After a long and dark winter in Lund (actually, we were anticipating worse), our days are getting longer and the temperatures are steadily rising. Flowers are blooming on literally every street corner and everything is so much more colourful that what any of us could have expected a few short months ago.
Today we, along with thousands of other students and residents, celebrated Valborg; the Swedish variation of Walpurgis Night. Traditionally Valborg marks the arrival of spring where the whole neighbourhood comes together to put winter behind them and celebrate the changing seasons with singing and bonfires. However, for students Valborg indicates freedom. The most demanding part of the semester is over and we are taking full advantage of the lengthening days to fully appreciate our time here.
Nothing can illustrate the impact of keeping a Christmas tree well watered quite like this clip from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
If you’re in any fire related circles (and if you’ve made it to this page you are now; Welcome!), I’d hazard a guess that every December you either see the above clip or ones similar to it start to do the rounds online. There is a very good reason for this. Christmas trees pose a significant fire safety risk within the home, and one that is largely unfamiliar to most families. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than 200 home fires each year start with a Christmas tree largely due to electrical faults or heat sources located in proximity to trees. 
With all the festivities and planning that occurs around this time of year, its not surprising that Christmas tree fire safety isn’t the first thing on everybody’s mind. However, as you can see in the clip above, something as simple as watering the tree daily can have a dramatic influence on preventing an accident from becoming a tragedy.
The NFPA have put together a safety tip sheet which is linked HERE. I couldn’t recommend more strongly that if you use a real Christmas tree, please print out this tip sheet and keep it with your decorations for use year after year. 
For a number of years, the University of Maryland (an IMFSE Partner), with collaboration from NIST, invites the fire safety community to predict the burning behaviour of a chosen Christmas tree. This year eight IMFSE students took a quick break from their exam preparations and threw their hat into the ring by predicting/designing a fire growth curve for this Christmas tree. It was a great opportunity to apply some fire science reasoning to a different sort of problem. Congratulations to the University of Queensland (also an IMFSE Partner), who achieved both the single highest score and the best team average score.
Well done also to my fellow IMFSE students who are in the midst of finishing either their first or last set of exams within the program.
Have a safe and happy holiday period, and please don’t forget to water your tree.
 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 2018. Christmas Tree Safety. [pdf] Available at: <https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/Public-Education/Resources/Safety-tip-sheets/ChristmasTreeSafetyTips.pdf> [Accessed 19 December 2018]
It’s hard to believe we are already ramping up towards our first semester exams. It is cliché, but it really does feel like it was yesterday that we were getting things underway.
After over a year of preparation from the initial application, visa process and housing, not to mention packing up a life back home and figuring out how all of the non-study aspects of this endeavour will work, it was a relief to step onto the plane and start this adventure.
Whether you’ve come from the other side of the world like I have, or just across the border, discussions amongst all of the IMFSE students have illustrated that we’ve all gone through a very similar set of logistics (admittedly some much more complex than others); and because of that it felt like we had known each other for a long time before classes even started.
I think that’s one of the big advantages to undertaking an international master’s like IMFSE. Not only are you challenged by the academic programs of three of the most well-respected universities in the world when it comes to fire, but you’re also challenged by the logistics of never staying in one place for more than a handful of months. As hard as these challenges will be at the time, they will provide a great opportunity for growth both professionally and personally.
My partner and I chose to arrive in Ghent a few weeks prior to class starting, partially to get ourselves situated but mostly to have a bit of a holiday first. It’s such a lovely city and was so enjoyable to aimlessly wander the old cobbled streets. I’d never really heard of Ghent until I considered applying for IMFSE (apart from the cycling history, but I’ll touch on that in a later post), and I find that amazing now that I’m here because it is a truly beautiful place. The history of this city is captivating and elements of its past are still strongly seen today.The architecture is quite different to my hometown (I guess that comes with being a city which is more than thousand years older) but the people here seem so laid back, and that’s saying something coming from an Australian.
I may be almost 17,000 km from where I grew up, but this place is definitely starting to feel like home. And I don’t think that’s due to this ice cream store I found in town because I can’t say that those items look very Australian at all.The first 8 weeks have flown by and exams will be on us before we know it. Look forward to sharing some more of our thoughts and experiences with you all over the coming year.