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


When I was given the opportunity to go on an exchange I was overwhelmed by the many opportunities that it would provide me. Mainly the interaction with students from the partner university as well as the well known educational level at Leiden University.
KI provided all essential information about the exchange and application process, which was quite simple and easy. One had to send a couple of emails, write a letter, send one's record of transcripts etc. I would say all of the needed steps to compete the application took approximately three days (put together). 
No vaccinations where required for the exchange to The Netherlands and the only certificates the partner university needed was the official record of transcript and KI's nomination for exchange studies. 

Arrival and registration

There was a set date for the beginning of the semester. The partner university had organized a large introduction week for all the incoming international students packed with different social activities. I strongly recommend any student going to Leiden to attend to this. It will cost you some money but it absolutely worth the cost due to all the networking made possible. This week is where one will meet the first friends, and usually the lasting one's, of the semester . 
I decided to travel to Leiden a week before the introduction week to familiarize myself with the town. The train from the airport to Leiden was very easy to find and the ride only took 20 minutes. The town itself is not very large but I still suggest that the student should get a bike the very first day, if possible. The bike is the main mean of transportation and it did not pass one day without me using my bike. 


The cost of living does not differ significantly from the same expenses in Sweden. I experienced the groceries to be slightly cheaper in Leiden, but on the other hand the rent for accommodation can be more expensive. The student loan, grant and Erasmus stipend will definitely suffice to cover the expenses of living, food, literature and other things. But I do recommend to save some money while in Sweden and have an "amusement budget" for the many activities and travel opportunities. 
One thing to have in mind is that many of the Swedish debit cards are not supported in The Netherlands. One can always make a withdrawal from ATM's but many stores, cafes and restaurants will decline your card. Thus, always keep a good amount of  cash on you in case you have a more of a spontaneous spirit. 


My advice is to start looking for accommodation as soon as possible, preferably as soon as you know that your university will nominate you as an exchange student. There are several different ways to look for housing but I recommend the website HosuingAnywhere. I used this page and found (very luckily) a housing after only two days. 
My housing was in a shared house with three other dutch students. It was very close to the LUMC (university hospital) and close to the city center. A bike was included in the rent and I payed 400€ in total. It was the same rent I had in Stockholm so if anything my experience should tell you that it is absolutely possible to find a reasonable housing in proximity to both city and campus with an agreeable rent. 
My friends decided to book an Airbnb instead and got a great apartment for the whole period of the exchange, so in everything fails that is always one way to go. However, their rent was drastically more expensive than mine so I definitely recommend using HousingAnywhere or even Facebook to find student housing first. 

Studies in general

Before I describe the studies in general I want to emphasize how incredible the whole exchange experience truly is and that it brings wonderful opportunities. Do not let the coming sentences worry you, but I sill feel a responsibility to be honest and frank about the study load since I experienced that I did not get the same information before my period abroad. 
Compared to Karolinska Institutet, Leiden could be seen more or less like a boot camp. The expectation are raised more than one level and the amount of work one has to lay down outside of class is not truly comparable to the studies in Sweden, mainly because the means of teaching between the two countries differ. Of course you learn more in the same amount of time in Leiden as compared to Stockholm due to all the assignments, and it is definitely possible to manage all parts of the courses. I never felt that I was not prepared enough academically, Karolinska Institutet has a very high standard, but the work load was more unexpected. 
How did this work in relation to the rest of the exchange experience? Simply put, it did not. In order to travel to neighboring countries, attend different activities, spend some important quality time on networking, I (and many others) had to prioritize social activities over studies at times. But trust me when I say this, if you from week 1 manage to find a balance and good study technique you can easily get excellent marks on the courses without missing out on all the wonderful moments an exchange can offer. You are, after all, abroad to study. But it does not mean you can not enjoy the whole Erasmus package. 

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 3 at KI
This course will be taking up most of your time during the first part of the semester. The content is quite wide and covers several areas without going to much in depth. The lectures are short, about one hour long, and give a brief overview of the chapter the student is expected to study outside of class. Each chapter can feel overwhelming since they usually cover a mean of 150 pages which must be read and studied in one or two days. The intention is for the student to learn how to navigate large pieces of information and sort out the important passages. Luckily, the course provides a very detailed study plan to follow, giving exact instructions for each chapter and provides relevant questions to study. These questions must be prepared from home and then presented in smaller study groups in mandatory seminars. Come well prepared, otherwise the instructor might get upset. 
The course ends with an open book exam of three hours. Even if the student is allowed to bring the course book to the exam little time should be wasted to look for details. The exam has many questions that require extensive, which in turn requires an overall understanding of the topic which cannot be found on a specific page of the book. Study and prepare well. 

Biomedical Academic Scientific Training 
This course has very few lectures and consists mainly of work outside of class. You will be divided into a group of students which will write an extensive paper about a specific field of research. The body will consist of an introduction, two interviews and a reflection. Each group will have a specific topic but all papers will discuss how biomedical research is conducted outside of the lab. That is, everything that effects research ranging from the researcher's educational background to global politics and funding. 
This course was a true delight and gave a great opportunity to have a meaningful interviews with influential researches and project leaders and PhD students. The students get almost the entire semester to write this report and each group was given an instructor to help them with anything they could think of. 

Communication in Science 
This is another course that will be given alongside the larger courses, much like BAST. It focuses on the academic language and aim to prepare the students in academic writing and presentation, both digitally as well as orally. Different project will be given which are related to topics in the larger courses. This ties the skill of academic training to the theory of this semester and aids in the other presentations of other courses. 
The best part of the course was the individual feed back the student received after each assignment. It was a combination of teacher assessment and peer review and the feed back was always followed up in the next coming project. 

Applied Electrophysiology 
This course was short but intense for a small period of time. The teacher holding the course was very invested and made the whole content very interesting. The student will acquire skills to interpret a standard ECG and to identify several pathological conditions based on deviating patterns. The course wraps up with a large paper on a chosen topic that must be related to the core content of the course. 
The course was, as stated, very interesting and a good "breather" from the immunology. 

Infectious Agents 
Immunology lays the base of this course which continues on in the same area of study. Now focus will be on the different pathogens ranging from bacteria to virus and parasites. The course aims to target different pathological pathways of different pathogens and the understanding of the human immune response to these.
This course did not feel very different from Immunology but was a natural continuation of the newly acquired knowledge of the immune system. The lectures were the same one hour long overviews and the the study time was mostly dedicated to reading, answering the questions in the study guide and presenting the answers in the smaller study groups. 

Applied Physiology 
Once again this course followed the same study plan ad the other larger courses; short lectures, a lot of self study and much time spent in small study groups. 

Teaching Methods 
The self study, guided by the study book, combined with presentation/discussion of the themes in the small student groups resulted in an organized and framed learning method. If the student is comfortable in being led, this system is optimal. If the student is more inclined to free studying, one will likely experience that the time will not be enough. The questions for the study group must be answered and they leave little space to study other chapters etc. 


Language and Culture

If you are coming for the biomedicine program you will have no problem with the language, it is all in English. As for the cultural clashes I did not experience any worthy of mentioning. The Netherlands as a country is a very smooth and easy transition from Sweden since the cultures are very similar to each other.  

Leisure time and social activities

Leiden University has a terrific sports center with a very cheap student offer. I believe I payed 230€ per mont which included access to everything the sport center could offer. It had a fully equipped gym as well as large halls where one could participate in different team sports such as volleyball, basketball, ballroom dancing etc. In addition the sport center offered classes in more than 50 different sports and activities that ranged from dancing and martial arts to scuba diving and arial acrobatics. A membership here is simply a must to keep a balanced life during your study abroad. 

As mentioned before the international committee arranges a introduction week in the beginning of the semester and they made a wonderful job. Bike tours around the city, a park festival, city tours in the canals, bike shopping, team games and an enormous final party in the end to wrap things up. They keep the spirit up throughout the semester by arranging weekly pub nights for international students as well has different parties scattered out during the three months you will be staying there. 

Abroad while being abroad 
There will be many opportunities to travel to neighboring countries, either on your own initiative or with an organisation that arranges a trip. One of the popular destinations is Munich during Octoberfest or Berlin and Switzerland during christmas time. If you make friends with an Australian or two you will always have a strong traveling companion since these individuals usually have the intention to see as much of Europe as possible (I am writing from experience, and from what I have learned they make wonderful friends as well). 

It was definitely easier to befriend other international students since we were all sitting in the same boat and all had the need to make new friends since many travled alone from their respective countries. The dutch students did not have this need and I must say many showed a lack of interest in forming meaningful relationships with exchange students. 


I would like to keep this short and concise; if you are given the chance to participate in an exchange study, do not hesitate. This journey will help you develop in areas you otherwise would not. As a student you are forced to take a grater responsibility than you are used to, and at the same time be representing the home university. This combination of responsibilities, to get the work done as well as being the face of an institution, is very common in your future career and it is never too early to start working on this skill. 
You will learn to depend more on yourself as well as working on your social skills, both during your private hours and your academic environment at the university. Cooperation with international students/colleagues is essential for your  future career, especially if you will continue in research. Thus, an exchange period will be a prime time to practice on this, sometimes challenging, task. All in all, I can not recommend this experience enough and I will forever keep it close to my heart.