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.

 

 

The road to IMFSE Masters

Having an older brother and a lot of friends is a great thing for many reasons. You can learn from their experiences and mistakes, you can ask them for advice and help in any situation, but also you can somehow put yourself in their skin and envision your future if you took their steps. That’s how, as soon as I have enrolled in my bachelor studies, I knew I will conduct my master studies abroad. I had no idea where it would be, or even in which field, but I knew it would eventually happen.

As soon as I recognized that I want to undertake that move one day, I decided to start working on various skills necessary for enrolling in international universities, but also for living abroad and becoming a successful global citizen.

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Different volunteering activities, practicing sports, mastering my English and French, attending diverse seminars, conferences and extracurricular courses were just some of the things on this path.

I remember that, one summer day after my first year of bachelor studies, my family friend Vladimir Parezanović was visiting my family and he had some great news. He was telling us how he was accepted to an amazing master programme called IMFSE. At that point, I had no idea what fire safety actually was, but from the first moment I was impressed while listening about the structure of the program. Changing 4 countries during 4 semesters, and studying at 4 great universities, but at the same time meeting cultures and people from around the globe seemed like a programme tailored just for me 😊. Also, since physics has always been my favorite subject, finding out how related fire safety engineering and physics actually are made me attracted by the programme so much more.

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So, the autumn has come, and Vladimir’s adventure had started, and through time, listening to his experiences, I was becoming more and more sure that I would like to enroll in that programme.  By the time Vladimir has graduated, I was already certain that I would apply for IMFSE. The fact that he had a lot of job opportunities in several countries immediately after graduation made me my decision even easier.

So, the time for my masters applications has finally come. There I was with a list of universities and programmes I was interested in, and among the top of the list was also IMFSE. Since being accepted to IMFSE and other top programmes is quite tough, and obtaining a scholarship even harder, I knew I had to put in effort. Writing motivation letters, putting my CV in order, getting recommendation letters, translating the curriculum and other documentation to English and sorting out other bureaucratic things was time consuming, but my resolve to keep improving myself in a global setting was strong, so there was never a lack of motivation.

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Positive replies from other universities started arriving in February, but still no news from IMFSE. And then, on the 10th of March last year, I was informed that I was among the 48 best applicants for the programme and that we are entering the second round – interview with one of the board directors. I was so happy, but also I knew that the hardest part was yet to come. I immediately started analyzing the whole IMFSE website, reading through the description of all the courses, also talking to Vladimir about his interview experiences, and searching interview examples on the web. As the D-day was approaching, I felt more and more confident. I knew that I didn’t prepare myself for so long for nothing. Although I was a bit nervous, the interview went smoothly, and as soon as it was finished I had a really good feeling about it. After a couple of weeks, when all the other candidates had been interviewed, I got an email informing me that I was nominated for the full scholarship. It was one of the happiest moments in my life. After spending years hearing about the programme, and daydreaming about studying it one day, there I was, finally, preparing for embarking on a new adventure in my life.

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And here I am, somewhere at the half of it, and I can only say that I am more than loving it so far. Without a doubt this is by far the most interesting and most dynamic period of my life, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Neither was I the student with the highest GPA, neither was I the most talented engineer in my generation. I was only a good student, but a good student with a clear plan and an enormous motivation for pursuing a dream. And it seems that passion and focus can make the dreams come true!

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?

Patrick: 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.

IMFSE final

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!