I study in the Institute of Medicine at the North-Eastern Federal University, and I’m in my fifth year. The exchange program north2north was a unique opportunity for me to go for six months to study in Sweden as an exchange student. I started to collect my documents in the fourth year of my studies, and at the time, the trip seemed so far away to me. Preparing for the exchange took a lot of time, but it totally fulfilled my expectations.

I spent the fall semester of 2014 at Umeå University, which is located in northern Sweden. We were so lucky to be there at that time because Umeå received the status of the European Capital of Culture. Every year, this status is given to two European cities, so Umeå was one of the two cities that year. There were many interesting cultural events: concerts, performances, and others.

Umeå University is one of the largest universities in Sweden. There is a university hospital in Umeå University, but I had to study at the Department of Molecular Biology and Public Health because the Faculty of Medicine does not take exchange students. I chose a course on biostatistics and epidemiology at the Department of Public Health, and immunology, physiology and pathogenesis of bacteria in the Department of Molecular Biology.

The learning process was totally different from what is familiar to us. Attendance at lectures is not compulsory, and students do more independent research. There are no oral examinations, and to pass an exam you need to answer correctly to at least 60%. You can easily retake the exam if you fail. An unusual feature of the Swedish system for me was that checking the exams takes a long time – I received three exam results but am still waiting for the results of the fourth.

During the six months of studying abroad my English skills have improved significantly. When you have to communicate and learn the language, you naturally begin to think on it. This has helped to improve not only those but also writing skills.

The exchange program is not only good for studying and improving skills but also meeting many new friends from all over the world. Umeå University has a special program for foreign students, in which all international students are divided into groups of 30 and combined with 10 Swedish students. In these groups, there are plenty of extracurricular activities: general meetings, parties, hiking, etc.

The six months in Sweden gave me a lot and I am grateful for the opportunity!