Archive for Kazem Behbahani - Student

I am a Swedish-American master's student at the Toxicology programme at Karolinska Institutet, however I don't know Swedish very well. While I am here I will try to learn and become fluent in the language. In my free time I enjoy learning to cook and going out on nature excursions.”

Homemade Sushi

What do you do with yourself when you find a free weeknight? Well, get together with friends and make some sushi of course! At least that’s what a few of us thought last week.  You can buy all the ingredients for making your own sushi from a local grocery store, although shopping at a local Japanese market will save you money and will probably get you better quality items. To do this, you will definitely need sheets of the seaweed covering (nori), some short grain rice, vinegar and lime, and whatever else you want to put in your rolls.

To start with cook the rice as you normally would. When it is done add some salt, vinegar, and a little lime juice. Lay out the nori and add a layer of rice. Then add whatever sliced ingredients you wish. You will end up with something looking like this:

Now you cut it up into slices and eat! Simple, right? To be honest I don’t know if this is the exact recipe for making sushi, but this is what we came up with. What fun is making food if you can’t be creative? :)

Acute Dentistry

Last month I found myself sitting in class and minding my own business when all of a sudden I started to have an incredible toothache in the back of my jaw. It was my wisdom tooth pressing in as it usually would once a month or so. I had stopped being surprised by the pain and started learning the best way to endure it. However, this time was especially painful. I felt that I had to see a dentist.

The dental system in Sweden differs a little bit compared to the States. Back home if I had an emergency with my tooth (that was not bad enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room) I would make an “emergency appointment” with my local dentist and they would usually move their schedule around a bit to fit me in right away. That is not possible in Sweden. Though there may be exceptions, the appointments set by the local dentist are rigid. I cannot simply walk in and demand to by seen right away. Instead I had to go to an “Akut tandvård”.

When I arrived I went up to the welcome window to present my information, and they gave me a number and pointed to the waiting room. I sat down and waited along with about 5 people ahead of me in the queue and I was to wait until my number was called. Waiting took 2 hours, though I have heard when the clinic is busy you can be waiting for up to 4+ hours, so make sure to bring something to do if you ever find yourself in that situation. The trick is to come early. The earlier you show up, the less waiting time you will have. When it was my turn to see one of the dentists, I told him about my pain and he took an x-ray. This showed us that my wisdom teeth were impacted and I had to take them out sooner rather than later. Though there was not anything he could do for the pain (I guess Sweden is much stricter about handing out pain medication compared to the States), we made an appointment for me to come back and extract my wisdom teeth once and for all. For anyone’s reference, the full price for the extraction range’s between 1000-2500 SEK depending on the complexity of the extraction.

The quality of dental work here is similar to the States. It really will depend on the dentist him/herself and how much effort is put into the work. I was lucky to have a very skilled and engaging dentist.

After a month I am happy to say I have taken out the trouble makers and never have to worry about the random pain events again.

If you are interested in making an appointment or visiting a dentist I recommend you start here:

The akut tandvård by St Eriks sjukhus – Photo by: Kazem Behbahani

The cost of living in Sweden

Being in Sweden is one of the most satisfying experiences to have. There are plenty of attractions throughout the country and an abundance of culture to take part in. However, as a student, staying in Sweden can be challenging. Coming from the US everyone was under the impression that Sweden was a “more expensive” country than a America. To a degree that is true. So for anyone out there who is thinking of moving to Sweden for whatever reason I would like to go over the monthly costs that you will have to face:

  • Accommodation: 3000+ SEK. Accommodation is the hardest thing to find when coming to Sweden because it requires you being in a queue for some time and may be the reason that some people won’t come. So if you are able to find a place to stay consider yourself lucky. On the low end you can be paying about 3000 however you will probably will be sharing a flat or a corridor. The more you are able to pay, the better your accommodation will be.
  • Transportation: 560 SEK (student price). Getting around Stockholm is very easy with the public transportation system. You are able to buy a monthly SL pass that will give you unlimited access to that system for the month. For anyone new to Stockholm I recommend getting it so that you have a good chance to explore. If you are looking to save money though you might not have to get this pass if you live close to school and perhaps a grocery store. Some people also buy bikes a ride those around during the warm months and only buy a pass for a month or two in the winter.
  • Food: 1200 SEK. This amount will depend on what exactly you eat and will vary. 1200 is the value that I spend on average a month for food.
  • Insurance. Remember you have to get insurance, both home and health/dental. If you are a student find out what insurance you can get abroad.
  • Phone: 150 SEK. I have a smartphone and use Google Maps a lot to get around so I had to make sure I got a plan with data on it. There are plenty of companies to choose from. The most popular one for students is Comviq. I have a prepaid plan from Telenor. I pay 150 SEK for 3000 minutes, 3000 texts, and 500 MB of data for 30 days. I have never reached any of those limits so I though this was the best plan for me.

Putting everything together, at the very least you will be spending about 5000 SEK per month living here. That does not include things such as: eating out, buying books, or any extra expenditures that you have. I hope this information is useful for anyone considering on coming over to Sweden.

Photo of an ice cream cone and Mehsum Rupani at Kista Centrum – Photo by: Kazem Behbahani


With the extra time we may have around classes, it’s important to keep myself busy. I decided to pick indoor climbing. The last time I tried to climb was when I was 10 years old. I don’t think my efforts at that time lasted more than a few days. I thought that this time I should give it more of a chance.

There are many routes to take here – Photo by: Kazem Behbahani

The name of the place that I climb at is at klättercentret. It is located in Telefonplan, one of the suburbs of Stockholm city.  This company has a center in Solna, which is closer to the universities. MF, the Karolinska student union, sometimes hosts climbing events at the Solna center. I travel a little further because I hear that the climbers in Telefonplan can be friendlier. While so far I’ve only been to the one center and not the other, I can certainly say that they are very friendly and welcoming.

My first attempt at climbing went well :) – Photo by: Alex Julner

The first day I went it cost me around 150 kr to climb for as long as I wanted and for the shoe rental. Relative to how much everything else costs in Sweden this price was not too bad on a students budget. They offered normal climbing walls (with harnesses) and bouldering areas. You need to take a class to use the harness, or have what they call a “green card”. Since I didn’t have that I have been going bouldering. For anyone who hasn’t done that before, there are walls up to 5 meters high with several different angles and turns for you to maneuver around. If you fall there’s are thick pads covering the floor to support your fall. Trust me, I have fallen on my back trying to grab a rock at the very top and have walked away without a scratch on me.

The bouldering area – Photo by: Kazem Behbahani

After that first day I loved the experience so much that I decided to get a monthly membership there. The price of that with the KI student card was around 350 per month. I now go around once or twice a week so I get the most out of the card. I think the strongest reason pushing me to continue to go though is because of my friends in class that motivate me to go with them. I suppose that is true of any hobby that you decide to pick up. It is possible to go by yourself but what happens when you lose the drive to continue? For most people the hobby that once interested them withers away. I can say this has happened to me before. All the more reason to drag friends into your hobbies! :)
If your’e ever in the Stockholm area and want to try out some climbing, check these guys out:


Currently in my toxicology course, along with the students from biomedicine, am taking a laboratory animal course. It is a three week course that entails a few segments. During the  first week, we don’t have any classroom time however we are meant to complete an online course that will certify us to work with laboratory animals. This certification is standard for all researchers in the EU and was just revised at the end of 2012. We were told that it would take us 40-50 hours to complete this course (hence the extensive time away from the classroom). With one week left, most students have already finished their certification. The consensus was that the information on the course was very practical and useful, however the assessments were horrific. With an infinite number of tries with each assessment, the most I attempted on one was 70. Between all the stories I had heard, one student had gone up to 150 tries! It was a relief to put that part of the certification behind us.

On the second week, our time was split up between lab segments, where we would practice techniques on live animals. The toxicology students worked with rats, and the biomedicine students worked with mice. As a tox student I think we were fortunate with this distinction because while rats are bigger, they are very docile and rarely bite. On the other hand, mice bite a lot. It was common for a biomed student to show up after lab with a few bandages on their hand from the biting. The lab training focused on us learning how to hold the animals, to train them, to feed them, to inject them with substances, and finally on the last day to euthanize (to kill them in the most humane procedure available) them.

A toxicology student calming a rat down – Photo by : Kazem Behbahani

The other half of the second week was spent working with assigned groups to design a hypothetical experiment using lab animals. We were assigned different diseases to research and create an experiment where lab animals where used, yet try and justify the necessity of animals in experiments to begin with. As researchers, if we can reduce or even replace animals in experiments we choose that route. My group was assigned to “cure” tuberculosis. We invented a miracle drug, and set up an experiment where we would hypothetically test the substance on mice with other leading treatments as well.

With one more week left in the course we have two objectives left. The first in to present our group task to all the biomedicine and toxicology students. The second is to take a final exam. This was a short course but overall I would say that it was my favorite in the program so far. This was the first time we received practical experience and studied “hands on.” Hopefully we will get more opportunities like this in the courses to follow.

The rats were always friendly and curious – Photo by: Kazem Behbahani