Exchange report - Student at KI
Edinburgh Old Town
Home university: The University of Edinburgh
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Spring semester 2019/2020
Name: Farsan Rahman
Email address:


I moved to Sweden when I was in middle school and have been studying here ever since. I really value the education system in Sweden, but I felt the need to experience living and studying in a different environment. I seized the opportunity to study abroad because living on my own would provide me with challenges that I can overcome to grow as a more well-rounded individual. I chose The University of Edinburgh for my exchange because of its advancements in biomedical research. Furthermore, friends living in Edinburgh spoke very highly of the beautiful city and exciting student life.

Following the exchange nomination, I had to write a motivation letter, complete an online application, and find a laboratory to conduct my degree project. Even though I received guidance from the KI exchange coordinator, the information I received from Edinburgh was limited. The lack of communication from the host university made it difficult to decide whether I should be moving forward with finding labs and accommodation. However, I got in touch with the exchange coordinator at Edinburgh and proceeded to find a lab according to her recommendation. I started emailing potential supervisors late November. In hindsight, it would have been easier to find a lab earlier (even though the application was being processed) because at the time, most of the labs already accepted undergraduate students for the semester. Nevertheless, by communicating with both supervisors and the exchange coordinator, I managed to find a lab I was interested in.  

Arrival and registration

The University of Edinburgh organizes an introduction week for new students. Attending events during the introduction week is the perfect opportunity to meet other exchange and international students. Additionally, students are expected to collect their student card and report to their assigned mentors during this week. I was unable to attend the introduction week because I was in Stockholm for an exam. However, I kept in touch with my mentor to arrange a meeting at a later date. The role of the mentor is to guide you through any issues that may arise during the exchange. For instance, I was not supposed to be enrolled in any courses, which I had to ensure with my mentor. 

Since I did not have any courses, I was not expected to arrive in Edinburgh at any specific date. I discussed the start date with my supervisor and flew to Edinburgh the day before I started working in the lab. If possible, I would suggest arriving in Edinburgh early and taking some time to familiarize yourself with the city before you begin lab work or attending lectures.  

The University of Edinburgh Old College


The cost of living in Edinburgh is generally lower than Stockholm, and most of my expenses were covered by the Erasmus grant. In my opinion, one can live very comfortably in Edinburgh with a total budget of £250 per month (excluding rent of course). In my case, the essentials were covered with around £200.


I worked near the Royal Infirmary and had lunch at the hospital canteen, which offers student discounts. In central Edinburgh (where most university buildings are located), there are several restaurants and cafes that provide great food for a fair price ( If you are looking to taste dishes from around the globe, I highly recommend Mr. Basrai’s World Cuisines or Cosmos World Buffet. The latter offers student discounts on weekdays.

There were several grocery stores within walking distance from my place, LIDL is the cheapest among them, but Sainsbury’s has a greater selection of products. On weekdays I usually didn’t cook dinner and instead bought food from Sainsbury’s, which offers a variety of ready-made vegetarian meals. Having said that, Sainsbury’s is known to be slightly expensive. Tesco “meal deal” is a cheap and tasty option if you want to have a quick meal on-the-go.


If you live in central Edinburgh, I do not recommend buying a bus pass since most of the university buildings are within walking distance. If you need to travel to another part of the city, single tickets can be purchased through the Lothian app or coins. My lab was in the southern part of Edinburgh, which was a 15 min bus ride away from my place. I bought a monthly Lothian ticket (£51/month), which gave me access to busses and trams around Edinburgh at any time. Since I lived in central Edinburgh, I only needed the Lothian card for traveling to and from the lab.


There are no obligatory costs related to the exchange. However, if you choose to join a society, there may be a small membership fee. I did not have to pay for a visa as I am a Swedish citizen, and I did not need additional vaccinations.

I used my Swedish phone subscription provider (Comviq) in Edinburgh because I found it to be cheaper than switching to a new provider. I paid SEK 145 and was able to call and use data within the EU. It may be difficult for people in Scotland to call a Swedish number, but it was not an issue for me because I usually used WhatsApp. 

I mostly used my Swedish debit card as a form of payment in Edinburgh, primarily because I did not like carrying cash. There should not be any extra costs associated with using a Swedish bank card, but there may be slightly higher costs due to exchange rate fluctuations. If you want to get a UK bank account, it is fairly simple, but it might not be necessary for the short exchange period. Another alternative is a Revolut card, which can be used internationally. I personally have not used the service, but I have met other exchange students who were satisfied with the card. 


As an exchange student, you are guaranteed university housing if you apply for accommodation before a specific date. Applying for accommodation was a very straightforward process, and I received quick responses to my questions. Although it may be cheaper to find housing through Facebook groups, there are extra benefits to university housing that justify a higher cost.

I lived in an apartment with three other students; we shared a bathroom and kitchen. I paid around £500/ month including electricity and internet. The only extra cost was for the laundry room, which cost £3 for using a washing machine and a dryer. I was satisfied with the rent because the apartment was in central Edinburgh, and it included facilities such as a weekly cleaning of common areas in the apartment, and a common room for the building. Additionally, the caretakers were very quick to respond to complaints and make repairs. For instance, the heater in my room was not working, but it was fixed the following day after I notified the issue.

If you are unable to obtain housing through the university, you can find a place on your own or through a housing company. There are Facebook groups such as “The Meadows Share” that advertise rooms for rent. However, renting from a housing company is a more secure alternative, even though the rent may be higher.   

Studies in general

I worked in a lab and did not have any mandatory lectures. Before I could officially start in the lab, I had to attend some biosafety seminars, and familiarize myself with the lab rules. I was also given some time to read the published literature and gain an overview of the field. At the beginning of my lab placement, my supervisor guided me through the project and prepared me for independent work. My work hours were quite flexible, and it was my responsibility to plan experiments for each day. I was also able to attend some seminars organized by the department, which kept me informed about the latest research in the field.

There were a few undergraduate students in the lab working on a similar project. If we came across a problem, we were able to have discussions and design experiments to identify the source of the issue. We attended weekly group meetings to present our work and discuss potential improvements to the experiments. The supervision I received gave me the ability to work and think independently but also discuss with other members of the group to overcome an issue or improve an experiment. 

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI

I went on exchange on the 6th semester of my bachelor’s studies to conduct my degree project. I worked in the lab to collect data for my thesis and did not participate in any courses.

Language and Culture

English is the primary language spoken in Scotland, which I was comfortable with since I have been studying in English. During my stay in Edinburgh, I often got asked, “how are you dealing with the Scottish accent?” Although the accent was difficult to understand at times, I never found it to be a major issue.

I did not experience any cultural shock in Edinburgh, but it took some time to grasp the etiquettes. Generally, Edinburgh is quite similar to Stockholm, but the limited number of pedestrian crossings, and cars driving on the left side takes some getting used to. In terms of food, haggis is a big deal in Scotland. People either love haggis or hate it; there is no middle ground. I unfortunately did not try the authentic haggis since I am a vegetarian, but it is definitely important to taste haggis for a complete Scottish experience. I recommend going to Snax Café, which is a well known café among students since the meals are quite cheap. They are known for their Scottish breakfast, but they also serve haggis.   

Leisure time and social activities

There are several events organized by the university, which allows new students to engage in social activities. One can choose to join a variety of societies ( and meet people with similar interests. I would recommend signing up to the Global Buddies society to meet other exchange students. I also met people through my flatmates, and I usually spent time with the exchange students in my accommodation. It was difficult for me to attend the university-organized events because I was in the lab quite late. However, there are plenty of events during the weekend, so one does not get bored easily. My accommodation organized activities on weekends, which were a great way to meet other students in the area. There are also trivia nights organized by the student union every weekend at The Library Bar, which is a fun and cheap way to spend a Sunday night with friends. Needless to say, you should visit Calton Hill and climb Arthur’s Seat to get the best views of Edinburgh. If you want to stay inside and avoid the rainy Edinburgh weather, most student accommodations have a common room with a table tennis/ pool table and TV for movies.  

View from Calton Hill


I feel extremely fortunate to be able to participate in the Erasmus exchange program. Living on my own in a different country needed some adjustment, but over time it felt like a second home. I would definitely consider going back to Edinburgh for my postgraduate studies. During my exchange, I worked with some amazing people who not only helped with my laboratory work, but also made my work very enjoyable. Even though my time in Edinburgh was cut short, I had the pleasure of meeting people who I now consider to be good friends. I wish I could have stayed in Edinburgh to complete my exchange, but that was not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions. Despite the pandemic, I really enjoyed my experience, and I am extremely grateful to the people who made it so wonderful. 

Arthur's Seat