Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: Universiteit Leiden
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Autumn semester 2016/2017
Name: Bethel Tesfai Embaie
Email address:


After a lecture in KI we had a presentation about our exchange opportunity at Leiden University during the second year. The presentation was given by Malin Ahlén and Jonas Sundbäck who kept us informed about the application process and all the things necessary prior to arrival at Leiden.

I was immediately convinced that this would be a great chance to do my studies abroad, experience a different setting and enjoy the possibilities of connecting with an international community!

The application process was fairly simple and quick. The requirements were as follows:


1.      KI application for studying abroad: You receive an application form that needs to be filled in. Additionally, you need to apply with your LADOK transcript, CV and a passport photograph. There will be 10 places available for the class, so they are looking for students that have passed the courses and would be good representatives of KI.

2.      Nomination form to send to Leiden: A nomination form, from Malin, will be sent by email to confirm that you have been accepted for exchange studies from KI. You will need to forward this to Leiden University, as well as the transcript, passport copy and KI card.

3.      Acceptance of Admission: You will receive a final form to confirm your acceptance to study at Leiden University. They also ask if you will request student housing via the university accomodation.

4.      Leiden University & LUMC Accounts: Following your enrollment, you will receive emails about your student accounts. The international coordinators who will be in touch with you and arrange most of the logistics before and during your stay in Leiden are Eveline Hack and Sandra Van Deursen with the joint email:

            There will be forms to be filled to get the following accounts and cards:

  • Student number e.g. s1899090
  • Umail: Leiden University email where you receive all notifications from student website “Blackboard” (you can set it up so that all your emails are forwarded to another account)
  • Leiden University Card: to borrow library books and access Leiden University campus facilities
  • LUMC badge: to access LUMC hospital building
  • Blackboard: similar to pingpong where are the course material and lectures are uploaded (enroll for the courses yourself)
  • LUMC rooster: updated online schedule
  • uSis: results page similar to Ladok (exchange coordinators will enroll you to the courses)

Arrival and registration

Although I arrived the weekend right before the semester started, and it was very easy to settle in and find my way around. I do, however recommend that you arrive a week earlier and enjoy the introductory OWL week. You will receive registration possibilities to sign up for the intro week that is a great way to socialize, settle in and familiarize yourself to the new environment and the student life. You will pay for a week of activities including tours, meals, pub nights, parties and social events. You have the option to get accommodation for that intro week as well.


From Schiphol to Leiden

Public transport is very efficient and quick. You can get an OV-chipkaart (like an SL card) at the airport station. The platform is downstairs from the airport arrivals hall:

Trains to Leiden go from platform (spoor) 5-6 only one station away 15-20 minutes. 


Things to get

I recommend you buy or hire a bike from students via the facebook groups: For sale in Leiden & Leiden Buy/Sell/Exchange

It is the best means of transport there.

I suggest you get a Lebara prepaid sim card.

Most supermarkets only take Maestro cards but Dirk and Albert Heijn at the station take both Visa and MasterCard.


University Registration

You need to collect three different university cards:

1.      LUMC badge: from Educational building 3 at LUMC (Hippocratespad 21) information desk

2.      Leiden University (LU) card: from Plexus Center (Kaiserstraat 25)

3.      Registration card: will be posted to you but you may also collect it from Plexus.

Leiden University Main Building



There is an Erasmus form that you need to fill in before and after your stay in Leiden. This is very important as it will provide you with a grant for your 4 month semester abroad (approx 10,000 sek). There will also be the English language requirement for your exchange studies that you need to confirm with the Erasmus program.



You can get an application form for studies abroad in the CSN website and you will also need a confirmation form from Malin. Both should be signed and posted to CSN prior to your exchange studies. If necessary, you can also apply for a student loan via CSN, but Erasmus Stipend, CSN and savings should cover most costs during your studies abroad. This mainly depends on housing and travels.


Bank Cards

In the Netherlands they usually take cash or Maestro cards. Some places take Visa and MasterCards but since the currency is euros, both exchange rates and administrative fees will cost.

My suggestion is that you get an IcaBanken from Sweden that you can use there, instead of getting a Dutch Bank card which requires you to register in the town hall, etc. That can be used in most places and will save you from carrying too much cash.

It is however possible to withdraw cash from any ATM using your Swedish bank card and there is an Exchange office inside the station next to Starbucks and Hema store.


Supermarkets & Food

Food is a lot cheaper in Leiden than Stockholm. The cheapest supermarkets are Aldi, Jumbo and Dirk that are all close to the station. Albert heijn is a little bit more expensive but has a nice variety of nice food. A store called Action opposite the station, next to Aldi, is also a convenient store.

Dirk is the only supermarket that takes Visa and MasterCard, as well as the kiosks (albert heijn) inside the station.


The LUMC canteen serves food at the University Hospital Lunch hours: 11-14 and Dinner: 17-19 which is very cheap food: 3.75 euros for a hot meal and a large variety of other options. There is a cashiers that takes both Visa and MasterCard at the LUMC canteen. There are also three microwaves at the University Hospital canteen on the second floor.


You have two options with regards to housing. Either you apply for accommodation provided by the university or you search for housing yourself. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options, and I can tell you about both since I went through both processes. The prices range from 350 to 1100 euros per month in Leiden, with a variety from shared flats, student corridors to studio apartments.


University Housing

The SEA Housing office works on the first come first served basis, so it is very important that you apply early. That was my mistake because I was unsure about my housing situation, I left it until the last minute and ended up in the waiting list. You pay a deposit of 350 euros and select your top choices of accommodation. If you do not get housing you get a refund or you can choose to stay on the waiting list. When you get a Housing Offer email from you need to sign an Acceptance Form and send it the SEA Housing Office. You will then receive a confirmation email with information about payment and collecting your key.


House Hunting

There are several alternatives if you choose this path. You can apply using agents eg. DUWO or Housing Anywhere.

Facebook: You can usually find ads for places for rent on Facebook groups. You may come across some good offers or at least find somebody you could team up with to find an apartment. Check out pages called Leiden Housing or Housing in Leiden.

I managed to get in touch with a medicine student from Leiden University who was going away for the semester and shared a flat with two other students near the station. We finalized a contract after emailing back and forth a few times and I paid 417 euros per month. I was very lucky to get this contact via the exchange coordinators but most people found the cheapest options through the facebook groups.

My shared apartment building

Studies in general

The overall educational system and courses are similar in LUMC compared to KI. The main differences are based on the self studies and the demand on students. Generally speaking, the study load is more challenging in Leiden but there are ways to overcome these challenges. It is crucial to keep up with the workload throughout each course, because it will be difficult to cram all the studying one week before the exam. The courses focus mostly on lectures and compulsory workgroups (classes similar to seminars in KI). There are fewer labs compared to KI, one anatomy (digital microscopy) computer lab at the beginning and only one practical lab at the end of each course. Additionally, there are more written assignments and a few presentations.


Each course has a module book that guides you through the course, with a summary of each topic, lectures, workgroups, study assignments, textbook page references, etc. You can find the module book and lectures online in the Blackboard separate course website that you need to enroll to. You can also buy the module book and textbooks in the Dictaten Centrale (DC) at the M.F.L.S. bookshop. It is the best place to buy the study materials since it is located next to Hepatho in the K0 zone in the LUMC Main Building and you get 20% discount as a student (remember cash is king!). The bookshop open hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday 12:15- 13:15.


The grading system is different. In KI we have the U/G/VG system but in Leiden they have a scoring system from 1-10. Usually the passing score is 5.5. That is based on your percentage scored in exams and specific assignments. Your overall grades are mainly dependent on your exam, which is similar to KI.


Most lectures and some classes are in the University Hospital LUMC Main Building (Albinusdreef 2). Most classes are in the LUMC Education Building 3 (Hippocratespad 21). Labs are in LUMC Research Building 2 (Einthovenweg 20).

Some good study spots are Hepatho (student union like MF), LUMC 1st floor outside lecture halls, Walaeus Library at LUMC, Leiden University Library, Kamerlingh Onnes Building (Law Library) and some nice cafes in town: Coffeecompany (Breestraat 156), Anne&Max Leiden (Gangetje 2),  Bakker van Maanen (Nieuwe Rijn 39) and Borgman Borgman.

Bakker van Maanen

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 3 at KI

Each Course has its own site on Blackboard that you need to enroll to. The courses that you will do are listed in this website with links to each course and their catalogue number:

Remember that the name of the Biomedicine programme in Leiden is Biomedical Sciences or Biomedische Wetenschappen in Dutch.


Immunology (BS) - 9 ECTS

Catalogue number: 311201110Y

This course focuses on the mechanisms of the immune system. It is heavily based on the textbook, since it is an open book exam. So I suggest that you get the book at the very beginning of the course, so that you familiarize yourself with the material throughout. You can put sticky notes in your textbook, to reference pages, diagrams and tables. (No loose papers are allowed in the exam!)

Most lectures in this course are brief and have been described as introductory lectures. This course mainly focuses on daily workgroups that provide you with reference chapters to read in preparation and questions to answer with additional patient case studies. The questions for each workgroups can be found in the module book. These workgroups go in depth and require you to think about each topic, so it is very important that you come prepared to each workgroup. I suggest that you answer the questions the day before and highlight the diagrams and pages in the textbooks that you used to answer these questions.

For the exam, you have only 3 hours to answer 15 essay-type questions. You are therefore very limited in time compared with KI exams. So, it is very important that you answer the questions that you are familiar with first, without checking the textbook. At the end you can complete the more challenging questions that require checking the textbook. A warning: Open-book exams are not easier than closed-book exams!! The questions are not straight-forward that you can find directly in the textbook and you are limited in time. 


Infectious Agents & Immunity - 6 ECTS

Catalogue number: 311204010Y

The first part of this course is similar to the Immunology course consisting of lectures and workgroups for each topic. The main difference is that there is no single textbook that you should focus. Instead, you need to learn to understand the basic concepts of the topics taught in lectures and apply your knowledge to analyze scientific articles given in most workgroups. These workgroups are good practice to prepare for your exam. There are also two interim practice tests online that will also help assess your progress. The final exam will make up 80% of your final grade in this course but you will still need a 5.5 to pass the exam and the course. (Not open-book exam!)

20% of your grade will be based on the second part of the course: mini-projects. You select a mini-project during a workgroup. You meet up with your mini-project group that selected the same topic and read up on articles related to that topic. You design lab experiments for your topics and prepare a report of results and present your work in a powerpoint presentation that is also submitted to CIS (separate course in Communication in Science that runs in parallel).

The final part of your course is  Electives, in which you again chose a topic of interest and meet up with your groups. There will be lectures for each topic for the whole class. You study your topic in depth by studying literature and prepare presentations for your original workgroups. This part is graded with a pass/fail. It is very important to listen to everyone’s elective presentations, because these topics will be in the final exam.

Additionally you need to write two summaries of guest lectures throughout the course.


Physiology, Basic Concepts - 8 ECTS

Catalogue number: 3112085PPY

This is the most demanding course in this semester. It is divided into two parts. Each part ends with a multiple choice exam. You need to pass both exams with at least 5.0 to complete the whole course.

The first part of the course is Cardiovascular and Respiratory Physiology. It starts with an introduction of cardiovascular anatomy lecture and a computer lab (digital microscopy). In addition it covers ECG but mainly focuses on the Cardiovascular Physiology. There is one large lecture that goes through the Respiratory Physiology, followed by a workgroup in that topic. Each topic has a practice test online in Blackboard, called a poll test. This is very good practice for the exam!

It is important to attend the lectures in this course, since it is the main source of information in this course. The textbooks are large and extensive, so it is very important to focus on the lectures and keep up with the topics, especially with the online weblectures. There are very few workgroups, but a lot of Self Study Assignments, which are questions in the Module Book that guide you through the material you need to know. The answers to each Study Assignment is uploaded onto Blackboard.

This first part ends with an exam: 50 multiple choice question in 2 hours. (Not open-book exam!)

The second part of the course is Kidney Physiology and Homeostasis. The overall structure of the course is very similar to the first part. Starts with anatomy and digital microscopy class. Followed by lectures that go through Kidney function, physiology, regulation and homeostasis. There are seminars (SM) held in lecture halls that go through the Self Study Assignments, which are a great opportunity to ask questions and go through the material in depth after lectures. There is one practice test online (poll test) that is also good practice for the exam. This second part also ends with a 50 question multiple choice exam in 2 hours. (Not open-book exam!)


Communication in Science (CIS) for Exchange Students - 2 ECTS

Catalogue number: 3112091PPY

CIS is a smaller course that runs in parallel with the courses mentioned above. It mainly focuses on your professional writing and presentation skills, particularly in the scientific world. The teachers are mostly linguistic and therefore focus on your language skills, rather than the content (compared to the other courses). They prefer to focus on your pronunciation, clarity, body language and visual aid in presentations. They assess your language, structure and flow in your writing.

You have two main written assignments: Article Review and Argumentative Essay.

And two presentations: Article presentation and Mini-project presentations.


Biomedical Academic Scientific Training (BAST) for Exchange Students - 3 ECTS

Catalogue number: 311209700Y

BAST also runs in parallel with the other courses. It starts with the course leader Dr Leendert Trouw giving us an intro to Academic Research and a few classes discussing the factors contributing to research. You will need to get into groups and select a PhD student and their supervisor to interview. These interviews are a great opportunity to get an insight of what daily research looks like and give you an idea of what your future might look like!! You need to write summaries/manuscripts of your interview (I suggest you voice record the interviews with their permission). Then you write up a final report with your group about all the topics assigned: Financing, collaborating, planning, publishing, etc. You will end the course with a presentation and evaluation of the class.

This was the most fun course, mostly because we had a very friendly teacher (Leendert) and it went beyond us studying from the textbooks!


Applied Electrophysiology for Exchange Students - 2 ECTS

Catalogue number: 311201200Y

This mainly runs in parallel with the Immunology course. You will have 2 main lectures covering the basics of ECG. You will have a fun practical, where you get your ECG’s taken. During this time you have two assignments to complete, studying and analyzing a few ECGs that are submitted via email to the professor. These assignments are fairly simple, as long as you attend the classes to prepare you for them. Finally you have a long article review on a topic of your choice regarding ECG. This article review is very long and takes up a lot of your time so you should not leave to the last minute, although you have plenty of time to complete it.

Immunology Lab

Language and Culture


Dutch is a very difficult language to understand and learn, but fortunately it is easy to go about in English in The Netherlands. So it was not necessary to learn the language for this semester. Although the pronunciation of words are very different, Dutch is written quite similarly to Swedish so you will manage!

It would still be fun to learn the language but I did not have the time to do so.


I heard previously heard that the Dutch are somewhat similar to Swedes, but in contrast are more forward or direct. This was a nice change and they are very friendly with a different sense of humour. I wish that I had spent more time integrating with the Dutch classmates!


Museum Volkenkunde

Leisure time and social activities

You need to plan out your free time because it is a very busy semester with a lot of schoolwork! But there are so many nice places to discover and fun events to go to while you’re there, so try to make the best out of your time.

There are many things you can sign up for as a Leiden University student: sport’s centre (USC) activities, free museums, student pubs, student dinners, etc. I highly recommend you to register for Leiden United student association, which integrates the international students with the Dutch student events and groups! My biggest regret was that I didn’t sign up for that and I missed out on the most fun events and activities.


There are a lot of nice places in Leiden that you should discover:

  • Museums & Sites: Museum Volkenkunde (free museum for LU students, near the station), Naturalis (Naturhistoriska Museet nearby LUMC), Wall Poems around the city, Botanic Gardens at the University, Pieterskerk (beautiful church in the heart of Leiden.
  • Cafes: Coffeecompany, Anne&Max Leiden,  Bakker van Maanen and Borgman Borgman
  • Restaurants: Lebkoov & Sons (nice for a quick sandwich on LUMC side of the station), Stadscafé Van der Werff (a nicer cafe/pub/restaurant), Shabu Shabu (great sushi!), Pannenkoekenhuys Oudt Leyden B.V. (best pancakes)
  • Pubs: Olivier’s Belgium Beer Café, De Bonte Koe, Einstein’s (international pubs on Wednesdays), Peli bar (student organized bar), Poolcafe the Church

The greatest thing in Leiden that you cannot miss is the Leidens Ontzet (Relief of Leiden) festival that lasts the whole weekend at the beginning of October!! There are parades, funfairs, markets, traditional food, concerts, parties, drinks, drinks, more drinks and it all ends with a beautiful firework display at Ankerpark!

While you’re in a very central city in Europe, make the best out of this opportunity and travel around. There are many trips planned by ISN that you can join in. I highly recommend you go to different cities to enjoy the Christmas Markets at the end of the year.

Leidens Ontzet


It was a very challenging, yet worthwhile experience to do my exchange studies in Leiden. I have gained a lot and learnt to manage my time better. I have developed my studying skills and become more independent, living abroad for a semester.

It has also been a fun experience to live in a different country, meet new people, see great places and join in new activities that I had never done before. It was also a lot warmer, with less snow and an extended summer, which was a great contrast to Sweden!


Studying abroad has given me a broader perspective both personally and academically. I have engaged in more studies and diverse activities that have taught me a lot about my future in this field.

So my take home message is don’t miss out on this great opportunity!

Pannenkoekenhuys Oudt Leyden