Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: Universiteit Leiden
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Autumn semester 2017/2018
Name: Callum Whiteley
Email address:


I chose to go on exchange for the opportunity to experience yet another culture and country, and Leiden was offered to us in semester 3, allowing me the chance to go on a second exchange in semester 6. I enjoy exploring new countries and want to expand my horizons as much as possible, which i’m striving to do whilst still participating in a structure degree course.

Arrival and registration

We arrived to Leiden a week and a half before the course started, with a few days to get acquainted with the accommodation and town, and then we started the OWL introduction week, which was great fun. The international students were split into different groups based on study subject, and then we did various activities in leiden, allowing us to get accustomed to the city and meet the other internationals.


My cost of living was roughly 800-900 euros per month, as rent was 575 euros, then groceries and other activities on top. The biggest change regarding finances was the small proportion of businesses that took Visa or Mastercard in any form, denying both credit and debit cards that weren’t “Maestro” cards. If you’re staying in the Netherlands for more than a couple of months, I would suggest starting a bank account there, or trying to find a Maestro card before you go, as several places did not accept cash, and only accepted Maestro cards, such as in the University hospital itself. The transport system in Leiden was far from what i was used to in Stockholm, with only busses around the city, and a payment system that was not budget friendly. A bike was an easy solution to this, most of the time, however there were many days when the weather was terrible, and an easy public transport solution was not particularly viable. A great tip for saving money would be to get an “Albert Heijn” card, for one of the supermarkets, which gives some pretty good savings.


We decided to opt for private accommodation, as we assumed it would be better value for four of us to live together than in university accommodation. While it turned out to be more expensive on the whole, it was better value in terms of size and quality of accommodation. In Leiden the housing seems to be slightly cheaper generally than in Stockholm, however we had trouble finding somewhere that would take four students, and we payed a large deposit of 2 months rent. It would have been much easier to find somewhere for a single student, and there are many opportunities to find a room if you’re only looking for one. Our apartment  was only 10 minutes away by bike, in a quaint suburb called Oegstgeest.

Studies in general

The studying was immediately very full on, requiring full time attention at least 6 hours of studying per day, a lot of self study time reading the text books and answering questions for seminars. Lectures were only about 2 hours per day, and seminars about 2 hours, leaving 2-4 hours of study time in the evenings to prepare for the next task. It only got more intense as the courses went on, ending the first part of the physiology course with an exam on the Friday, and two essays of >5000 words turned in on the same weekend. The teaching methods were good, with the lectures usually followed by a seminar on the subject of the previous day, and then preparation for the seminar held on the following day. They focused mainly on the studying aspect, leaving very little time or energy for other activities, generally a much different environment from the work-life balance of KI. This had pros and cons, pros being a large quantity of detailed information was learnt in a short time, however now I think back, most of the small details aren't so clear, and I’m left with a similar level of knowledge as if I had taken the less intense KI course. The main con is that the stress was much higher, and full enjoyment of the country was hard to organise, as travelling was hard to fit in with socialising, studying and staying healthy.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 3 at KI


I thought this was the best course, it was well structured and planned, and I personally like the content, and especially the seminars were very useful, where we were in groups of 12 or so, with a teacher, and we went through questions on the subject at hand. Exam was open book, an interesting experience.

Infectious agents and Immunity

This course had great labs, and project work that was really fun and interesting, and again the content was interesting and well structured. Exam was like a normal KI exam, no open book.


This was less structured, with more self study and fewer seminars, although questions were still provided and gone through. Very detailed with the renal and urinary systems. No labs, apart from histology, which was quite disappointing. The exam was split into two parts, first was multiple choice, the second being multiple choice with 5 long answer questions afterwards. The grading system for the multiple choice was odd, as 50% correct answers did not correspond to a 50% mark, but to a lower mark, around 40%


This was an interesting course, and allowed us to write our own paper about a specific topic relating to electrophysiology, which was a good way to interest us in the subject, and provided a deep insight into the topic. The essay was the graded part, 5000 words.


Biomedical Academic Scientific Training was a course intended to provide a look at what we could be doing in the future in research, what life is like as a researcher and how funding and projects get approved. It was a great way to find out about what goes on behind research, as well as requirements for certain positions, and how research is structured. Presentations and reports were graded, no examination.


Communication in Science was about helping us become more proficient at reading and interpreting scientific articles as well as how to write and present ourselves, with several presentations performed. These were graded, no final examination.

Language and Culture

The culture was pretty similar to UK and Swedish cultures, though with more bike riding as transport and more sandwiches as a meal. Dutch people generally were very nice and helpful, although the students didn't make a great effort to engage with us.

Leisure time and social activities

Societies in Leiden arranged many different social events, which were fun and a good chance to meet different people, especially events organised by ISN. They also have university affiliated sports teams, which is a great idea, and gives you a chance to get involved with sports you’re interested in, as many of them have a beginner level. Leiden itself was a nice city, although very small compared to Stockholm, which meant it was easy to get around on bikes but lacked the big city feel I love about Stockholm. The student life was great when you did find some free time, as Leiden is a student city, although due to it’s small nature, there are very few club opportunities, which didn’t bother me at all, as I prefer going to a bar instead. The weather was warm the first few weeks, however it quickly became colder, and more rainy, raining for probably upwards of 60% of the time we were there. If you do have some spare money and time, you can visit many cities in central Europe, as compared to Sweden, The Netherlands is very small and borders both Germany and Belgium, and France is just a little further away. 


All in all, it was a good experience, showing me how hard I can work if needed, however it also highlighted the aspects of Stockholm and Karolinska that I enjoy the most, not least the work-life balance. It was enjoyable once again to experience another culture, whose sweet foods, such as stroopwafels, are almost as good as kanelbullar and chokladbollar, but fika was desperately missed. I think it will affect my future professional role, as it opened me up even more to exploration, and I would love to continue my education abroad, perhaps outside of Europe next time.