Interview – Vladimir Parezanović

This time, I am interviewing my Serbian friend, and a fellow IMFSE alumnus, Vladimir Parezanović, who was a part of cohort 2012-2014. With several years of experience in fire safety engineering already behind him, he was a perfect person for discussing his thoughts on IMFSE, career, industry etc.

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

Vladimir: My background is in Civil / Structural Engineering and I practiced it for several years before opting to make a career change. I stumbled upon the IMFSE programme while browsing through the Erasmus Mundus master programmes from pure curiosity.

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

Vladimir: It is very hard to say whether it met expectations as I cannot claim that I had an extensive understanding of what Fire Safety Engineering is in its entirety and how it can be widely applied in industry.  I would rather say I had an idea, a limited idea, about few fields of application. But the spark that Prof Jose Torero initiated during the application interview was a tipping point for me to go ahead.

Only now when I became an alumnus I realised how great foundation for further development the programme offers.  I would not exaggerate saying I am really honoured to hold an IMFSE degree in Fire Safety, and moreover to be thought by the exceptional lecturers.

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?

Vladimir: Hard choice… It is rather few.

Riding a bike on snow and -15°C, barbecues on 10°C, falling off the bike after the first encounter with Belgian beers, Edinburgh skies (i.e. rare blue ones), Karla’s confessions on childhood experiences with fire, showing IMFSE colleagues my city, fantastic lectures by Daniel and Rita, the messy all-nighter in Copenhagen, cruising deserted Ghent old city on a bike in the night, and the email Patrick should have never seen 🙂

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

Vladimir: I believe that IMFSE alumni (while probably not being entirely aware) are collecting one exceptional bank of knowledge. They are researchers or practice FSE in consultancies, they reside in 20+ counties where they can apply state of art Fire Safety Engineering, and they have an opportunity to further learn from leading lecturers/engineers in the field.

And they are still fairly well connected through the alumni Google group where they can discuss any issues or seek for an advice. That is absolutely fantastic! Personally, I am in contact with few of my colleagues on a more frequent basis, while with others through a passive contact such as Facebook, etc.

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?

Vladimir: I practice Fire Safety Engineering in Australia at the moment. I was told during my application interview something like “Finding a job can be problematic only from a geographical perspective – in some regions FSE is less and in some more developed; but finding a job in regions where FSE is practiced on a very high level is a piece of cake” and that is absolutely true. As I worked only on the Australian market I can confirm that technically we are exceptionally well prepared for the industry.

The last part of the question I answered under 2. I would also add that besides the technical foundation that programme offers, it also highly nurtures critical thinking – a very important aspect in this relatively new area of engineering.

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

Vladimir: Ghent – demanding with assignments schedule through the semester and rather short period for exam preparation; on the other hand, a lot can be learnt and the exams weren’t too difficult though.

Lund – all perfectly organised and scheduled. Proper exams with very fair marking (with relatively unfair conversion to the programme marking system 🙂 ).

Edinburgh – a bit too DIY teaching approach which can be somewhat distressing when one kicks off as a newbie in the Fire Safety world, but in contrast it stimulates research skills. Exams of a reasonable complexity, however time-wise very stressful.

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

Vladimir: Absolutely enjoyed it! But it becomes a bit too much after 2 years and it is perfect time to settle down a bit J I did not find it particularly difficult.

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

Vladimir: I dare to say it is much ahead of the industry.

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

Vladimir: How candle works.

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

Vladimir: You are about to embark on a beautiful journey!

Interview – Patrick van Hees

IMFSE exists for almost 10 years now, and one of the key factors in making it happen is definitely professor Patrick Van Hees from Lund University. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for my blog post about IMFSE.

Me: Can you tell me a bit about your background? And also, how do you see the fact that IMFSE enrols people with various backgrounds, e.g. engineers, architects, physicists, etc.?

Patrick: I have a degree from Gent University. It is under the department of Civil Engineering, but I studied electromechanical engineering. Afterwards I did my PhD in Fire.

The programme is made in such a way to lead people with diverse backgrounds all the way to the finish. Having people with different backgrounds is also really good because than they can see other approaches to solving problems, and they can learn a lot from each other. Some may face minor difficulties with one subject, some others maybe with another course, but in the end with some group work it all ends up being mutually beneficial both for the students and for the programme!

It’s good for students to have diversification in backgrounds, but of course it shouldn’t be too wide. And so far, it worked like this just well! Also, it’s important that we do all those various courses since fire safety engineering is rather multidisciplinary so the basics should be there.

Me: Where is IMFSE in comparison to the rest of the World? How developed is fire safety in general, and is it taught at many of universities?

Patrick: I am biased of course, but I think that our education is one of the Top in the world, because it has this synergy with three major universities and also three more associated partner universities that are all extremely good ranked and are respectful institutions. I am sure the program is in the top 5 in the world.

On the other hand, there are not too many education programs in this field. In fact, in Europe it is quite limited, that’s why it is important to join forces because you need to build the critical mass.

Fire safety engineering is an area which grows a lot, while we think that we have everything under control, but we still have to learn much more. I could call it a young engineering science. In general, in the world there are not too many places where it is taught. The power of good education is having good research. Our universities surely have it.

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Me: What do you think is important for the future career of a fire engineer? Which skills and abilities?

Patrick: Apart from a good technical and theoretical background, he or she has to work in multidisciplinary environment, with architects, building engineers, fire engineers, etc.  The challenge is to be able to have enough knowledge. I think our program covers all of the important topics in fire engineering (From fire dynamics and turbulence over risk assessment to human behaviour in fire)

Me: What are the “hottest topics” in fire industry at the moment and what will they be in the future period?

Patrick: Buildings get more complex, technologies get more complex etc. So, the complexity of threats. How to deal with them and be able to keep up with all those complexities.

Me: What are the differences between the education nowadays and back in the day when you were a student?

Patrick: There is one thing, I think today that student these have more insight and influence on the studies. They have input channels. It was almost impossible back in a day. You could not question anything. It is really a good thing. You could not access the professors. This interview would not be possible 😊

Now students have a huge influence and that is really important!

Another thing is of course technologies and the resources that students have nowadays are way better. That’s great. We had to have books, and we had old calculators that could hardly calculate sin or cos.

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Me: Are there any major differences between us and the students from previous generations?

Patrick: Now it is much more international. This programme brought a lot of internationalization. We barely had any students from abroad both in Ghent or here. It enriches people a lot, so they can try to grow together and pick the best from each other.

Me: Can you tell me some interesting anecdote or interesting story from previous IMFSE students?

Patrick: There was a student who went to fire training to “Revinge” and burnt his foot. It was funny that us as fire safety engineers couldn’t even take care of all the precautions and protect ourselves. There were amusing reactions from the administration 😊

Me: Any message for the current and the future IMFSE students?

Spread the word about the program!

Also, it is important to keep the good work and develop yourselves either on PHDs or in industry but to keep doing fire safety on the highest possible level and push the boundaries of our field constantly.

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A weekend in Oslo

Studying and living in Lund has many advantages, and one of the biggest is definitely the proximity of a number of beautiful places and cities. One of them is surely Oslo.

Since we knew that after the Fire Dynamics exam on Thursday, we will have the Friday off, Juan and me decided to travel to Oslo for an extended weekend! Surely not the most efficient, but definitely the cheapest way of getting there is taking a bus. A 7 hours’ ride will get you from Lund to Oslo.

As usual, our goal was to find a Couchsurfing host, and although it took some time and effort, eventually we got lucky again. This time, we were hosted by a guy called Victor, and it turned out anew, that being hosted by a local can be so cool!

As we were travelling by a night bus, and arriving to Oslo at 5 am, our first destination was our host’s house. Already than we could figure how nice our host was, since he didn’t mind waking up before 6 am to receive us. So, after getting some proper sleep we were finally ready to go discover Oslo. After a long road, our first destination was obviously some eating place. Recommended by both our host and several websites, it had to be Mathallen food hall. The concept is the following: in a large hall, various chefs prepare food from different parts of the world, and for decent prices you can try some exotic specialties.

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Having our bellies full of delicacies, we went strolling around the city. Another great thing about this trip was that the weather was perfect, mostly sunny with cca 10° Celsius. First thing we noticed while walking through the streets was a lot of people carrying briefcases in one hand and skis in the other. Apparently, all of them were preparing for a weekend trip to some of the various nearby ski resorts.

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After some time, we reached the Royal palace, and were lucky enough to see the guard change, and even take a photo with one of the guards 😊

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One thing about Oslo, that we became aware from the very beginning was how spread the whole city was around a huge area. The architecture of the city mostly consists of low rise buildings and houses, leaving enormous amount of space for greenery! In most capitals around the world, having a green place is seen as a luxury, in Oslo it’s just something completely ordinary.

At some point of the day we were accompanied by Dino, my Serbian friend from Copenhagen. We finished our day exploring Oslo nightlife, which was quite interesting, though at the same time shocking at the moments – € 10 for a glass of beer. It was so ridiculous that at those moments we wished we were back in Sweden, which already has high alcohol prices, which on the other hand happen to be decent when compared to those in Norway…

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The next day, and it turned out, the rest of our trip, was dedicated to skiing in many forms. As the biathlon World cup was being held in the suburbs of Oslo, next to the famous Holmenkollen ski-jumping hill, it was obvious where our next stop was. Apart from the breath-taking ski-jumping hill, Holmenkollen has an interesting skiing museum.

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Finally climbing to the top of the ski jump, we experienced a really stunning view of the city and the bay of Oslo, biathlon competition underneath us, frozen lake in the back, numerous Norwegian hills and forests, and the scary super inclined ski jumping piste!

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After having such a nice ski experience, the night was this time reserved for something completely different. Victor, our host, decided to take us to his favourite Mongolian restaurant in Oslo. The whole concept of a buffet, where you pick your own fresh ingredients and the chef is frying it in front of your eyes, gave a special touch to already great tastes!

Since we were so lucky to pick the perfect dates to come to Oslo, Sunday was reserved for something even more spectacular – the renowned Vikersund Ski Jumping World Cup. Just an hour and half away from Oslo, and we found ourselves watching the best skijumpers compete for the title of the World champion!

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I was really passionate about this sport when I was really young, and back in the day my favourite jumper was Japanese Noriaki Kasai, who was dominating the competitions ever since he became the World champion for the first time back in 1992. I cannot describe how happy I was when I figured out that he is still competing and that he was jumping in Vikersund that day. And not only that he competed, but in his 44th year, he managed to finish second, which really made my day!

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After the finals, our Norwegian trip was coming to an end, and we headed for Oslo. Since we had spare 2 hours before our bus to take us back to Sweden, it was just enough to play a game of shuffle board with Victor, and to properly say goodbye to our host and this lovely country!

During these three days, I discovered just a tiny part of Norway, a beautiful and enormous country. Having had such a remarkable first visit, I just can’t wait to go back and discover more!

Cruising around Lund

In these cold and mostly foggy or cloudy winter days, having a sunny day is a real luxury, so when you do, you should make it worth! Luckily, Melchior and Arjan have big cars, so whenever we have free time and good weather, we automatically meet up in the car and leave for exploring Skåne (Scania – the southernmost Swedish County where Lund is located). Analyzing the map of Skåne, we figured out that the seaside is quite near, and that there are a lot of nice places that are worth visiting, not far away from Lund.

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So, this is us, the Lomma trip crew from every corner of the Earth:

Habib from Indonesia, Arjan from Belgium, Ming-Cian from Taiwan, Juan from Colombia, Zakaria from Oman, Sergio from Costa Rica and myself from Serbia.

So, a few weeks ago, the sun gladdened us, and we decided to head on just 11km west of Lund, to the town of Lomma, famous for having a really nice beach. Although, it was one of the coldest days ever since we arrived to Sweden, the clear sky, the sea and a beautiful view just made us forget about cold. First thing we all got impressed by was an amazing view of Turning torso in Malmo, as well as the Øresund bridge.

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During the long walk along the beach, we noticed several nice barbecue spots, a beach volleyball court and a kite surfing club, therefore we concluded that this will definitely be a place we will return to as soon as the weather gets better!

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As soon as we had a next free day, we decided to go check the next interesting town. It was time to finally discover Ystad!  Just an hour drive south from Lund, and you will find yourself in this lovely port-town. Being one of the best preserved medieval towns in the province of Skåne, this town just pervades you with its beautiful architecture. Lots of small alleys full of wonderful colorful houses stretching all the way to the shore make walking around Ystad really special.

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The shore has a nice sidewalk and a huge pier, from which you get to see the incoming and outgoing ferries sailing to Danish island of Bornholm and Polish city of Świnoujście. Ystad is also famous for having the tiniest museum in Sweden, only a few m2, dedicated to Hasseåtage – famous Swedish comedian duo consisting of Hans Alfredson and Tage Danielsson. And last but not least, it is famous for the fictional detective Kurt Wallander whose stories, by Henning Mankell, were set primarily in Ystad and nearby communities.

Both Skåne and Sweden have so much more to offer, and we will try to use every possible opportunity to explore the most of it!

 

Nations

One thing University of Lund is quite famous for, and together with other Swedish and Finish Universities probably unique in the World, are the well-known student Nations.

The story dates back to the 17th century when universities were large metropolitan centers with students from many different domestic and foreign regions. Students who were born within the same region usually spoke the same language, expected to be ruled by their own familiar laws, and therefore joined together to form the Nations. Logically, Nations in Lund are named after provinces and areas in southern Sweden. It is 349 years since the first Nation was founded and much has changed but the Nations’ original purpose remains: to provide students with a good and congenial atmosphere while they live and study in Lund.

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Emblem of one of the oldest Nations in Lund

Since student Nations are definitely the best way to meet new people, me and my friends have obviously joined one the first week we arrived here. Luckily, the decision about which to join wasn’t hard because joining one Nation gives you entrance to all the other Nations’ events.

In Lund, in total there are 13 Nations, and each Nation has its own particular atmosphere and is popular for various events and offers. Apart from the parties and pub nights, there is one special event organized by all the Nations, and it is definitely something remarkable – the so called ‘’Sittning’’. It’s basically a 3-course dinner with lots of interesting details. First of all, people are randomly mixed when arriving to the dining tables, so they are ‘’forced’’ to mingle, and after each course, you should change your seat, so you mingle even more and meet some new people! Then, a vital part of a sittning is singing. The guests are usually given a booklet with songs that will be sung during the sittning. Apart from the typical Swedish schlager music, there are songs in English and many other languages so singing the known ones and learning the new ones while enjoying some delicious food can really be a lot of fun!

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Sweden is ‘’notorious’’ for being one of the countries with the biggest liquor prices in the World. Luckily, Nations offer liquor at reasonable prices, and it is possible for one simple reason: the student’s working in Nations are actually doing everything on voluntary basis. After spending a semester in Gent, and having 3 fellows from Belgium, we easily picked Hallands Nation as our favorite, since they offer some of the best Belgian beers at their pub.

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Yes, they even have the famous ‘’Kwak’’ and serve it from the original cups!

Other Nation that also stole my attention, and that I gladly visit is the ‘’Smålands Nation’’. Apart from being the ‘’alternative’’ Nation that is the only one politically active, it also organizes awesome Jazz sessions and Karaoke nights. And, although I adore meat, their cuisine made me start loving Vegan food!

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Apart from the aforementioned things, all of the Nations offer a very wide range of activities and services, including lunches, brunches, pubs, housing opportunities, orchestras, sports, night clubs, formal balls and traditional festivities, among many other things.

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”Glow in the dark”

Although someone could think that such a small city as Lund would not be very dynamic, the number of almost 50’000 students, led by the Nations make Lund an exceptional and unique student’s city.

IMFSE Fire Safety Engineering Day

As it happens every year, IMFSE students attend 2 interesting events during the second semester in Lund. By pure coincidence, this year both events took place right here, in Lund, which made it super easy for us to attend them.

First one was the IMFSE Management Board meeting, which consisted of two very important parts. First of all, our student representatives shared the results of the surveys we recently filled in – regarding our experiences, thoughts and suggestions about the first semester, both in Gent and Edinburgh. The discussion was very important and meaningful and will surely be helpful for both universities to improve in the future even more!

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In the second part, our IMFSE professors Bart Merci, Grunde Jomaas and Patrick Van Hees gave us a first overview of available master thesis topics. Both full and associated partner institutes offer some alluring topics, so the decision will definitely be tough but interesting!

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Next day was reserved for the 3rd IMFSE FSE Day. The central theme of the day was ‘’Sustainability and Fire Safety Engineering’’. As expected, the day was full of interesting lectures held by renowned experts from various prestigious companies (ARUP, BRE, FESG, PROMAT and KINGSPAN) and a lecture held by a professor from LTH.

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Lunch break provided time for the most important part of the day: networking! A lot of second year and alumni IMFSE students were present, as well as several experienced professionals and LTH PHD students and professors and mingling around and meeting all those people was a real pleasure. Sharing IMFSE experiences, making plans about the master thesis or even PHDs and discussing potential internship and job opportunities made this day really fruitful. Seeing how a lot of our older colleagues are having amazing careers all around the World motivates all of us greatly.

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In the afternoon, a panel discussion on the topic was held by all the lecturers and IMFSE consortium. The intent was that members of consortium discuss and debate how FSE and sustainability meet or conflict. It was a nice Q & A session for conclusion of this valuable day.

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The 3rd IMFSE FSE Day turned out to be very good and we are all looking forward to attending the 4th edition next year! In the mean time, we have an even bigger FSE event: this June, again by unbelievable coincidence, the biggest fire safety science symposium – 12th International Symposium on Fire Safety Science, will be hosted by Lund University. This event will certainly be very beneficial and it also represents one of the biggest reasons for looking forward to June and the beginning of summer!

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Across the Øresund

As the new week-end was approaching, and our schedule said we had Friday and Monday off, we knew it was time to continue exploring wonderful Scandinavia. This time, our destination was the capital of our dear bordering country Denmark, the colorful Copenhagen. A perfect coincidence was that ESN Lund (Erasmus Student’s Network) was organizing a pub crawl in Copenhagen, right on Saturday, when we wanted to travel anyway, so we were immediately accompanied by 40 new interesting people in our quest to Copenhagen!

Saturday 2 pm quickly arrived, and the trip was about to start! Just like in our Gothenburg excursion, the enormous amount of fog didn’t want to disappoint, and decided to come along, but nothing could spoil the positive vibes and fun so many students share 🙂 !

The day started with a 2 hour guided tour lead by a man called Martin. I guess nobody had high expectations, since we all are used to those boring ’’Wikipedia’’ guides, but this guy was something completely different. He was funny, interesting, telling stories from his own point of view, making jokes about the royal family, about the Swedes, and about Swedish – Danish ”love” in general, and along the way telling some super intriguing historical and politically cultural stories. Definitely a perfect way to start a weekend in a new city. The rest of the night was reserved for the long anticipated pub crawl and a party, which was also amazing, as famous ESN parties usually are.

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After a long, tiring night, and sufficient sleep, we were ready to continue exploring Copenhagen. Our first destination was the famous freetown of ’’Christiania’’. Its actually a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood completely independent of the Danish government. This controversial area is famous for a lot of things. First of all, although marijuana is illegal in Denmark, the citizens of Christiania decided to make it legal, and it’s a well known thing that over there it can be bought on the street, as simple as a bottle of water. The other thing that makes Christiania special is that it has around 850 inhabitants, mostly hippies, who have decided to live life outside the external ’’normal’’ world. Freetown Christiania is a mix of homemade houses, workshops, art galleries, music venues, cheap and organic eateries, and beautiful nature. All in all, this place was really something different, and left a huge impression on all of us.

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The rest of the day was reserved for another small tour of Copenhagen, guided this time by my dear Montenegrin – Danish friend Lena.

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The cold weather didn’t stop us from discovering the astonishing Copenhagen Opera House, the famous Nyhavn, the house of Hans Christian Andersen, than the ’’best restaurant in the World’’, and many other beautiful spots of Copenhagen. The day was too short to explore it all, but the night was reserved for something even more special. A jazz night in ’’La Fontaine’’ – the oldest Jazz clubs in Copenhagen, where even Lady Gaga performed once many years ago. It was a perfect way to end such a nice day in Copenhagen.

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The last day was reserved for a few more things Denmark is famous for. First of all one thing all kids as well as the many grown ups in the world adore – Lego! We spent much time inside the shop and had a lot of fun just watching all the beautiful toys, and reminding ourselves of our childhood.

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The next thing that we had to visit was of course, the trademark of Copenhagen, the little Mermaid statue. After it, one last thing was waited to be discovered. Since we had 3 Belgian guys in our crew, we couldn’t leave Copenhagen without trying the famous Danish beer. And to be honest, Mikkeler is doing quite a decent job in making some amazing beers!

Leaving Copenhagen was kind of hard, knowing how many beautiful things are still to be discovered in this extraordinary city, but luckily it is only an hour away from our Lund, so we (or at least I) will be back many many more times!

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