This blogpost is dedicated to all first semester students (AKA newbies) and also prospective students considering applying for a two-year master’s program at Karolinska Institutet. I present you with 5 pieces of advice that I believe will make the difference and help you get it right on your first semester at KI. Here they are:
1. Enjoy the “chill semester”
For most global master’s programmes, it is true that the first semester is the more relaxed one. The starting courses tend to have very flexible schedules and not many evaluations, as well as covering just the “basics” of each area. KI has this approach in order to “level” the class considering the diversity of backgrounds, cultures and professional experience. Therefore, most of students find the first semester to be the perfect period to establish a routine and settle in Stockholm.
Having said all of that, my first advice is that you enjoy the most of your first semester. It is the perfect opportunity to get to know the city, make new friends and find/continue with a hobby. Take a walk and explore the city at least once a week, go to a park or to the archipelago on the weekends, join activities and social events (respecting COVID-19 restrictions, of course) and generally speaking, just have fun.
2. Engage with teachers
Students sometimes forget that graduate school is the step prior to starting a full-time career, and like most of professional environments in the world, networking is KEY. KI teachers are renowned researchers, most of them also having a career outside academia. Please consider that your teachers are there because they love their job and most of them want to help you succeed in your future endeavors. My advice for you is to actively participate in the interactive sessions and stay after class chatting with your teachers. Ask them about their research projects, their careers, their past experiences, and also don’t forget to show your interest. Shoot them emails and ask them for more, even invite them to have fika! Few more times in your life you will have so many people interested in boosting and supporting your dreams. It is also a good advice that you put more effort and show more enthusiasm in the areas/topics that passionate you the most, or where you want to direct your career towards.
3. Connect with KI
Our university has a lot of clubs and activities to offer (related or not to the medical field), so it is very likely that at least one might interest you. Joining one club will help you networking, socializing and also learning while having fun. It is also one of the best ways to meet people from other programs since you rarely see each other on campus. Also, considering the relatively high amount of free time you will have during this semester, it would be a great use of your time.
4. Pick up some Swedish
Swedes are highly proficient in english, therefore it would be fair to assume that you could live your whole life in Stockholm without speaking a word of Swedish. Although not necessary, picking up some Swedish can help you to connect more with your new home, make local friends and most importantly, it could be a great asset in your CV for future job search. Moreover, it can be very helpful to understand at least basic Swedish for future assignments and group work where you have to look for information that is more easily available in Swedish.
There are many ways to learn this fascinating language, including free state-sponsored lessons (Swedish For Immigrants-SFI), but also less formal resources like YouTube videos and Duolingo.
5. Prepare for the winter
When I arrived to Stockholm last year, I was quite annoyed by the fact that everyone would warn me about the winter. It was almost impossible to have a conversation with a second year student without eventually mentioning the topic. I really thought everyone was exaggerating and trying to be cool about it. But I was wrong.
When December came I finally understood what everyone was talking about, and yes, it was a big deal. The greatest shock was not the cold, but the darkness. Stockholm was actually not that cold as I expected, but coming from a Caribbean country myself, the lack of sunlight really blew up my mind. But don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed it. You just have to be very strategic about it and adopt an active mindset, after all there is nothing you can do to change the weather. My advice is that you sign up for activities to keep you busy, including exercising, studying more than usual, but most importantly, SOCIALIZING. The dark winter could have a heavy impact on your mood if you don’t engage in social activities and have fun (mostly to forget that it’s 3pm and it’s absolutely dark outside). Also, taking Vitamin D supplements might be a good idea to help you stay active (don’t forget to consult with your doctor before).
Hope you find this tips useful and relatable. The first semester was definitely my favorite so far and I can say that most of my classmates would agree with me. Next semesters start to become more stressful as difficulty increases with also responsibilities regarding future career decisions. Enjoy the ride as I am sure you will look back at that stage and wish you can live it all over again.
Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments.