Reserapport - KI-student
Lärosäte: Universiteit Leiden
Utbildningsprogram: Biomedicin
Utbytesprogram: Erasmus
Termin: Hösttermin 17/18
Namn: Alexander Agrest

Innan avresa

When starting my studies at Karolinska Institutet, I heard a lot about the possibilities of conducting parts of the education abroad and especially that there's a possibility of doing that in the 3rd semester of the program. I am born and raised in Stockholm and I believed that I would benefit a lot from going abroad and challenging myself, by living in a different country and experiencing a new culture. The only exchange available at this time was the exchange to Leiden in the Netherlands, to study at the Leiden University Medical Center and I was very excited to apply. Before starting the exchange there is aapplication procedure as well as some administrative parts that have to be sorted out. 
First, applying to KI, which involves submitting a motivational letter as well as a grade transcript (since it is required to pass all courses of the first year to be eligible). 
Then, once being accepted, immediately start looking for accommodation since that is a time demanding process. Also, start booking flights and read all the information in the information emails from KI as well as Leiden in order to set up everything that has to be set up before going and before the start of school. Also, apply to OWL week (Introduction Week Leiden), which is the official introduction week for international students. It was a LOT of fun and also very helpful for feeling more confident around the city and meeting some of your fellow exchange students. 

Ankomst och registrering

I arrived approximately one week before the introduction week and thus two weeks before the start of the school semester and I found that sufficient. My big tip is to get your hands on a bike as fast as possible upon arrival since the bike will be your best friend and lifesaver during your time in Leiden. Also use to time to get acquainted with your neighborhood and the city, such as where to find the closest grocery store (I recommend Albert Heijn, cheap and offers usage of free bonus card).
The second week after arrival was the Introduction week (OWL week), which was 5 full days blasted with city tours, activities, parties and a lot of other fun (It is a must). The people and contacts obtained during the introduction week were very helpful for the continuation of my time in Leiden. Both in order to have people to adress when needed and to have a bigger social network. I recommend to attend as much as possible of the OWL week in order to get as much information and as good of a start as possible for the studies in Leiden. 


In general I considered Leiden and the Netherlands to be relatively affordable. My cost for accomodation was ca 5500 sek a month, where I shared a big appartment with 3 others. Of course this depends on your personality and economy, but I think that my accomodation was fine considering the requirements. I lived in Oegstgeest, which was a 2 km bike ride to school and the city center, which for some may be considered a problem.  On the other hand it was a lot bigger than the appartments of my friends living in the city and also cheaper which is a big plus. I found eating to be very affordable and convenient, since the restaurant in the LUMC is tremendous, with a lot of options and cheap food (it is slightly more expensive than cooking by yourself). Otherwise I did not have that many costs besides the purchase of my bike (80 euro at the bike sale during OWL week) and voluntary expenses such as partying and shopping (which are cheaper than in Sweden as well). There were no mandatory expenses in relation to the exchange besides the cost of the introweek. 


I lived with three of my fellow classmates. We stayed in a airbnb appartment, which we rented for the full 4 months. It was 5500 sek a month but that included everything (water, gas, dishwasher, laundrymachine etc.) and it was a very big appartment with lots of room. Thus I consider it to have been very worth it at its price. It was approximately 2 km from the school/hospital and the city center. When finding the appartment we simply googled our requirements and tried for a while (it took approximately 2 months to get everything set up).

Studier allmänt

The studying in Leiden is intense, which was something I already knew when going. The studyload is higher compared to KI since the emphasis is on self-learning rather than being lecture based, meaning that a lot of time is required in reading and doing assignments. We had six courses whilst in Leiden, where each course was more specifically directed to certain areas and types of teaching:
Immunology - heavy study load, a lot of assignments and work in workgroups
Infectious agents and immunity - more lecture based and a lot of article reading
CIS (communication in  Science) - very useful course with the purpose of developing our presenting and writing skills
BAST (Biomedical academic science training) - course with the purpose of giving our insight into the life of a Phd and how to plan our future after studying
ECG for exchange students - taught us how ECG works and how to interpret it and most of the grade is based on a paper/large assignment
Physiology basic concepts  - very intense course which was primarily lecture based. 

The quality of the teachers was generally very good and they really try to make us understand the concepts. 
Also different compared to KI is the pararell courses given in Leiden, which makes studying more stressful compared to KI since there is more to keep track off. 

Kurser under utbytet

Kurser motsvarande termin 3 på KI
Immunology 9 ECTS- covers the immune system in extreme detail. 
Teaching is primarily based on workgroups, which function as small scale seminars
(+) Very interesting course and a lot of  different topics covered
(-) Very intense and heavy workload

Infectious agents and immunity 6 ECTS - continuation of the immunology course with more emphasis on infectious diseases such as Malaria and HIV
Teaching is primarily lecture based but there are also a few workgroups. Also involves two projects.
(+) Extremely interesting topic (it was my favourite course whilst in Leiden) and the workload was less than Immunology
(-) A lot of article reading 

CIS (communication in science) 3 ECTS - course with the purpose of improving our writing and presenting skills.
Course involved 1 presentation and 2 short essays/text writing assignments
(+) felt very useful and had a adequate workload. I feel that the feedback received during this course will be very useful for my scientific writing in the future
(-) No minus

BAST (Biomedical academic science training) 2 ECTS - course involving a few lectures, a interview with PhD student and a text + presentation based on the lectures and interview
(+) very useful course in giving me insight into my future as a potential scientist. 
(-) The planning of the course was not ideal and it often clashed with other courses giving a lot more stress. 

ECG for exchange students 3 ECTS  - involved a few lectures explaning ECG and the rest was writing of a report on a cardiac condition or any other topic related to cardiac physiology
(+) very good course responsible and interesting and useful course
(-) same as with BAST, poor planning leading to increased stress

Physiology 8 ECTS - course covering cardiovascular and renal physiology as well as homeostasis. 
(+) Very fun and interesting subject with good teachers.
(-) very big workload and extremely intense (should be longer than 6 weeks)

In summary, I found my courses at Leiden to be very interesting and useful but sometimes the workload was very intense, which is something that I am not as used to at KI.

Språk och kultur

I decided to not learn any dutch besides basic phrases needed in the everyday life. This since the language is rather difficult and I had to keep up with the high pace in school. There were language courses for the people interested but I decided to not participate. However I played football and picked up some dutch from there. 

Culturwise I think that the dutch are pretty similar to the swedish. They are very warm and welcoming once you get to know them. Also I spent most of my time in a very international environment with people from all over the world, where there were far more culture shocks compared to the dutchies. For example there was a lot of people on exchange from Singapore. They had a lot more trouble adapting to european food and life culture. For me personally the difference was not that noticable. However I have learnt a lot from the experience of meeting people from other cultures. 

Fritid och sociala aktivteter

There were a lot of activities going on for exchange students. There was a weekly wednesday pub at a bar called Einstein. Also ISN Leiden (International student network) arranged some type of activity once a week. I took part in some of these activites and had a lot of fun. I also represented the international students in the class student council (the JVT) together with my Australian classmate and friend Stuart. There we had weekly meetings with some of our fellow dutchies where we evaluated the courses as they were going. I also played football in the LVV factory (the university football team of Leiden unviersity). We had 2 practices and 1 game a week and it was a lot of fun. It also introduced me to a lot more dutchies and showed me what dutch sporting culture looks like. I really recommend doing as much as possible whilst in Leiden, no matter your interests. 

The city of Leiden is incredibly beautiful and I really recommend going here just for the opportunity of biking and walking through this amazing city. It is also closely located to other dutch cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag etc.) and I really recommend going on sightseeing to these cities as well. 


In conclusion, I really recommend going on exchange to Leiden. This exchange has taught me a lot and I have had a lot of really good moments and experiences. Yes, the study load is intense and there is more stress to it than at KI. However, I have had the opportunity to see another culture, get new friends from all over the world, represent my country and school abroad, play football in the university team and really experience another culture from within. According to me that overweighs the studying.