more effective and efficient, especially in countries where people cannot afford to pay for curative services.

In which year did you graduate from the HEPM program at KI?

In 2013

What were your likes and dislikes (if any) related to your education at KI?

I liked the projects where you could apply your theoretical knowledge into something “tangible”. I had a vision and goal while studying and every course I have taken was to bring me closer to realizing it. I loved working together with Shahnoza- my colleague, friend and course-mate and writing the thesis work together. We shared the same vision, together finished our education and are working together towards achieving our vision.

How satisfied were you with your education at KI?

I was thankful to be part of the education, having great teachers, colleagues and courses. Everything has room for improvement especially because we were the first batch of students in Health economics, policy and management. During our management course we learned how to always improve, eliminating waste and creating more value.

Are you working currently? If yes, where are you working? In what kind of role and responsibilities?

I am working in Shifo Foundation where I am a co-founder and Program Director.

After leaving your program at KI, how long did it take for you to obtain your first job or work experience?

I was already working at Karolinska University Hospital before I started my education.

Are you working/ have you worked in a responsibility related to your training at KI? If yes, how do you explain the practical importance of your education at KI to this job? Do you have any example?

All we do in Shifo is connected to improving global health. Currently all our efforts are dedicated towards ensuring that every child has access to vaccines and other preventive health services they are entitled to. All is done to ensure that no child will suffer or die from diseases, which can easily be prevented. One of benefits of the education is to equip you with tools, which you can apply in your daily life. The composition of having health economics, policy and management is what I appreciated during my education because if you want to contribute towards strengthening the health system you can not only perform health economic evaluation but use the evidence to influence towards better policy and decision making.

One of the other examples is to develop interventions, which strengthen the health system overall and evaluate the impact- short and long term of any intervention that you work with. Also, because of the background from academia, you are always self-critical and want to evaluate your work and produce evidence with sound methodology.

If you could start over again, would you attend KI? And would you recommend KI to others?

I definitely would

Is there anything you want to say?

Public health is a beautiful field, our work is too important because we need to ensure that people do not suffer or get diseases, which can be prevented. We know that public health is under-prioritized, especially in low resource settings where it is of a vital importance, simply because there are not enough resources or possibilities to treat people. And as one of my professor’s said during her first lecture: Never forget your vision of why you have chosen this path and why you are here studying Public Health.

I am extremely impressed after reading Nargis Rahimi’s responses and visiting Shifo Foundation’s website ( If there are other alumni who would like to share their experiences, you are most welcome to contact me or the respective digital ambassadors from your program of study.

Finally, I would like to end by expressing my highest appreciation to Nargis Rahimi and her colleague Shahnoza for their exemplary commitment to apply what they have learned to face a real public health problem. I should also thank Nargis for her promt response to my questions and express her willingness for any further queries. Thank you to Vibeke Sparring, who provided me with the contacts of her previous students.


What does Valborg, studies and spring have in common?

Hello all my cyberfriends!

Sun is shining, weather is sweet and pharmacology course is going great! Oral exam is coming up this week on Friday and everyone in the class are intensely studying and squeezing in some ice cream time and looking cool with their shades on!                          In order to take the actual exam on the 12th May one must pass the oral exam. The oral exam consists of essay questions where each student is assigned one to answer and discuss with the rest of the students in your seminar group. If the teacher thinks your answer is satisfactory, you’ll pass! If not….you’ll take the re-oral exam which is in 2 weeks!

Apart from studies, i’ve been busy organizing and planning a career event for all the global master programmes which will be held in May, details about the success/failure of that evening will surely be posted later :D Here’s some others things i’ve been up to:

I am currently the president of the Biomedical educational section at KI and by being so i get many opportunities to attend different festivities during the year as a student representative. The closest one coming up is the celebration of Valborg (30th april), a big holiday here in Sweden. Valborg has very little to do with religion and everything to do with the arrival of spring! The forms of celebration vary in different parts of the country and between different cities. It’s usually not a family occasion but rather a public event, and local groups often take responsibility for organising them to encourage community spirit in the different parts of areas in the city. In Stockholm, there is Skansen, an open-air museum and zoo located in Djurgården which will host a more formal ceremony for this occasion. All student-representatives (like myself) at different universities are invited (forced) to attend as a part of the ceremony where we have to hold a flag representing our university, a student union or a section and i will be representing the biomedical educational section.

Last week we had a rehearsal for the upcoming event and it was quite windy and made it all a bit more fun! Here are some pictures:

FullSizeRender-9 IMG_6368But as a “reward” for putting all this effort  so, i will have the great honor to attend the Noble Dinner later this year! Overall, it’s worth it! :D

Lastly, i’ve basically just enjoyed the really nice swedish spring which is awesome when it actually decides to stay for a while! Here’s me in a picture at Kungsträdgården, a quite crowded spot at the moment because of its famous cherry tree blooming during this time of the year! Lots of people trying to get through and get close to the trees to take that awesome selfie they can post on their social medias. #springhasarrived


Until then…                                                                                                                    Best wishes :)

Day In The Life- Thesis

Just wanted to share some joy and show a littl of what my day, now all of my qualitative research is done, involves in writing the thesis. Sometimes I also go to cafes, KI Huddinge or libraries and try to keep it varied but this day I went to KI solna and studied in one of the group rooms in another building which was not the library (for once) on campus.


Wanted to show Slussen which is one of my favourite places here in Stockholm, it is quite famous for being really trendy and hip which I guess it is! This is me walking down the main street where the shops and some cafes are along with really cool vintage shops- I advise all who visit to check it out and find their Slussen as it is brimming with little cafes I for one have many favourites!

First draft (out of how many?)

Ok, what can I say? Today I sent the first ‘complete’ draft of my master thesis for revision. It is time to take a break.

But, actually, that does not mean that this is over. I expect a lot of comments and corrections and maybe a message asking if I considered having a different approach… That is one of the reasons of finishing my document quite early. There are some things I am not sure of and I would like to have enough time to curse and later to work. I don`t want to be cursing while writing.

Apart of that, I still have pending two attachments. I made a lot of advances on one of them today, one that summarizes all my work. The other is a couple of tables with notes of events happening during 37 weeks. I need to summarize 230 lines in each table and a column for each week…. or discard the idea of including it. God save the qualitative research!

I am also having pending the abstract. 300 hundred words that can be extremely painful because you need to write like a Nobel Prize, selecting every word with extreme care. Each one of them must have an explicit intention. And the excluded ones should be also with big reason… Ok, I am little bit dramatic but it is harder than expected.

I worked very hard, I acknowledge it and my wife is also surprised of my dedication. Part of my ‘success’ is having a strict discipline of work, like when I was an employee, from 8 to 5, resting weekends and holidays. And going out to take a deep breath of fresh air when the dumbness took on control of my brain. Sometimes I worked until late hours but that was because I was lazy earlier that day or because my wife was also working in something for her employer.

I sent the same draft to three friends not related to KI that could see my work with other eyes. They can say if the flow of ideas is right, if there are jumps or bumps and they can also check my English writing. They are not experts in my topic or in anything related with health policies.

I am sure I still have a lot of work to do but I came here to celebrate this important milestone with you, relatives and friends.

I will be nostalgic

IMG_0760  Pictures by Mauricio Duque Arrubla: Bogotá and surroundings

Apart from all its beauties and happiness, spring has a special touch in my memories. The spring in Stockholm sometime resembles the weather in my town city: Bogotá. Although Colombia is a tropical country and most of it quite hot and humid, Bogotá is 2600m nearer to the stars, the motto one City Mayor used during its governments. That height makes the weather far from hot, but not as cold as Stockholm could be. We only found snow in Colombia over 5000 meters above the sea level.

The days like yesterday, when we reached 14ºC and we could leave the jackets at home are the more similar to my city. Fortunately I like also the cold under zero in this country. I like the feeling of the cold air in my face. It only happens below -4ºC, more or less; if the temperature is nearer to 0ºC the air tends to be more humid andI do not like it so much.

I do not like very much the temperatures above 20ºC. Last year, when we had up to 32ºC in Stockholm (really rare for everyone) I found fresh air in the subway tunnels. The same places that give you some warmth during the winter. Yesterday I felt the first time in this year that the T-Bana station near my house was colder than outside.

It seems I am nostalgic but I’m not. I will be nostalgic if I return to Bogotá and realize that some days the weather resembles the spring in Stockholm. That day I will be nostalgic. Today Stockholm is my home town, the city I like the most, even despite all that awful graffiti on every wall of Gamla Stan.

I only miss my mountains


IMG_0921 IMG_1031 IMG_0988

Easter Spirit brings study spirit

Happy Easter everyone!                                                                                                 With the Histology course being over, the new course  Pharmacology and Toxicology has begun on full speed. Course is mostly lecture based with a mandatory seminar by the end of each part of the course combined with a lab. The first part that we just finished was Pharmacokinetics and receptor pharmacology and so far it’s been great! Good lectures and the seminars are very helpful! We sit as a group of students and answer/discuss questions which have previously been given to us and if we encounter any difficulties we have our own teacher assigned to us to help us out. Really efficient learning method and appreciated by many in the class!

Sadly, the swedish weather got to me and i’ve been drifting away from school a bit with fever and a sore throat. I feel well again just in time for easter – nothing can stop me from eating lots of candy and painting eggs :D

11110873_10152813764356279_3352748530192551834_nNow, a week of own study time awaits!

Until next time….                                                                                                                   Best wishes :)

5 things I love about Stockholm

  1. Public Transportation

Sweden might be a country with high prices, but in this sense, it is completely worth what you pay for it. Public transportation, including subways, buses and all sorts of trains, is simply amazing. In the first place, it is extremely clean (maybe this is a bit more difficult during weekend nights, you party people!). Also, plenty of buses are quite new, the older subways are still charming and perfectly maintained and the system is quite easy. No matter where you are, you will find a bus close to you or a subway station a short walk away. Prices for a monthly pass are wonderful if you consider the quality you receive. Have to be on time in Stockholm? No problem, you can practically always count on Stockholm’s public transport system.

  1. Opening Hours for Stores

When I first got to Stockholm, I could not believe my eyes. I went to one of the malls and all the stores were closed. It was only 17:01. I was used to seeing all stores in my country open until 8 pm or even 10 pm! Luckily, when you go into the city center or bigger malls, the stores close at 8 pm. However, I kept complaining about this sometimes. I wanted them to be open even later. But not anymore. If you just want to shop for clothes, you can organize yourself and go earlier. But what about emergency food? Who has not been hanging out until 10 pm during a week night and all of the sudden remembered you have absolutely nothing in your fridge? Don’t worry, plenty of supermarkets in Stockholm open until 10 and if you are lucky even until 11 pm!

  1. How difficult it is to find a trashcan on the street

It has happened to me so many times, to be walking with a piece of trash in my hand for quite a long way. This might sound like no fun at all (and it is not, especially when you are trying to eat an orange) but it says a lot about the people. Stockholm, despite being a capital with almost 900.000 people, is fantastically clean. So if you take into account that finding a trashcan is difficult sometimes, you can sense the quality of the people that are here and their love for the environment and their city.

  1. How it is like a cozy little village inside the shell of a vibrant capital city

Activities in Stockholm are extremely diverse. From nightclubs to classical music concerts, from museums to laser tag arenas, from business areas to kids sleighing during snowy days. The city has everything characteristic of a big city but without missing the charm and coziness of a small little town. A recent example could be seen during the last month where multiple electric stairs in the subway were out of order. During this time, after going up two flights of electrical stairs with their characteristic bigger steps and cursing about why you took the metro instead of the bus that morning, you get to the top. And there they are, offering adorable cups of water to make all that exercise worth it.

This is just a portion of the stairs at the subway!

This is just a portion of the stairs at the subway!

  1. The great prices for the things that matter

Yes, Stockholm can be considered a bit pricey. Alcohol, eating out and accommodation are just some examples of things you will find to be expensive when you get here (obviously depending where you come from). But when it comes to exercise, Stockholm just makes it easy for you. There are several gyms with fantastic offers and opening hours and the public swimming pools are also incredible with really cheap prices (further blogs about this). So once you are in this city, you have no excuse to be a couch potato!

How has life at KI changed me, let me count the ways.

Hej hej!

Spoiler alert: I have only come up with 3 ways in which Sweden/KI has changed my routines/behaviour so far. There are of course a multitude more but this post is already a small novel so I decided to spare you guys another 500 words. Here goes:

1. I have finally embraced technology and now I’m App-dicted.

I did not own a smartphone until a year ago. Let’s just say I have never considered technology my close friend. And considering the number of cell phones I have accidentally drowned in the past, I think the feeling is reciprocal. Yet, this year, I have become wholly and utterly dependent on my phone/tablet. So much so that every time I enter a coffee shop, the first thing I do is look for a plug to charge my various devices. Now, to be clear, I am not blaming Sweden. I am not blaming this innovative and technologically fluent country, or the wide range of Apps it has introduced me to -these phone apps which facilitate travel, banking and getting student discounts, of which here is a handy selection here : I am also most certainly not blaming KI, the ‘plug haven’ (seriously there are plugs located at the bottom of couches there) with its highly active social media (think #KIGlobal on instagram or the facebook pages: Prospective student at Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska Institutet (English), Karolinska Institutet Career Service, Karolinska Institutet Universitetsbiblioteket). And let’s not forget the PingPong Mobile app KI uses. This gem allows you to access class schedules, documents and messages from your phone. Thus, it holds a special place in my heart.

2. I have travelled around the world…one plate at the time

This is going to sound very high society of me, but here goes… I have never, ever attended more dinner parties than this year at KI. Guys – if you want to eat delicious food all the time, find a group of friends with a big kitchen (so in Stockholm, that would be people living in halls) who are willing to cook every single Saturday. In the last month, I have attended three dinners. Last weekend, there was no dinner. It was disorienting. A Saturday without a food coma is a wasted Saturday. This touches on another one of the benefits of having international friends. At the last dinner, my plate of food consisted in Swedish meatballs, Estonian potato salad, Sicilian arancini (stuffed rice balls), Polish barszcz biały and Greek tzatziki. Who needs to travel anymore?

Dinner to celebrate (early) Easter

Dinner to celebrate (early) Easter

Dinner to

Dinner to celebrate….food

3. I have gone into the wild to find myself the sun.

They say you never know what you’ve got till it’s gone. A few months ago, we all lost the warm embrace of the sun. It seemed bearable at the time. We took our vitamin D and chilled in the soothingly quiet light room. It was only when that fleeting fireball returned that I realized how much I missed its benefits-physical and psychological. These past weeks, I have craved the outdoors like never before. I have spent whole Saturdays and Sundays outside on various promenades. I have become…wait for it-outdoorsy! ( note: I include laying around the KI picnic tables in a total state of unproductiveness as an outdoor activity). Fortunately, Sweden is the perfect location for an ‘outdoorsy’ individual with nature reserves and national parks covering one tenth of the country. Even within the vicinity of Stockholm, there is so much to explore. One particularly beautiful place to hike is the nature reserve in Nacka (Nackateservatet) which features trails through rocky forests abundant with gorgeous views (it is a bus ride from Slussen ) . And if you don’t want to stray too far from KI, there is the idyllic Hagaparken, basically located in its backyard (a 5 min walk from the Karolinska Sjukhuset bus stop). All the essentials are there: a lake, a temple, a palace, a Chinese pavilion and even a butterfly house. You will want to reserve a few sundays to explore all the hidden/not so hidden beauties of this Royal and Historical Park.



Hagaparken at sunset

Hagaparken at sunset

The half frozen lake. Or as I like to see it: half melted (progress!)

The half frozen lake of Hagaparken. Or as I like to see it: half melted.