Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: Universiteit Leiden
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Spring semester 2021/2022


I had planned on going on exchange ever since the start of my studies on KI. Even though I was already studying abroad in Sweden, it did not feel very different from my home country Finland, and I was craving a new adventure where I could broaden my worldview and get a new perspective of international the biomedical field. Yet, at first going to Leiden during my second year did not even cross my mind, it was a bit of a spur of the moment decision. I wanted to do my bachelor’s project abroad and I was not aware of the possibility to do two exchanges during my bachelor’s, in addition, the thought of being two semesters abroad felt like a lot. However, when I heard that it is indeed possible to go on exchange twice, I quickly decided to take the opportunity to explore a new country and culture.


Other factors affecting my choice to go to Leiden were the prominence of the life science field at Leiden and close collaboration with KI. Due to the close collaboration applying and preparing for the exchange was rather effortless. After being nominated by KI I had to fill in an application to Leiden University in September, which very straight forward and felt only like a formality. In addition to filling in personal information and uploading documents such as my transcript of records and a copy of my ID, I also had to indicate which courses I want to take part of in the application. The courses I had to take were the ones corresponding to the courses I would have taken at KI. Lastly, it was also possible to apply for accommodation through Leiden university’s housing office in the application, which I decided to do.

Arrival and registration

I arrived in Leiden 3 days before the start of my first course, this gave me enough time to settle in and get acquainted with Leiden before the start of my studies.


The university offers an orientation week – the OWL week – for all new international students in the start of both autumn and spring semesters. However, since the academic calendar for the bachelor’s programme in biomedical sciences was different from most programmes at Leiden university, our first course already started a week before the orientation week. I think this was quite a shame, since this both left us to figure out a lot of things on our own and limited the amount of OWL week events to which we had time to attend.


I would still recommend participating in the OWL week and attend at least a few of the events because it is a great opportunity to experience different things that Leiden has to offer and meet new people. The OWL week offered a tour around the town where you could get to know all the important places, trying different sports at the university sports centre, free museum visits at multiple of the towns numerous museums, nice dinners at the cozy restaurants of Leiden and much more. Even if I only had time to attend very few of the events due to my lectures and assignments, I do not regret it at all, because most of the people I became friends with during the semester where people from my OWL group.

Molen De Valk - a windmill found in central Leiden which also served as a museum


There were no obligatory costs like vaccinations, visas or student union fees when attending Leiden university so the biggest expenses to consider in the beginning were accommodation and travel related costs. I rented a studio through the university’s housing office and had to pay a 350€ application fee as well as the rent for the first month and two last months in advance.


In my experience housing in the Netherlands was slightly more expensive than in Stockholm. Personally, I paid around 1000 sek more in rent than I paid in Stockholm, however this varies a lot based on the type of accommodation and the location. When renting through the university the prices ranged from 425€ to 1000€ a month and utilities were included.

Whereas accommodation costs where high, you could save in groceries and transportation costs (if you use a bike). In general, groceries are cheaper in the Netherlands than in Sweden and Leiden had markets every Wednesday and Saturday where you could buy for example fruits and vegetables for cheap.


An important monthly cost to consider is transportation. I strongly recommend living at a biking distance from the university. Although traveling by train in the Netherlands is fast (The Hague to Leiden in ~15 min and Amsterdam to Leiden in ~40 min) and easy, it is not the most affordable option as monthly tickets can cost hundreds of euros. When traveling inside Leiden a bike works perfectly since there are bike lanes everywhere making biking easy and stress-free. I rented my bike through Swapfiets for 15€ per month. This way I could avoid buying and selling the bike as well as did not have to worry about it being stolen or it breaking since it was insured and the company would fix the bike for me when needed.


I applied for housing through the university, this might not be the cheapest possible option, but I chose it because I wanted a hassle-free option in the very difficult housing situation in the Netherlands. Finding housing is even tougher in Leiden than in Stockholm and many private landlords or people looking for roommates do not accept internationals, which makes finding housing through for example Facebook slightly more difficult. Scams are also very common, so I urge you to read the tips on Leiden university’s website on how to avoid housing scams.


If you decide to apply for housing through the university I recommend doing so instantly after you’ve filled your application to the university, the housing gets full extremely fast. There is a housing fee (350€ in my case) that must be paid when applying, this will be returned if they are not able to offer you housing. The rent ranged from 425€ to 1000€ a month and utilities were included. I paid just under 700€ a month for my studio located in central Leiden, 2 kilometres away from the medical centre. If you are willing to share kitchen and bathroom the rent is somewhat cheaper. 

Student housing on Hooigracht

Studies in general

Personally, I felt like the workload at Leiden was a bit more than at KI, especially when it comes to the amount of reading. At KI lectures play the most central role and reading the textbook is not even always necessary to pass the course, whereas at Leiden lectures sometimes only introduced or supported the knowledge we got from the textbooks. We usually had multiple textbooks per course and got lists of pages we needed to read and self-study assignments to do while reading. These readings and assignments where not mandatory but usually necessary to be able to follow and understand different modules of the courses properly. This is very different from KI where we only get self-study assignments on rare occasions, and we must take more responsibility of our studies ourselves since the assignments aren’t forcing us to study. 

I think both methods have their pros and cons, at KI we have more control of when we study what and can better work around other plans, but the studying can easily be left until the last moment. At Leiden the workload is quite the same during the whole course but sometimes the high pace could be rather demanding. The content itself seemed more patient-oriented at Leiden with a lot of patient examples and case studies whereas at KI the content is in general research oriented.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 4 at KI

Physiology Basic Concepts

The first course I had at Leiden was physiology. I think it was a good course to start with because it wasn’t very demanding but still gave a good picture of what the studies at Leiden are like. We had lectures, self-study assignments, seminars, and workgroups. The lectures where in general very well structured and the topics where well explained. We also got to practice these topics more during the seminars and workgroups. The course was well structured with two different parts,1. Cardiovascular and Respiratory system and 2. Kidney and Homeostasis. The topics within the parts also followed a very logical order. The different parts had separate exams, which I enjoyed since it meant not having to learn everything for one bigger exam. The exams had only multiple-choice questions, which is something I’ve never had at KI. I think this exam format worked well for this course where the main focus was on understanding different mechanisms and there was also a bit of calculations.


The Life Science Industry

While the Dutch students took a course called physiology advanced concepts we had a light version of the Life Science Industry course, organized on distance by KI. This course was organized just for us exchange students from KI and consisted of a few workshops in the format of zoom meetings as well as self-study and group work. This was the first time the course was organised online and even though at times having the teacher physically present would have been helpful, in general the course was quite well organized. Content wise the course was very different from the rest of the biomedicine courses as it touches more upon policies, marketing, and design thinking. I think this course is important as it gives a different perspective in contrast to the research within academia which we hear a lot about in other courses.


Human Pathology

The third course I took was Human Pathology. Content wise this was a rather interesting course, with the main focus on tumor pathology. We also had a one weeklong dissection practical which was a unique and interesting opportunity as we do not get to do that at KI. The organisation of this course was not quite as structured as physiology and some workgroups lacked a good structure. We also had some language issues with the dissection practical as the instructions where in Dutch and we did not receive translated instructions in advance.

Hormones and the Nervous System

The last course, Hormones and the Nervous System, had a very unique layout. We had a day test every morning and self-study every afternoon. We were expected to learn most of the content on our own and the lectures where mostly introductions and summaries of what we read on our own. The daily tests were not mandatory but counted towards our final grade if we decided to do them. I liked this approach because it both helped us to study along the course and have a clear overview of what we know well and what we need to study more. This also took some pressure of the final exam. Both the day test and final exam where open book exams, however, the time on the final exam was so limited so I recommend making good notes and using them instead of the textbooks. I found the content of this course very fascinating as it was building on the knowledge we previously had from our neuroscience course and this course is not offered at KI.



Communication in Science

In parallel with the other courses, we also had a course called Communication in Science. CiS consisted of a few assignments like argumentative essays, presentations, and symposium reports. I think this course was very helpful as we do not have a specific course for literary and communication skills at KI. Although we do practice these skills as parts of courses, the focus is usually more on the content than language and literary skills. At CiS the teachers where also experts in these aspects which allowed them support us in a different way than when these assignments are part of our other courses. We also got to take part of a symposium where we got to hear about the degree projects other biomedicine students had done and listen to a panel discussion where different people in the biomedical field told us about their different educational paths. 

Language and Culture

All my courses where in English and I did not take part of any Dutch classes, nor was I aware of any being offered. However, I must admit that I did not actively seek out any Dutch classes and that they most likely are available through one route or another for people interested in the language. 

When it comes to my courses all lectures and study material was in English with the exception of our dissection practical during the pathology course, where the instructions were in Dutch, which did cause a bit of a language barrier. Otherwise communicating with our fellow students and the professors was completely problem-free as the Dutch speak English very well. However, since biomedicine bachelor’s programme at Leiden is in Dutch, they lacked the same international atmosphere as we have at KI. The Dutch students usually communicated with each other in Dutch, which could leave us exchange students sometimes feeling like outsiders.

Leisure time and social activities

There are multiple organisations at Leiden organising events for exchange students. As I previously mentioned the university organised the OWL week in the beginning of the semester. I found a lot of friends during this week with whom I spent most of my leisure time and did some trips together during the semester.

 A few other organisations to look out for are:


Lisco -- the international committee of the student association at the medical faculty organised events like museum trips, bowling and boat trips which where a great way to get to know fellow international students at the LUMC. 


ESN – the Erasmus Student Network organised international nights with changing themes at a bar on Wednesdays, cocktail nights on Fridays and game nights on Mondays.


If you are interested of any type of sport or exercise, I recommend getting a membership at the University Sports Centre. The membership was affordable, and you got access to multiple gyms as well as a variety of instructed classes like yoga, different types of dancing, boxing, volleyball, and many other sports.


Something I strongly recommend doing in your free time is travelling. There are so many different beautiful cities in the Netherlands (I for example visited Amsterdam, the Hague, Rotterdam and Groningen) and the train network makes most of them easily accessible. If you are travelling in a group to a city further away, I recommend looking up the NS group ticket, this can be a lot cheaper than buying single tickets! 

Cube houses in Rotterdam


Even if moving around can be quite a hassle I do not regret my choice to go to Leiden in the least. I already miss the city and all the friends I made there. I made a lot of memories and got to travel to so many places I never had been in before. I believe that experiencing a different way of studying and how another university operates has helped me to find my strengths and weaknesses as a student as well as helped me consider what I want from my future. In addition, I got a more international view of possible career prospects as well as connected with future scientists from around the world!