Exchange report - Student at KI
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Home university: Imperial College School of Science, Technology and Medicine
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Spring semester 2017/2018
Name: Amanda Antwi
Email address:


Why I chose to go on exchange at Imperial College London
The Bachelor's Programme in Biomedicine offered me a taste of how it is to work in an international environment. Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself to conduct my degree project abroad for the sixth and final semester of my programme, I could not resist. I wanted to experience student life in another country and challenge myself since this would be the first time I would study abroad. London was my top choice based on its multicultural environment and the perception of the city has something to offer everybody. I had been in London multiple times before as a tourist  so I had the privilege of knowing that I would be comfortable staying in there for four months. I specifically chose to study at Imperial College London partly based on it being one of the best universities in London and partly due to its accessible location and wide range of cool research groups. 

Pre-departure preparations 
To go on exchange studies I had to apply to KI and get nominated before officially applying to the partner university of my choice. If you are arranging your abroad studies by yourself, this process might be a bit different. Detailed information about the application process, including a list of partner universities that you can select from, is available on the programme website under "Study Abroad". The international coordinator at KI is also a good source of help and will send you important e-mails filled with useful information/deadlines. To summarise, I had to complete an application form (available on the programme website) and submit it both online and as a signed hardcopy with a photo of myself attached. The application form included my current grades at KI (hardcopy can be obtained at the library info desk), CV (written in English) and a motivation letter (stating why I wanted to go on exchange, where I wanted to go and why I would be a good ambassador to KI abroad). If you include any previous research experience in your CV/motivation letter it is not mandatory to provide a reference letter or name a referee but this could strengthen your application.
All in all, my application deadline was in early February 2017, almost a year before I actually went on exchange to London, which left plenty of time for what I will mention next: finding a research group at Imperial and sending the university my official application. After I received my nomination from KI, I instantly began looking for a research group at Imperial where I could conduct my degree project for four months. I emailed different labs within the Department of Life Sciences until I found a research group. When this was done, I could finally send in my official online application to Imperial. It is not vital to find a research group before sending in your application, however it makes the process easier. I applied as a non-degree (exchange) student and I was required to attach a so-called "Erasmus+ Learning Agreement". This document has to be signed by the student (me), the sending institution (KI) and the receiving institution (Imperial). In addition to the huge amount of paperwork, I filled in a "Travel Grant for Exchange Students" form to receive a grant for my studying abroad. If you are an Erasmus+ student you are eligible to apply for this grant works as an amazing financial aid! 

In the end, I received an unconditional offer from Imperial and the application process was thankfully over. I could now prepare the final things before my departure!
Up in the air

Arrival and registration

And so the journey begins...
I arrived at Gatwick Airport in London with ease and although I had visited London multiple times before, I could not help but feel excited. Upon my arrival, I had arranged with KI so that I could write my exam for my last course at Imperial which was set three days before I was due to start my degree project. There was no official introductory course held for me, maybe because I was not due to take any courses at Imperial, but I was advised by the university's assistant registrar to join the Erasmus Club. The Erasmus Club is organised for all Erasmus students visiting Imperial to get acquainted, which is a great initiative. The board of the club have once themselves been Erasmus students in another country which makes it even better! I sent the group an email once I had arrived to let them know that I was a new exchange student from Sweden and I even joined their Facebook group to get updated about upcoming events (Erasmus Club's official website:

I received an unofficial Imperial campus tour from my lab supervisor on the first day, which expanded into a short tour of the Kensington area (Royal Albert Hall, Natural History Museum, Royal College of Music, Victoria and Albert museum, Hyde Park etc.) I appreciated this a lot as it helped me get acquainted with the place I would spend the upcoming 4 months at!

Imperial College London


Luckily, I got the opportunity to live with family in London during the four months of my exchange which kept the living costs down for me. Generally, rent costs are expensive in London so be prepared for that. However, because my situation is rather rare for an exchange student I will mention a few alternatives for accommodation in the designated section! 

I spent a lot on food during my stay in London, on average £10 per day (ca 120 kr), sometimes less or more. Since I spent on average 8hrs in the lab from Monday-Friday I had to provide my own lunch. If you are looking for keeping the food costs down, bringing homemade food is cheaper which I did sometimes. London has a variety of groceries stores where you can shop at for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I bought groceries mostly at Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose (the latter being more on the expensive side). 

Imperial offers a great deal of food (hot meals, sandwiches, snacks, refreshments) at their cafés and restaurants and even better, as a student you often receive a discount if you have your student card. Every Tuesday during lunch time, Imperial hosts the Farmer's Market on the campus' Queen's Lawn which is literally a market with multiple food stalls offering hot meals from all around the world. The first time I bought food from the Farmer's market I tried a delicious Spanish seafood paella (enough to feed an entire family) for £6!

Since I did not live close to campus, I had to commute with the National Rail and tube to lab everyday. Therefore, the cheapest alternative for me was to apply for a 18+ Student Oyster photocard discount. If you are a student over the age of 18 and live at a London address during the term time you are eligible to apply for this photocard that gives 30% discount on adult tickets. Every month I would buy a monthly pass on my photocard which would cost me £131.40 instead of  £188.20 for fare zones 1-4. The nearest tube stations to Imperial are South Kensington station or Gloucester Road which are both in fare zone 1. Please pay attention to the fare zone you live in before buying the monthly pass as this will change the price. 

Student Union Fee
I decided to get an Erasmus Membership, part of the Imperial College Union, for a one single payment of £5 on their website. This enables you to take part of activities organised for Erasmus students/union members at a much cheaper price. It is totally worth it!

Visa and Vaccinations
I was not required to apply for a visa or take any vaccinations (beyond the ones I had already taken in Sweden) before moving to London because I am from an EU country. However, this might be different for anyone who is not from the EU. 

A delicious English breakfast


Home away from home
As I mentioned before, I lived with family during my stay in London, about 1 hour away from Imperial. However, I am aware that my situation is rare and that most exchange students will be required to find accommodation on their own and there are definitely many different options for this! Imperial offers different undergraduate halls around campus (maximum 40 min away with tube) for their students. I really recommend visiting the website ( for more information on the different prices and locations. Generally, the closer you live to campus the more expensive the cost will be. Most of the Erasmus+ students I had a pleasure of meeting at Imperial lived in the Woodward Buildings, 40 min away from campus. The building is quite modern with reasonably-sized rooms, shared kitchens, common areas, gym and other nice facilities. 

If you do not want to live at a hall with other students, it is possible to rent privately, usually in a flat or semi-detached house. It is good to know that renting in London is expensive, maybe even more expensive than in Stockholm taking into account the location and commuting. 

Colourful houses in London

Studies in general

I expected high quality teaching at Imperial and I was not disappointed. I had an amazing relationship with my supervisors, and other co-workers. I was welcomed by everyone and was treated as an equal which made me feel comfortable at the lab very quickly, which I am grateful for. Before my arrival I was scared that my laboratory skills and knowledge would not live up to the standards at Imperial but my programme at KI had prepared me enough and my supervisors provided me with top-notch supervision and guidance. 

At the start of my degree project I did a lot of independent reading to get the basic theoretical knowledge for my project. My supervisors also sat me down and went through things with me and encouraged any questions I could possible have. Thanks to this, it took me a week to get my head in the game before heading into the lab to start experiments. I was allocated a desk close to my supervisor in the office, next to the lab, where I could do my research, eat lunch etc. I used my own laptop during the project but was offered to use one of the existing computers in the office if I wanted to. The campus library was 5 min away from the lab in case I wanted to sit there and write my thesis (and get a change of scenery). 

I have had good experiences working in labs both at KI and Imperial. I would say that the environment at Imperial is more international however both KI and Imperial possess intellectual researchers that are experts in their fields. 
Botany Bay in Kent

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI
I did not take any courses at Imperial College London

Language and Culture

English is the main language spoken in London which I had no problems with since my programme at KI is held fully in English. Because London is so multicultural, there occurs many different accents of English. Within my research group English was spoken in a Scottish accent, a Greek accent, and an English accent. In my lab building and with the students I hung out with there occurred more accents such as Irish, Australian, French, Korean, Spanish and Italian. I found this very exciting because depending on who I spoke with in English, I would change my way of speaking a bit. When I spoke with a native speaker, I would use idioms more often than with a non- native speaker. I would also speak faster or slower depending on who I was talking to. All in all, I could understand all accents, even though it might have taken time to get used to some of them. I even started using new words and meanings such as "clutch" in American English or "chuck away" which I wouldn't have otherwise.

There are definitely cultural differences between Sweden and England and I will mention those I can remember. The most obvious one is that Swedish people appear more reserved than English people. I remember many instances where strangers would start friendly conversations with me on the tube in London, something that does not happen often (to me at least) in Stockholm. Another cultural difference I experienced in London was that Londoners loves to visit the pub, not only on weekends but also on weekdays! The pub is a place you can visit any time, any day to socialise over a drink or food. Most pubs I visited had a very chill atmosphere and my lab group would sometimes end up there after a long day of lab work. Pubs could also be used as a place to go on a night-out.

Because England is more multicultural than Sweden, it's not rare to find e.g. more restaurants offering food from other parts of the world and in the grocery stores there are more brands to choose from (which can make life a tad more difficult at times). London is more open to the usage of notes and coins compared to Sweden, where card payments is the preferred payment option. There are more ATMs available in London too. 

A canal near Camden Town

Leisure time and social activities

On top of lab work, I tried to enjoy my time in England as much as possible. Joining the Erasmus Club at Imperial helped a lot in terms of meeting other exchange students and joining events. I joined breakfast sessions, dinners, house crawls, cinema nights at Imperial (the university has its own cinema, how cool isn't that?), drinks at The Slug etc. Imperial offers much more clubs, societies and projects, all ranging from sports to arts and is a great way to meet students who actually study at Imperial. In my lab building, I volunteered at the Imperial Festival 2018 where I got to share my modest level of bacterial knowledge to young, curious minds. For those who do not want to be stuck at Imperial all the time, London itself offers a wide range of activities. I visited places such as Camden Town, China Town, Kew Gardens, Westfield Mall, countless of pubs and more. 

I went on a day-trip to Oxford to visit a friend. Oxford is almost 2 hours away from London with train (running from Paddington Station). Whilst in Oxford, I rented a bike and we cycled around the beautiful city. Visiting Oxford was a nice change to busy London and its architecture is beyond gorgeous. I definitely recommend a trip to Oxford (or Cambridge) if you're in London!

I had heard that England has beautiful beaches so when a heatwave struck (I'm talking 30 degrees celsius) I visited a beach called Botany Bay in Kent, about 2 hours away from London with train/car. It was a beautiful beach with nice salty water and it did not feel like I was in England anymore. It was also a nice break from thesis-related stress!

Some of the exchange students I met in London


I went on exchange to a city I have been to multiple times before, yet this experience will definitely be an unforgettable one. Studying abroad in London has, without sounding too cheesy, allowed me to grow both personally and as a student. This experience forced me to socialise with people of different backgrounds and ages. I met so many wonderful people that I wouldn't have had if I hadn't studied abroad.  In some ways, I felt more Swedish in England than I sometimes did in Sweden, which was interesting to experience. Nevertheless, I enjoyed sharing my cultures with others and having them share theirs with me.

My experience in the lab was beyond fantastic, I had an amazing project and the people I got to work with contributed a lot to this positive experience. I learnt so much during those 4 months than what I had anticipated. I feel more confident in my laboratory skills because I was allowed to work independently and in my own pace. I was trusted enough to make mistakes and come up with solutions, which helped me develop even further. I definitely think that the skills I have acquired or enhanced during my degree project will affect my future professional role within science. 

Would I recommend studying abroad? Definitely! I am aware of that everyone has a different exchange experience but whether it turns out to be positive or negative, I believe that it's a fruitful opportunity that can benefit you both personally and as a student.
My wonderful lab group and I at Imperial