Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: The University of Edinburgh
Study programme: Biomedicine (Master's)
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Spring semester 2017/2018
Name: Ricardo Florez
Email address:


Going on exchange had been an exciting and valuable experience during my bachelor´s studies at Lund University. Therefore, I decided to go on exchange during the master´s education at Karolinska Institute. My biggest passion is neuroscience, especially brain imaging, and I really wanted to do my master thesis in this field. The University of Edinburgh is well-known for its long history in medicine, including neuroscience. The university offers high quality research/courses and has cutting edge facilities. All this together with the university´s strong reputation convinced me that The University of Edinburgh was the right option for me.

The first process of the application process was to fill in my personal information and write a letter of motivation alongside the online application (the KI website has a very good description of the online application is done). This is one of the most important steps in the exchange application, as it will determine how willing you are to go abroad. I recommend to include all your research experience as well as relevant courses you have taken throughout your academic career. Also remember that the main reason for going abroad is to specialise in your favourite field to take part of great research with new and exciting research groups!

As with abroad-information, KI offered good information meetings about exchange studies that I attended to. Worth to note is to always have an open mind for cultural differences as well as for education differences. You will find how beautiful it is to travel and learning to take part of a new culture, by immersing yourself in the everyday life in a new country. KI will help you by giving you information about contact persons at the host university. 

After some weeks of applying, I received the great notification that I was nominated to The University of Edinburgh. Now, the next step was to become accepted as a postgraduate student in Edinburgh. For this purpose, begin searching for groups that you might be interested in doing research with. This step is very simple, as most of the professors and PIs answered to the e-mails and were very kind. I found an interesting research group in brain imaging at The Department of Psychiatry. After contacting the research group you have to go through some administrative papers (for instance fill in the Application for Admission as a Postgraduate Student). importantly, you need to contact the Research Administrator at the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at The University of Edinburgh about your exchange. The contact information can be found through this webpage: Note that the administrative process might take a couple of weeks, but the wait is worth the effort! After a couple of weeks I was finally enrolled as a student at The University of Edinburgh.

At this stage, you will get student account at the university portal MyEd. This will give you access to student e-mail as well as information of the host university. Note that The University of Edinburgh will ask you for a passport photo for the library card (the card will be obtained when arriving at the University Library in George Square in Edinburgh). Also notify the Research Administrator about the lab you will do your master thesis with. 

As a preparation for the travel bring the KI insurance, the learning agreement document (with the KI international coordinator´s signature), the European Health Insurance card (can be ordered by this website:and a list of addresses of e-mails/contact information of important persons at The University of Edinburgh. It is also a good idea to bring some cash already exchanged (as public transport/many stores still only operate with cash in Edinburgh). Finally, bring suitable clothes for your exchange.



Princes Street, Edinburgh

Arrival and registration

It is a good idea to arrive a couple of days or up to one week before your start date in order to allow time to settle in Edinburgh. Fresher´s Week is usually between January 8th - January 15th and offers excellent opportunities for meeting prospective students as well as for exploring the main campus in George Square.

After arriving in Edinburgh:

Edinburgh Airport (EDI) is relatively easy to find yourself in. When arriving at the airport it is a good idea to exchange cash and get some coins (this is important for the public transport in Edinburgh). There are three buses that depart from EDI. Airlink 100, Skylink 200 and Skylink 300. I took Airlink 100 as I wanted to head towards the city centre (Princes Street station), where I went to a hostel in which I stayed for a couple of days in the beginning of my arrival. The Airlink 100 is very good as it accepts card payments, has free wifi and also has a space reserved only for luggages. Information about current prices and routes for these three buses can be found here:

The hostel I stayed with was called Edinburgh Central Guest House. This was a very good option as I had time to explore the city centre, look physically for accommodations while in Edinburgh, get my student ID card at the university library (George Square) and thereafter go to a nearby travel shop at Waverly Bridge to get the Student Ridacard (note that you need to show the student ID card in order to get the Student Ridacard). During the days prior to my start date at the lab I also took the opportunity to matriculate at the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine by visiting the international coordinator in the George Square Campus. It is good to notify the international coordinator at The University of Edinburgh to book a time for the matriculation. During this visit you can also bring the learning agreement to have it signed.

One piece of advice is also to download the "Bus and Tram app" to check for transport routes in Edinburgh. Here is the link to the different bus transfers and schedules in Edinburgh: 

Main campus (Bristo Square), The University of Edinburgh


With respects to the economy there are some great news. Edinburgh and generally Scotland is cheaper than Stockholm. Interestingly, accommodation is the only aspect that have equivalent prices as in Stockholm. But in general I found food, public transport, social events and many other things more economic in Edinburgh. CSN as well as Erasmus will offer you grants that will also support your economy while in Edinburgh. Remember that you not need to worry about tuition or student union fees during the exchange. The only costs will be for the cost of living. This link can be very useful for you to check for living costs in Edinburgh:

In general KI students are not required to get vaccination to the UK. Also, no visas are required for EU citizens as for 2018. Still I recommend that you check for visa requirements on the following website:

Monthly I spent around 700 pounds for housing, food and public transport. Good and cheap supermarkets include Lidl, Aldi and Scotmid (the latter also offers 10 % discount to students). Most of the time I prepared my own food and therefore kept my costs down. In addition, the student Ridacard gave me the flexibility to travel unlimited fares every month. Another recommendation is to bring the Ica Banken card, as cash withdrawals and card payments will not charge for currency conversions. 

Victoria Street with plenty of cheap and high quality restaurants.


I used a website called Gumtree ( to check for accommodations. Worth to note is that I started looking for accommodations several months before my departure to Edinburgh. I took contact with the landlords prior to my arrival, in order to book for a time to visit the places. This is also why I booked a hostel at the beginning of my stay. It is important to not pay in advance before confirming that the accommodation really exists. Take a special look at the price, but also to other factors of equal importance like location, nearby facilities, public transportation and distance to the research lab.

The accommodation price was about the same as the rent price in Stockholm. I stayed in a Victorian house with four flats, in a suburb of Edinburgh called Leith. The accommodation had plenty of restaurants and supermarkets as well as connecting buses nearby. It took around 40-45 min bus ride to the research lab in Morningside. 

Of importance is to check for accommodations early, as many students start in either September (Fall term) or in January (Spring term). Nevertheless, accommodations are generally much more abundant in Edinburgh than in Stockholm. And even if you do not find suitable accommodations through Gumtree, there are still plenty of other accommodations at other websites like Erasmusu ( or Facebook Edinroom
Leith, the suburb where I lived during the exchange.

Studies in general

My studies in Edinburgh were very flexible and I was allowed to carry the thesis project in neuroimaging in the way I preferred. I received guidance as well as support from my co-supervisor to carry on the analysis. Furthermore, the weekly seminars stimulated for critical thinking and I was encouraged to try new things on my project. As I really liked my project I went to the lab during some weekends as well. I was permitted to work in the computer room to continue further on my project.


From time to time I also attended voluntary seminar speeches where professors from all around the world informed about groundbreaking research in psychiatry. This allowed time to better know students and associate professors in other labs in the department. 

Department of Psychiatry, The University of Edinburgh

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 4 at KI

Since I went on exchange during the fourth semester I did not take any courses in Edinburgh. No accreditation was needed for the master thesis, but it is still important to notify about your supervisor for the international coordinator in Edinburgh. The master thesis can be done from mid-or late January to mid-May. The oral presentation of the thesis project was done at Karolinska Institute at the end of May.


Main Campus (George Square)

Language and Culture

One of the best things with studying in Edinburgh is that everyone speaks in English. There are no difficulties in understanding people, even though the Scottish English can be slightly different from standard British English people are used to hear.


During my stay in Edinburgh I took the opportunity to meet locals that were happy to show the city. Edinburgh is a fantastic and beautiful city and you will easily get in love to it. The city is divided into the old town and the new town, with both historical and architectural differences. The most iconic is certainly Edinburgh Castle that is located at the top of an extinct volcano. From there you will have fantastic views of the new city, including Princes Street, the Scott Monument and the National Galleries. The castle is also connected to the Royal Mile, the most famous street in the old town and probably in the entire city!


Edinburgh offers many attractions and fantastic places you can visit. There is the National Museum of Scotland with its large collections of history, fashion, culture, technology and science. If you are more for history you can visit Greyfriars Kirkyard, famous for Greyfriars bobby and for being one of the inspiration places for the Harry Potter books (not to mention George Heriot´s school that served as inspiration for Hogwarts). NB: The Harry Potter tour departing from the entrance of Greyfriar´s Kirkyard meets at 15.00 every day. It serves as an excellent opportunity to know more about the books.


Later on my adventure in Edinburgh, I went to the National Galleries with its magnificent paintings from various epochs.. Adjacent to it is the wonderful Princes Garden, which offers splendid views of Edinburgh castle and Princes Street. During the spring or fall I highly recommend visiting the botanical gardens as well as Arthur´s seat. If you are more of a water person I also recommend visiting Portobello, a suburb of Edinburgh with nice beaches, Port of Leith (including Royal Yacht Britannia) and Dean Village (just a short walk from the west end of Princes Street).


I had many opportunities to get in touch with the locals as I went to several city tours as well as to the underground city. In addition, I went on several trips outside Edinburgh to further explore the history and culture of Scotland. Among the places I visited could be mentioned St Andrews, a small sea town located in Fife, which is world famous for its ancient university and golf courses. On another excursion I went to see Rosslyn Chapel, an iconic building for its relations to the Knights of the Temple and for the movie The Da Vinci Code. As an explorer I also went to see Alnwick Castle, famous for being a film location for several movies like The Transformers and, most importantly, Harry Potter. During these trips I arrived in different coastal Scottish villages, where I got to eat traditional Fish and Chips (talking about Fish and Chips: the best Fish and Chips restaurant in Scotland is called Cromars and is located in St Andrews!). My favourite trip in Scotland was probably the Scottish Highlands, where I had the great opportunity to see Loch Ness (and its monster!)


In addition to all these activities, Edinburgh and Scotland offers very nice opportunities to travel around. You will find that people are very nice. People will be happy to help you and share a smile!

Nelson Monument with Arthur´s seat at the back.

Leisure time and social activities

The University of Edinburgh is a great place to get in touch with new people. Since the research lab as well as the accommodation I lived in were located outside the main campus in George Square, I did not participate in many social activities. 

There are many trips organised by students. These can be checked through the university e-mail on MyEd. Furthermore, I recommend taking a look the following website for further updates about clubs, sports and social events: As golf and curling originate from Scotland you might be interesting in joining sport clubs in these sports. 

Other websites that might be useful are or In addition, there are cheap options to go to cinema. I went several times to the Edinburgh Filmhouse ( Ticket prices could be as lows as 4.5 pounds on Friday forenoon! Alternatively, you might want to visit places outside Edinburgh. I highly recommend three major tour companies: Hairy Coo, Haggis Adventures tours and Rabbies tours (read more about trips you can do in the Language and Culture section). If you are early enough in August you can also take the opportunity to visit the Fringe Festival!  
Loch Ness and Fort Augustus (Nessie can actually be seen from time to time)


I definitely enjoyed my exchange period in Edinburgh. During my exchange I had the chance to take part of exciting research and meet wonderful people along the journey. Travelling has made me a more open and curious person. There is a say that after a journey you will not be the same again. I can completely confirm this and also add: I have become a new and better person, in terms of culture and knowledge. My exchange to Edinburgh has opened my eyes to see that there is no single way of doing research.


I am very happy to answer questions related to exchange in Edinburgh and giving tips on what you can do in Scotland. Going to Scotland, and specially to Edinburgh, as an exchange student will open opportunities for you. It is a great way to see who you really are and to carry on outstanding research in a vibrant and stimulating environment. If you are thinking of going to the Edinburgh just go for it! You will not regret it!

View of Edinburgh from Calton Hill