Edinburgh practical information

Readers of my blogs might know by now that I spent the first semester of the IMFSE programme studying at The University of Edinburgh. Scotland has been always on my list of “must see” places, and I was incredibly happy for the chance to study and live in Edinburgh. Within couple of months, Edinburgh with its Medieval Castle on the Hill, ancient Royal Mile, Calton hill and Portobello beach won my heart. Although foggy and rainy weather is characteristic to Edinburgh, it perfectly complies with city’s unique architecture, thereby giving it gothic and Harry Potter vibes. So, I would like to share some practical information that can be useful for those who will visit Edinburgh as part of this programme.

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Accommodation

Unfortunately, since the university offers an accommodation only for the full academic year, IMFSE students need to look for a place to stay in private market which might be a challenge. Personally, I wanted to find a place before arriving, that is why I started seaching in June on groups such as “EdinRoom” and “Edinburgh to let”, websites like “Spare Room”, “EasyRoommate” and “Gumtree”. I think it is better to use Facebook because most of the times  I did not get any reply when I used other websites. It took me almost 2 months to finally find a room. However, I will suggest you to arrive earlier and search for it when you are in the city, as you can view the place, meet the landlord and housemates, and generally have more options compared to when you look for it from home. Just do not pay anything before viewing the place. It is all I can advise, good luck with that!

Public Transport

Public transport system consists of buses and trams, the former being predominant. At the Project Management class taken in the first semester we studied the development of tramline in Edinburgh, and unfortunately, it was an example of failed project, as it resulted in significant delays and financial losses due to poorly defined objective at the initiation stage of the project. In particular, relocation of service lines lasted longer than it had been predicted because of the centuries old history of the city.  As a consequence, the tramline extends much less than it had been planned, but you can still take a nice ride on tram from the airport to the city center.

There are several types of bus tickets such as single ticket for £1.60, day ticket for £4.0, night ticket for £3.00, and day&night ticket for £3.50 valid after 6 pm till 4.30 am. The most important thing to know is that bus drivers do not give a change, so prepare your loose change beforehand. You can also get a 1-week and 4-week card, Ridacard, with the discount for students if you present your student ID. In case you had a bad luck and lost the card, as I did, there is a good news: it is possible to get a new one at the Travelshop by paying only card issue fee of £3.00. For more details, check the Lothian Buses website.

But if you do not want to spend money on public transport and want be physically active, you can go for a bike. In that case, you should be OK to ride it with the wind and rain splashing on your face. Since I learned how to bike only in Lund, which I believe is more bike-friendly, that was not an option for me in Edinburgh.

Bank account

Another practical matter is opening a bank account. Below you can find a banking comparison table which explains how you can open a bank account. Note that the information might not be up-to-date, so it is better to visit the branch. Compare the conditions and choose the right one for you. Since it is the beginning of academic year, there will be many students willing to open a bank account, so it is good if you apply for it earlier. I should inform you that in reality it may take much longer to receive the card.

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So these are the things I wanted to share with you my dear readers, I hope you will find it useful. If you have any questions, you can always contact me. I also want to welcome the first year students! Welcome to the IMFSE family! I am sure these two years will be the best years in your life! Looking forward to meet you all soon!

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Things you should know about Ghent (before moving in)

As an international student, you are in contact with new and exciting things almost every day. You meet people from all over the world, and you fall in love with traveling and discovering random facts about other cultures different from yours. You get to learn phrases in languages you didn’t even know they existed. However, there’s something almost unspoken about becoming an international student: The difficulty of starting your new life abroad. Therefore, this blog is about things you should keep in mind if you’re moving to Ghent for the first time.

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First, you want to know that Ghent is in Belgium, which is divided in three main regions: Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels. There’re two main languages in Belgium: french and dutch, but there’s a small german-speaking community as well. In Ghent, people speak “flemish” which is basically dutch but with a bit different pronunciation and some other words here and there. In Brussels, theoretically people speak French and dutch (that’s why you’ll notice all signs are in both languages in the street and public transport) however in practice, I’ve notice most people rely on French to communicate, so this is a good place to practice or to start learning. I highly suggest you start using duolingo to learn the basics on dutch. In my case, I found useful to learn the numbers to move in the public transportation and to buy food in the supermarket.

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Second, university housing is convenient to stay for only one semester as it can be challenging to find a place to live if you’re looking for private accommodation. If you’re going for the second option, you’ll have to decide fast which are your requirements. It’s easier to find a place to stay if you are ok with sharing a kitchen and a bathroom than a totally private studio. I’ve found that prices  range from 350 to 600 euros, so it also depends on your budget. Anyways, if you’re choosing private accommodation, make sure to ask about domicile as you’ll need it to register for a residence permit.

Third, about moving around. If you’re used to using bikes you’ll be happy as Ghent is a biking city. The best option to get a bike is to rent it directly from the university as it is relatively cheap and they’re in good conditions; however, I’ve heard it can be tricky to bike around Ghent as there are many buses, cars and tram lines so you must be extra careful. If biking is not your thing, you can acquire a 3 month-card that allows you to move in public transport. You can buy this card outside the Gent-Sint-Pieters train station in front of the bus stop.

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Last (and really important) don’t feel ashamed of contacting any of the IMFSE students that have already lived in Ghent! we’re really open to any question and willing to help anytime 😀

Good luck and enjoy your new journey!

 

IMFSE networking, Fact or a Myth?!

To continue my reviews regarding the IMFSE promotions which I have started in my last  Blog. This blog will be about Networking!

If I got to choose one of the best benefits of the IMFSE program, I will pick networking. After graduating, I understood what it means to build such a strong network in your field before the end of my degree. The IMFSE program will not only give you the chance or the contact of as many experts and members of the fire safety community as you need, but they will also bring these people right in front of you in different events. Literally, you will have to network even if you did not want to. For example, the fire safety days, every year the IMFSE program organize an event called the fire safety day. During this event, the following combination of people will gather:

  1. The first and second IMFSE students, they will be able to meet each other and communicate. From my experience, this is very important if you are a first-year student you will need to hear as many stories as possible not just about the coursework but also about how to deal with your next university, when to start looking for jobs and how to prepare for interviews…etc.
  2. The IMFSE alumni, despite the fact that it is sometimes too hard to have many former IMFSE students to attend the event because of their tied schedule, still you will find four or five of them attending. The former students will be like movie stars, every single student wants to talk to them and get to know how it’s like to be a graduate. Current students will benefit from their experience in job hunting and also some of the IMFSE alumni will help to pass CVs to their HR departments for those who are interested in joining their companies.
  3. Many IMFSE lecturers, every year the IMFSE program is held in a different country between the UK, Belgium, and Sweden. That gives the chances for the IMFSE lecturers from the three different universities to attend the event easily. This highly enriches the discussions during the day and also help the students who might not study in one of the three universities to still be able to meet the professors there and communicate with them.
  4. The industry representatives, based on the discussion topic some of the IMFSE industrial sponsors sends representatives to give a short presentation, take part in the discussions and also promote their companies to the IMFSE students. During the event, the IMFSE students can easily discuss the jobs and internships opportunities with them.

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This picture was taken last February in Lund university during the third fire safety day. The first and second-year students, IMFSE alumni, IMFSE lecturers and Industry representatives in one frame.

You can read more about the fire safety days in this Blog written by Darko.

Also having three other partner universities from Switzerland, USA and Queensland will stretch the communication web from America all the way to Australia. For example during the graduation this year we had prof. Jose Torero and Juan Hidalgo so those who did not have the chance to do their thesis in Australia will be able to meet with Juan as a representative of Queensland to discuss any opportunities.

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Our coherent were also lucky to have the IAFSS Symposium this year in Lund and attend it as volunteers which were a networking heaven. We were able to communicate face to face with almost everybody in our field. You can also read more about the IAFSS Symposium in this Blog by Darko.

One more example of the networking efforts, during our third semester at the University of Edinburgh; we were invited to two events to meet with Arup engineers to discuss their projects, the internship, and work opportunities. The first event was a casual breakfast with few Arup graduate engineers, this event was too valuable; we were able to have simple conversations with the graduate engineers and ask them all the questions related to the interviews and the application process. The second event was done by an Arup engineering team where they presented a couple of their major projects, after the presentation we were able to meet with the team manager and discuss all our inquiries.

After graduating, it is too easy to see the impact of these communications. If you are going to industry and doing interviews, don’t be surprised when you find an IMFSE alumnus (who you might already know him) or a manager who you know him personally is interviewing you.  If you will be looking for a Ph.D., you will most probably know the prospective supervisors and there is a very high chance that you met them before and an extremely high probability that they already knew your IMFSE master thesis supervisor, which will make the admission and selection process goes very smooth.

IMFSE is a diverse International Program! Fact or a Myth?!

Dear Mohamed Beshir, You applied for a scholarship for the IMFSE program. It is our great pleasure to inform you that we consider you to be eligible for a scholarship. Congratulations.
With these awesome words, the most important email in my life started. I have received the acceptance email for the IMFSE program and the Erasmus Mundus + scholarship from the IMFSE secretary on the 22nd of March 2015. I still can remember this day as it was yesterday, all the simple details including the first shock and the happiness. From this day on the whole journey started.
I read on the IMFSE website a lot of interesting information and reviews, however, as I did not join the program yet and also I did not know anybody who already graduated from the IMFSE, I used to have some doubts about how accurate were these promotions.
Let’s take it step by step:

The IMFSE is a real international environment

Right after being accepted in the IMFSE program, my contact email was published on the IMFSE website so the old and new students get to know me. In one week I got emails from the former and current IMFSE students welcoming me into the program and wondering if I have any questions. These contacts were from Sweden, Egypt, Syria, and India. After few weeks I was added to our IMFSE class group, I was in one group with students from Ecuador, Colombia, Santa Lucia, Palestine, Italy, Malaysia, India, USA, Belgium, China, France, and Norway. 12 different nationalists in one group, International enough?!. Not yet, that is only our class of 2015, afterward, we get to know the 2nd year students who were studying their third semester when we started. So by the end of the 1st semester, I have friends from almost 20 different countries. Not only that but also when we started our third semester we met the new students from class 2016, that added new nationalities to my list, for example, Kazakhstan, Costa Rica and Indonesia. All in all, by the end of my IMFSE degree I can totally confirm that being a diverse and international program is definitely not a myth.
Literality by the end of the two years I have got friends from all over the globe, including but limited to the following countries:
Ecuador, Colombia, Santa Lucia, Palestine, Italy, Malaysia, India, USA, Belgium, China, France, Norway, Sweden, Brazil, Turkey, Egypt, Oman, Iran, Paraguay, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Costa Rica, Taiwan, Thailand, Serbia, Netherlands, Nepal, and Indonesia.
This photo from the 2nd Fire Safety day in London for class 2015 and 2014, Guess how many different nationalities are in this frame?

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22 different nationalities !!!

Being in such an international group is not only fun but also very beneficial, you get to know how others think and to believe that we are too different and similar at the same moment. That point helped me to accept others and respect their points of view and their beliefs. Right now, I can easily integrate myself in any new group no matter how different they are or how diverse the group is.

Luciernaga Project

As I’ve always liked spending my free time actively, and doing something meaningful, so it was the case this July. After a small research, I found out about Erasmus+ youth exchange called “Luciernaga Project” located just north of Madrid. The main topic of the exchange was Defense of the Human Rights, number of participants was 20, age limit 18-25, and participating countries were Italy, Spain, Ukraine and Serbia. The only requirement was a good motivational letter. Since I’ve always found this topic interesting, and I became quite experienced in writing such forms of letters, getting accepted, at least for me, wasn’t too hard.

Luciernaga Project

The project started on July 10th, in a beautiful camp located near Gargantilla del Lozoya in the national park Sierra de Guadarrama. From the moment I arrived to camp I immediately fell in love with it. Surrounded with beautiful nature, sleeping in cute tents with a view of the iconic Taboada bridge.

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On top of that, meeting cool people from various countries, including surprisingly Philippines, Basque Country, Belgium, France and Turkey made me feel really excited about the whole exchange.

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We spent the first few days preparing the workshops and making the plan for the upcoming days, discussing various topics related to the theme, and getting to know each other better. And after a few days the activities have officially started. One of the best things about this project was that each day we traveled to another village. In each village, we met local teenagers and did workshops with them. It was really interesting discussing about solidarity, tolerance, equality and different human rights related topics with young and proactive people.

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A thought-provoking thing about this workshop was that two of the participants were actually people with special needs. It was my first time having a chance to live, talk to, and even become friends with autistic people, and it was really something moving. When people don’t know about social norms and act purely as their emotions tell them to, then you get to see and experience many beautiful and touching moments.

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As usual, one of the best nights during the exchange was definitely the international night. All of us did some funny sketches and told stories about our countries, but more importantly we put some effort in preparing some nice national dishes. Although team Serbia had put a lot of effort in preparing Serbian meatballs, I have to admit that Ukrainian team did the best cooking job. Famous meal soup called “Borsch”, then Salo and many other delicious things.

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Ukrainian food 🙂 

In the end, we spent our last day in Madrid exploring this wonderful city. From “The oldest restaurant in the world” and “Museum of ham” – in the pauses eating fresh Gazpacho and Paellas, to the never ending fiesta, in this crazy party town.

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Gazpacho and Alhambra beer

All in all, exploring Spanish villages and nature, meeting great people, doing a useful project with great weather and super tasty food for the whole time was surely the best way of spending 11 days in July.

Advanced Fire Dynamics course

During the second semester spent at Lund University, we had 4 courses: Advanced Fire Dynamics, Risk Assessment, Simulation of Fires in Enclosures, and Human Behaviour in Fire. Advanced Fire Dynamics was delivered only till March, and Human Behaviour in Fires “replaced” it, thus we had only 3 courses being taught at the same time throughout the semester, which had substantially reduced the exam stress at the end of semester.

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Fires in Buildings (credits to the Lecture slides by Dr.Nils Johansson)

Let me talk more about the Advanced Fire Dynamics (AFD) course that was delivered at Lund University. Both in Edinburgh and Ghent, students had Fire Dynamics course during the first semester, so all of us had background knowledge in this subject. AFD course mainly focused on the mechanisms controlling enclosure fires and their effect on the surroundings. It consisted of lectures and tutorial classes where we explained how the assignments had been solved. Interestingly, the assignments were not simple ‘set problem-one solution-same answer’ style, but we were given more ‘freedom’, and everybody had their own solution and answer. Similarly, we had to design and conduct in groups our own fire experiment. Our group had several ideas for the experiment, but after consultation with professors, we decided to determine the minimum concentration of alcohol that can be ignited at room temperature. Also, in case of the ignition, we studied how different concentrations of alcohol affect HRR, effective heat of combustion, flame height, and flame temperature. Since it was my first experience in performing fire test, I was very excited to visit the Fire Lab and to see all the equipment that we heard and read about.

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Free burning of ethanol

I believe that it was a valuable course which not only enhanced our understanding about the compartment fire behaviour, but also allowed us to be more independent and creative while working on course assessments.

 

A bit about evacuations, food and, rainbows.

One of things that I find really entertaining about moving around in big cities is using their metro stations. There is something about trying to figure out the correct directions that makes me excited all the times. It might be the possibility to get lost and the challenge it represents not to do it correctly, especially if it’s a different language from the ones I´m used to.

This experience was not different when we visited Stockholm and for me, it was particularly more exciting as my thesis topic is about fatigue during evacuations of deep metro stations; therefore, when it was time to ¨chase art¨ in the more than 110km of tunnels, I couldn’t stop projecting myself in the future trying to model the evacuation from deep underground.

We started by choosing the metro lines colors that had the most amazing underground art according to travel blogs around the web. It took us a bit more than two hours to visit a total of 8 metro stations, each of them with different themes representing different ideas. The one that consumed most of our time was Stadion, because it has a huge rainbow and it’s the perfect picture spot. We found one with peace and brotherhood messages on it, and even one with nuclear sign in the wall. If you have the time, and love pictures

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However, the most expected one was Solna Centrum. Why? Well first, during human behavior class we were learning about evacuations and the picture of this specific metro stations was show in the lecture. Second, as part of my thesis preparation, I participated in a laboratory experiment to learn a bit more about fatigue during ascending stair evacuations. I had the opportunity to experience how is to move against gravity in moving stairs and let me tell you… is harder than it sounds.

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After being part of the experiment, looking down and up of those stairs was almost overwhelming. I couldn’t even imagine how it would be to be down there in rush hour trying to move upwards as fast as I could to reach safety. So, my excitement about my thesis grew, and this particular traveling adventure motivated me to keep learning and reading about evacuations in order to prepare myself the best to develop my thesis in January.

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Oh! By the way, if you like food, two things are not to be missed while visiting Stockholm: Princess cake at Vete-Katten and meatballs at Cafe Trenan. There´re no words to describe our facial expressions when we tasted the cake. About the meatballs, we read that they were off-menu as they were so good that if they were in it, the café wouldn’t sell anything else than those meatballs. Again, internet reviews didn’t disappoint.

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