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.

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Interdisciplinary, Multicultural, Friendly, Significant, Entertaining – IMFSE

As the first half of my IMFSE journey has come to an end, I feel like it’s time to sum it up.

Before coming to Gent in September, I really had high expectations, and now when I look back, I can tell that they were more than fulfilled.

It all started mid-September, when I moved to Belgium, accompanied by my family for the first week. Having them around me during the first days of settling made my “moving from home” way easier. Already during the introduction week, I had the opportunity to meet my classmates, and seeing so many bright, proactive and interesting people from all around the world made me immediately happy for starting my Masters.

Among many other reasons, I loved attending classes at Gent University as the Engineering building where we had a lot of classes, irresistibly reminded me of Engineering Faculty building in my hometown of Belgrade.

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Perović family in front of Faculty of Engineering and Architecture – Gent

Apart from having engaging lectures given by great teachers and even more importantly amazing people, there was one thing that really made this program flow smoothly. It’s our two very well-known coordinators, Elise Meerburg and Lies Decroos. Highly professional and devoted, prompt in communication and really efficient in solving all student’s issues. Two of them are one of the key factors of making and maintaining the genuine quality of this program.

Regarding the courses, they are in general very well organized, and made in a way to slowly introduce the Fire Safety Engineering to people from various backgrounds. The semester was a bit more time demanding, but it was kind of expected as it lasted around 3.5 months with 6 courses covered. Another really interesting fact was that not only IMFSE students were an internationalized crew, but the lecturers in Gent also. Listening to teachers from Spain, Greece, Belgium, Serbia and other countries was really intriguing and gave a special touch to this semester.

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IMFSE students reunited at Lund University for IMFSE day

Eating delicious Flemish Fries, tasting limitless extraordinary Belgian beers, making friends from each corner of the planet, living in a beautiful, fairytale city as Gent and being in the heart of Europe, and at the same time studying a great and renowned program such as IMFSE will always keep my Gent semester in a beautiful memory.

Continuing the second IMFSE quarter in Lund was also special in its own ways. Surely the best thing about it was that finally the whole class met, and our amazing Masters crew suddenly doubled!

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1st and 2nd year IMFSE students having an “International dinner”

As Sweden welcomed us in January in its own special way, with snow storms and really cold temperatures, it was very interesting and sometimes even funny noticing how people from warmer parts of the world, e.g. Latin America or Eastern Asia react to this, for them unusual phenomenon. Many of them have experienced snow and subzero temperatures for the first time in their lives.

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“Warm” Sweden

Lund itself is much smaller than Gent, thus has less activities, events etc., it was a bit hard getting used to this change, but as the time passed by, Lund kind of “grew” on us and we all started to enjoy our lives more and more in this cute ancient city.

Thirteen students Nations, organizing life of around 45’000 students, made sure we made a lot of new friends and had some proper fun 😊! Also, whenever we fell into the “missing a big city” crisis, we just hopped on to 12 mins train ride to Malmo, or just continued on an hour ride to Copenhagen.

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Leaving IMFSE traces around Sweden 🙂

Another part of change was way of studying. Studies were way more relaxed, as we had 4 courses during almost 5 months long semester. Another thing was that we had majority of courses together with Swedish students, so it was really fun meeting them. On top of that, super friendly teachers and university staff made this semester a very pleasant experience!

Both in Gent and Lund, one of the most important parts of the program were visits to companies and fire institutes. Meeting people from industry, and getting a first-hand feeling of what awaits after we graduate is something many students around the world lack during their studies.

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IMFSE football crew

Finally, the semester in Lund was finished in the best theoretical way. We were lucky to attend the famous IAFSS symposium, that was held in Lund right after the end of exams, where we could learn so much and meet fire experts from all the places.

By and large, IMFSE has so far been one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and I am super excited for starting the second half in Edinburgh in September!

12th International Symposium on Fire Safety Science

Every three years IAFSS symposium takes place somewhere around the world. The biggest Fire Safety conference in the world, or the “Fire Safety Olympics”, as our professor Bart Merci likes to call it, was organized this year at Lund University, just after the exam period. My IMFSE fellows and I felt incredibly lucky because of this coincidence. The participation fee for such a big event was expectedly pretty high. However, the Fire Safety students from Lund University got a chance to volunteer and help organize the symposium – in exchange for a free entrance!

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IMFSE students and alumni reunited in Lund (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

After a few days of organizing and arranging the last bits, the conference was ready to start on Sunday – June 11th , with a welcoming dinner organized at Kårhuset. Just seeing around 450 participants in one place, and after a quick walk around, we already got an impression that the conference would be a huge success!

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Welcoming dinner (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

The next morning, the time finally came for the lectures to start! The opening two lectures – “Wildland Fire Spotting by Sparks and Firebrands” and “Fire Safety Engineering in Timber Buildings” were both dealing with really interesting topics and made a great introduction to what was about to come.

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Prof. Daniel Nilsson giving opening speech at Aula, Kårhuset (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

Monday was reserved for 3 simultaneous sessions with lectures on Material Behavior in Fires, Fire Suppression and general Fire Safety Engineering. Lecturers from various prestigious universities, such as University of Maryland, Imperial College, Lund University, Gent University etc. made sure to give us some nice insights into their works and fields of expertise.  At the end of each lecture, there was time made for Q&A, which complemented the talks by clarifying some possible uncertainties and proposing ideas for further development of the research presented. Lectures were perfectly “paused” by the coffee and lunch breaks, which were a good opportunity to meet the lecturers and other colleagues, and to further discuss on the lectures-related topics, as well as many other formal and non-formal matters!

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(photo credit Michael Strömgren)

On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to hear the talks by the lecturers from University of California Berkeley, University of Edinburgh and other notable universities, as well as some of the renowned companies and institutes such as FM Global, RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) etc. Particularly interesting, at least for me, were the lectures on tunnel fires – held by our professor Haukur Ingason and his colleague Ying Zhen Li.

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Prof. Haukur Ingason – RISE, giving lecture on Tunnel Fires (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

The poster session held after the lunch break was a perfect opportunity to see all the researches in one place, to meet the authors, and to get the one-on-one explanation of their interesting work.

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Atmosphere from the poster session

Lectures on “Fire Emission and Toxicity” and “Evacuation and Human Behavior” made Wednesday particularly interesting.

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Renowned prof. Björn Karlsson (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

The long-anticipated Thursday started great – with professor Luke Bisby’s lecture on “Structural Response of Cross-Laminated Timber Compression Elements Exposed to Fire”.

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Prof. Luke Bisby (photo credit prof. Bart Merci)

The day was full of other interesting structural topics, with another productive poster session. But the night was actually what we all waited for: firstly, the awards ceremony hosted by our professor and IAFSS chairman Patrick Van Hees was organized at the ceremonial hall in the main university building. All the participants in a gorgeous hall, a relaxed and friendly ceremony, awards for the most deserving IAFSS people, and a lot of positive energy as the conference was coming to an end.

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The awards ceremony (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

After the ceremony was over, we moved on to the AF building for the banquet. The whole conference was organized just perfectly, and so was the banquet. Summarizing the impressions from conference with some old and some new friends, having a delightful dinner and being amused by University Choir and a skillful magician, made the evening a one to remember. But what I personally consider the most special thing about this banquet, was that I ended up on the stage with the magician as a volunteer, seeing him making some unbelievable illusions right in front of my eyes, and having no clue what was going on!

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Enjoying some magic moments  🙂  (photo credit prof. Bart Merci)

On Friday, we listened to a few more interesting lectures, and unfortunately it was time to close the conference. Looking back to the previous days, we were all delighted and concluded that the whole conference was a huge success! Meeting numerous fire experts and people from all around the world, learning so much on different topics and getting an idea on what is being explored at the moment, made this conference remarkable and invaluable. I can only say I can’t wait for more conferences to come, especially the IAFSS 2020! 😊

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All symposium participants in front of the main University building (photo credit Michael Strömgren)

 

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Serbian IMFSE duo – Vladimir Parezanović and me

Copenhagen Marathon ’17

Apart from the school activities, all IMFSE students have their own hobbies and different ways of using their free time. Some do yoga, some play tennis, others lacrosse, some work in nations or get involved more in student life and some like going to gym. And me, as usual, I decided to dedicate my free time to one of my favourite hobbies – long distance running.

At the beginning of the semester I have set a goal for myself – to run the famous Copenhagen marathon. As Copenhagen became my favourite Scandinavian city throughout the semester, I’ve anticipated the race more and more as it was approaching. Luckily since Skane county (southernmost county of Sweden, where Lund is located) is mainly flat, and also the biking culture is quite huge, the authorities have taken care of building bike/running tracks that connect Lund to most of the surrounding towns. After running all across Lund, my paths started taking me to Lomma, Malmo or just around the beautiful fields of gold. After hundreds of kilometres and months of preparation, the weekend of Marathon has finally arrived.

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I’ve been part of Belgrade Urban Running Team (BURT), back in my home country, which is basically a crew of passionate runners and great people that share love for running, healthy life, positive vibes and good energy 😊. BURT is just one of numerous running crews across the world that are a part of the Bridge The Gap (BTG) movement sharing same ideas and spirit and making changes for the better world. Our BTG friends from Copenhagen, NBRO runners, made sure that marathon weekend goes smoothly!

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Saturday, the day before the race, was reserved for traditional carbo-loading dinner. It was also a great occasion for greeting some dear old friends and meeting some amazing and inspiring new people! Last advice about what is smart to have for dinner and what for breakfast, before we went homes for a long sleep before the race!

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As announced by the forecast, Sunday welcomed us with beautiful weather. Sunny day with 20 °C, for Scandinavians maybe too warm, for me it was just perfect for a nice run 😊. Running 42 km around all neighbourhoods of the city, it was simply amazing seeing so many people that came out to cheer the runners, hearing different music coming from various stages and just feeling the festive atmosphere that could be felt in Copenhagen throughout the whole weekend.

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And besides all those great things, running last couple of kilometres was a struggle as usually, but my friends Dino and Lena who have waited for me at the finish line made the after-race recovery much easier with their smiles, cheerful words and support!

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Although most of the energy was spent on the race, all of us have however saved last bits of energy to celebrate another amazing marathon weekend at NBRO party 😊

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Copenhagen marathon was definitely a lovely experience, and I am planning to do it again in 2018. But before that, a summer full of trainings and an autumn full of races around Scotland await!

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Oresund Runt

After living in Belgium for a semester, it’s quite hard getting accustomed to Swedish prices. Being a travelling addict as I am, for me personally, it was the hardest to get used to the prices of train tickets. Luckily, as the semester was passing, along with meeting Swedes came tips and tricks about various things, including travelling. One of them was discovery of the ticket called Oresund Runt.

For 249 Swedish Kronas (around 26 Euros) you get a ticket that includes the following: train from Lund to Helsingborg, then a ferry ride across the 4km wide strait from Helsingborg in Sweden to Helsingor in Denmark. After that you move on to Copenhagen from where you continue back to Lund via Malmo. The ticket is valid for 48 hours, during which you can stop anywhere on the route for as long as you want, and another great thing about it is that public transportation tickets in all cities on the route are included, which is obviously the most useful in Copenhagen being by far the most expensive city on the route.

As I found out about this special deal, I was just waiting for a perfect moment to set off to another Scandinavian adventure. I didn’t wait for too long before my childhood best friends Darija and Marta came for a visit and I decided to surprise them with this cool trip!

First stop on our 48h trip was Helsingborg. The city is only 35 mins away from Lund and its really worth visiting. After a stroll next to the seaside and through beautiful downtown with lovely tiny streets, we went to visit the famous 600-year-old medieval fortress of Helsingborg situated on a small hill just above the city center.

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Back in a day it was one of the most important fortified observatories in Danish-Swedish wars, and nowadays the biggest attraction of Helsingborg with amazing view of the whole town and Denmark on the other side of the sea! After that, as we got hungry, we headed on to another place that was suggested to us, the famous Ebbas Fik restaurant where we had some great meals including the various super tasty cakes!

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As the clock was ticking, we knew it’s time to continue our trip, so we took a ferry to Helsingor in Denmark. First thing that was quite funny was that, although a ride takes only around 20 mins, there are Swedish people that are coming on board just to buy alcohol in duty-free shop. Reason is very well known, the notorious Swedish alcohol prices. 🙄

Arriving to Helsingor we discovered another interesting and beautiful city. Having one of the biggest and nicest castles in Denmark, a great Naval museum and lovely streets all around, this city provided us a lot of fun for a few hours, but soon we needed to continue our trip.

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Just 3 train stations to the south, towards Copenhagen, the well-known Louisiana Museum is located and it was a must. With huge collection of modern art from various famous artists, and beautiful gardens right next to the sea, this museum definitely gave us an inspiring experience!

As we arrived to Copenhagen at night, we immediately met up with a group of Serbian students that study in Denmark, and it was such a nice gathering in my favorite bar of Copenhagen, ‘’The Taphouse’’.

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Next day was of course reserved for exploring Copenhagen. We started from the highest viewpoint of the city, the tower of Vor Flersers Church, right next to Christiania. Continuing our way over Christiania, then discovering another great food place called The Paper Island which is situated quite near the Opera House. Over there, in a Hall, there are tens of various international food stands (Moroccan, South Korean, French, Thai and other exotic cuisines) and for a reasonable price you can try some amazing delicacies!

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As I already wrote a blog about Copenhagen, I will only mention the other places we visited that day. The famous shopping street Strøget, the biggest attraction of Copenhagen, Nyhavn, with Hans Christian Andersen’s house.

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We continued along the way to the royal palace all the way to Kastelet and the Little Mermaid.

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You won’t find this photo of the Little Mermaid in travel magazines 😉

As the day was coming to an end, we decided to spend the last couple of hours discovering the Botanical garden, and relaxing in my favorite park in town, Rosenborg Castle Gardens.

Really tired but full of amazing memories we took off by a late train back to Lund.

As this was the most dynamic and by far the most interesting trip I have done since I came to Scandinavia, I highly recommend it both to future IMFSE students and to all the people that have a chance to do this great tour. You will not regret it, trust me!

School trip to RISE and Guttasjön fire academy

Last Friday was reserved for another school trip. This time we were going a few hours north to visit the fire Academy of Södra Älvsborg county, and RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) fire research institute.

When you study IMFSE at Lund university, doing a school trip is quite easy. Professors announce your visit to a certain company, school covers car rental and other travel expenses, and you just have to show up at the right place on the agreed time. Although it sounds super simple, this time it turned out not to be like that. Relying 100% on Google Maps lead us to an hour-long tour of dirt roads, hitting a ‘’military zone’’ barrier and ending up on an unfinished road. Finally, after an unplanned exploration of Swedish countryside, we managed to get to Guttasjön fire station, where our hosts were patiently waiting for us.

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First, Mr Krister Palmkvist, fire officer with decades of experience gave us a lecture on firefighting. Full of good examples and videos, but what made it special is that we were able to see live famous and one of the most powerful firefighting tools – Cobra! The forceful rifle-like water extinguisher is used for penetrating through walls (brick, concrete, steel etc.) and therefore making a way for water to get to the burning compartment, in situations when opening a door/window is not possible or is not a good idea due to the potential risky ventilation conditions and a possible flashover or any other reasons.

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After the lecture, we were lucky to witness a real fire training, where firefighters were learning how to use Cobra, aka ‘’firefighters Kalashnikov’’, and it was impressive. Unfortunately, Cobra is a really expensive tool, and thus not yet available in most of the countries around the world, but hopefully it will become affordable in the near future since it gives an incredible advantage to firefighters.

Our next stop was RISE, where we were welcomed by our professor from Lund University, Mr Haukur Ingason. Formerly called SP, after merging with Innventia and Swedish ICT, named RISE has one of the biggest Fire research institutes in Europe. First part was reserved for short lectures by professor Haukur Ingason and his colleague Ying Zhen Li where we heard a bit about what RISE is involved in and about their areas of expertise. Next thing was the actual tour of all the labs. We started at the lab for small scale testing, being equipped with the famous ‘’cone calorimeter’’, that is used for collecting data for most of the FDS (fire dynamics simulator) input, and with many other experimental instruments.

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Already the middle-sized room was impressive enough since enclosure fire tests are performed in it. But the largest room definitely left us speechless. It is so huge and so well equipped that they can do bus or truck fire tests in it without a problem. Another astonishing thing was the massive filter chimney connected to the main room, that no matter how huge and sooty the fire is, lets through only water vapors.

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As the trip was almost over we decided to spend the rest of the day in the nearby city of Gothenburg. Unlike the first time when we visited it, when we could barely see anything because of the dense fog, this time the weather was just perfect! Strolling down the city, seeing thousands of people sunbathing next to the channels and along the parks, and feeling a really positive vibe of Gothenburg made me realize why some Swedes actually consider it as the coolest city of Sweden!

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Another great school trip was given a final touch by a beautiful 9:30 pm sunset above the city!

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Interview – Ivana Paunović & Bojan Coti

Me: Can you tell me a bit about your background and where did you hear about IMFSE for the first time?

Ivana: I have finished structural engineering in my home town Belgrade, Serbia. I have heard about the programme from Erasmus Mundus web site.

Bojan: I am 26, finished architecture in Serbia in 2013, and started to work in Germany in 2015 as a fire safety engineer. In my last year of Bachelor studies, I discovered IMFSE by browsing the Internet.

Me: How did you feel about the programme before enrolling, and how do you feel now being an alumnus? Did it meet your expectations?

Ivana: I was interested in doing my master’s abroad. Even though I was admitted to a few programmes, I found fire engineering the most interesting topic and I was quite sure that it was something I would like to do in the future. This programme did meet my expectations. Many topics are covered and it helps us to become well-rounded engineers.

Bojan: Of course, I was excited once I got admitted to the programme, and had big expectations as well. I would say that the programme brought more than I expected.

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Me: When you remember IMFSE, what thoughts come to your mind the first? Some course, professor, university, lab, fellow friend, trip or maybe a party?

Ivana: First thing I remember would be good moments I have spent with my colleagues (and friends :))

Bojan: The high level of knowledge I got, and the amazing people I met from all around the world.

Me: How important is it that IMFSE is such an internationalized programme? Are you still in touch with your fellow friends?

Ivana: I am still in touch with people, with some more, with others less. We also have a Whatsapp group with all the people from my year where we share news. Internationality is really important for both personal and professional growth. We are meeting new cultures, new ways of thinking, living and working.

Bojan: It is quite important because IMFSE is not just about studying fire safety engineering, but much more. It is an opportunity to see how other people think, work and what kind of ideas they have. I am still in touch with some of my fellow friends, and it is a great feeling to have them in different parts of the globe.

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Me: What do you do now, and how useful was having IMFSE degree for finding a job and consequently working? Did it provide enough relevant education?

Ivana: I just started a job, I am working in Beca, New Zealand. It was very useful to have this diploma, people who are working in fire engineering are quite familiar with IMFSE. I believe that all relevant topics are covered in the programme.

Bojan: I produce fire safety concepts, approve concepts of others and do on-site visits, as well as fire simulations.  It certainly helped me in finding a job, because the IMFSE is recognized, and it is up-to-date. The programme prepared me for the job that I do, but also for the things that are new in fire safety engineering, and things that are yet to come.

Me: Can you make a small comparison between studies at universities of Gent, Lund, and Edinburgh (and Zurich – Bojan)? What about living in those cities, what are main advantages of each?

Ivana: All 3 universities have different a tempo of studies. I would say that the tempo of studies was the fastest in Gent. Regarding the life, I enjoyed Gent the best. The city is mainly populated with students, it is quite international and has a variety of good pubs.

Bojan: University in Gent gives strong foundation required to move further in the programme.

University in Lund has the most organized way of learning, with a lot of practical work included.

ETH Zurich has great possibilities to conduct experiments with materials in a fire.

Gent is probably the most beautiful city I studied in and has a great position which allows traveling around Europe. Lund offers a lot of student activities and is basically a student town. Zurich has a great position for traveling in this part of Europe as well, and it has a rich cultural life.

Me: How did you find moving to a different country each semester? Was it too dynamic and maybe even a bit hard, or you just enjoyed it?

Ivana: I personally liked changing the environment. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and travel around that specific area. It wasn’t easy, but I would say there are more benefits than drawbacks.

Bojan: I learned to be highly mobile and to pack all my life in a suitcase. Of course, it was not always easy to move every semester, but it brought a lot of excitement as well. Sometimes, I miss that.

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Me: Where is IMFSE in comparison to professional fire safety globally? Does it keep up with industry?

Ivana: I think that people in fire safety community have heard about IMFSE, and that it is positioned quite high on the international rank.

Bojan: I would say that the IMFSE prepares you well for the different approaches in fire safety engineering. For example, fire safety in Germany is still more prescribed, but it is moving towards performance based design approach. With the education I obtained, I was able to jump-start in the field since it prepared me for the both approaches.

Me: If you had to choose one thing you learned during your IMFSE master studies, that you are the proudest of, what would it be?

Ivana: I am happy I learned Dutch since I thought at the beginning od course that it will be mission impossible 😀

Bojan: If somebody would ask me to go to live and work at another place on the earth tomorrow, I would only ask – where to?

Me: What is your message for the future IMFSE students?

Ivana: Travel as much as possible, stay in contact even after the end of the programme, have fun while getting a good degree 🙂

Bojan: Use the chance to get a proper education in fire safety engineering, have fun and learn from other students as much as possible, about them and their culture.