Exchange report - Student at KI
Old College, Edinburgh
Home university: The University of Edinburgh
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Spring semester 2017/2018
Name: Sara Abu Ajamieh
Email address:


Hello! Are you interested in going on an Erasmus exchange at the University of Edinburgh? Well, this report is written for you. When I found out that our Biomedicine programme provides us with multiple exchange opportunities, I got super excited about the options in England (Scotland was not one of them back then). Luckily, they opened one spot during my year, and I decided to apply for the University of Edinburgh as my first option.

Scotland has always been on my bucket list. I have heard many stories from friends who praised the Scottish people and the beautiful nature such as the highlands and the islands. I wanted to meet new people, experience a new culture, and explore Scotland's historic buildings. The University of Edinburgh is one of the top universities in the world, and it is considered as the sixth oldest university in English-speaking countries. It is known for its active research community, specifically neuroscience which I am really interested in.

The information given by KI was straightforward where I had to find a project and accommodation. I did not receive any information from the University of Edinburgh in the beginning, which made it challenging to find a project. I eventually came across the academic administrator for Biomedical Teaching Organization (BMTO). She helped me in finding a project at Centre of Discovery Brain sciences department, and she also facilitated my application process. I was not required to be vaccinated.

Arrival and registration

There was an orientation week for the new students at the beginning of the spring semester. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend because I had to take the Molecular Medicine exam. I would recommend arranging the exam at the partner university to attend the orientation week since you will be able to meet new students and get introduced to the different student unions.

I arrived in Edinburgh on the weekend. There are several ways of transportation from the airport to the central city such as the airport bus and the train, but I had loads of luggage to carry, so I opted for an uber. I visited the administrator's office and my PI's office on the following Monday where I was warmly welcomed. They helped me with the registration process, and I created my university card at the university's library. I also walked around campus and visited different buildings such as Teviot Row House (student union), Potterrow, and Pleasance Sports Centre & Gym.

I also visited the Health centre to register myself to receive free health care and free dental check-ups. They asked for a document that proved my current address in Edinburgh. You can get this document from the University's web portal (MyEd).

My first day at the University of Edinburgh. Photo was taken behind Teviot.


I didn't need to pay for a visa since I am a Swedish citizen, but this might change due to Brexit. The cost of living in Edinburgh is generally a bit less expensive than Stockholm. I received the Erasmus grant from KI which covered some of my costs during the beginning of my stay (excluding rent).


I had a giffgaff sim card that I ordered from their website. It was the cheapest option. You can easily find free wifi around the central city. My accommodation and the university also provided free wifi. 


Many restaurants offer student discounts in central Edinburgh, but cooking at home is more convenient and saves some money. Lidl, Sainsbury, Tesco, and other local stores were near my place, and I would say that Lidl is the cheapest amongst all of them. There were also several halal local stores and restaurants that cooked halal food. I believe I spent around £250 per month on food.


I recommend buying the gym membership at Pleasance because of the facilities they provide. They had good offers for certain hours of the day. I decided not to pay the membership since there was a gym in my student accommodation.


The campus was approximately 10 mins away from my accommodation; thus I didn't use the buses frequently. I was lucky to live in central Edinburgh since many buses operated near my accommodation. I used the m-tickets app to buy all sorts of transportation tickets. 

National Rail Enquiries app is also very convenient when you want to travel to another city by train like Glasgow which costs around £13 for students.

My trip from Glasgow!


The University of Edinburgh provides accommodation to exchange students who are only staying for two semesters, so I was not eligible. I tried to find housing from private companies,, and facebook groups like EdinRoom, Student Accommodation in Edinburgh..etc. I managed to get my accommodation from a Facebook group. It was a girl who wanted to sublet her room at The Old Printworks (UniteStudents). 

Unitestudents is a private student accommodation that offers en-suite rooms/studios. I think my accommodation was a bit pricey, but their customer service and 24/7 security were worth the money. Some people had bad experiences with the housing such as getting scammed, having a poor heating system, or non-double-glazed windows. Thus, I decided to rent out from a trusted company for a safer option. It was also ideally located in the heart of Edinburgh's city centre which is quite near from campus. Here is their website:
The Old Printworks, UniteStudents Accommodation

Studies in general

I worked at the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, and my degree project mainly focused on the arcuate nucleus in transgenic rat models. I was fortunate to have a supportive and patient supervisor. He thoroughly explained the theory behind the project and sent several articles to discuss. He also taught me certain laboratory techniques such as immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence..etc. I immensely developed knowledge in neuroscience throughout this period. I also attended lab group meetings where everyone discussed their progress and achievements. I used to meet my PI from time to time to ask specific questions and update him on my performance. I also got support from other lab members who always answered my weird questions and made sure I was performing my experiments correctly. 

My project plan changed throughout my exchange period due to optimization techniques that took approximately two months. I had the opportunity to work with my supervisor when he was euthanizing and sacrificing rats. Moreover, April was the most stressful month since I had to finish my experiments on time and gather enough data for my report. My lab experience was overall better than expected. I am super happy with the results I made, and the support I received from everyone.
My lab office's view (and the soup truck that sells the best soup) :)

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI
I did not take any courses while on my exchange since I was working on my degree project. 

Language and Culture

Well, in Edinburgh everyone speaks English but with a Scottish accent. It was a bit difficult to understand the accent in the beginning, but then I got used to it. There was no language barrier. Edinburgh is actually full of international students. You will see people from all over the world. Culture-wise, I did not experience any clash. There is some similarity with Sweden, but Scottish people tend to be more open, helpful, and friendly. Scotland is known for its pies, haggis, neeps, tatties, fish and chips, and Scotch whisky. 
Beltane Fire Festival that took place on 30th of April in Calton Hill. It is quite similar to the Swedish Valborg, but with more activites and fire performances.

Leisure time and social activities

Edinburgh is full of events all year round. The University of Edinburgh has many student unions, events, and clubs. There are so many student societies such as hiking, bachata/salsa, belly dancing, an entrepreneurship society and so on. You need to become a member by paying a membership to be able to join their events. Some clubs organize themed pubs such as the Harry Potter society where they prepare fun quizzes and competitions. Teviot is one of the student union buildings, and it has six bars, including The Library Bar which is super cozy.

There are also lots of nice cafes around Edinburgh such as Brew Lab Coffee, The Herbivore Kitchen, and many more. If you are a Potterhead, there are must-see locations in Edinburgh such as The Elephant House, Black Medicine Coffee, and Victoria Street. I used to go on trips with the International and Exchange Student Society where they planned trips outside of Edinburgh at a lower price for students. You get to meet lots of international students from different programs.

Lastly, you should definitely hike Arthur's seat, visit Rosslyn Chapel where the Da Vinci Code was shot, and visit all sorts of castles and beaches.
My Harry Potter trip with IESS was super amazing. Photo of the fictional Black Lake in Harry Potter (aka Loch Shiel)


I am grateful to have had this excellent opportunity to go on Erasmus exchange. I learned a lot about myself. Living in a new country can be overwhelming, but I am glad to be placed with the best supervisor. I got to meet awesome people who now became dear to me! Scotland is such a beautiful country. I will definitely come back to visit! <3

Scotland is famous for its beautiful highlands.