Thursday, February 17, 2011
Things have been pretty busy here academically since day one this semester. Time for an update.
It's pretty impressive that the three class I am taking now last merely 8 weeks. Blazing through a 300 page fire dynamics book (for only one of the classes) in 2 months is not an easy task. Needless to say, it leaves a little free time to be desired with exams coming up in the 1st week of March. Nonetheless, plenty of learning is taking place.
I supposed I can now make some real comparisons to the program in Edinburgh. First, the classes are quite different (in content and presentation) here in Lund. Edinburgh was quite tough for a variety of reasons. The classes were pretty theoretical (less practical application) which can be a bit tough. Another difficult part was taking several civil/structural engineering based courses, and not having such a great background for them. But that was expected, and the first semester of any new engineering program probably should have a learning curve.
In Lund I really like that it feels like the 20 of us are given lots of attention from the University and the professors. Except for one class, where we are occasionally with 30 or so other fire engineering students, our classes are just the 20 of us. The teachers wait for everyone to arrive to class, and ask when someone is not there occasionally (so at least they know who we are). In addition, in Edinburgh, it felt like nothing could be changed. Classes were huge, assignments were given, you do it yourself, figure out how, and that's it. If you want something changed, it seems as if it has to go up a bureaucratic ladder 30 times for anything to happen. Here, although they loaded us up, we can really talk with the professors, they can talk with administration, and in some cases, they have moved deadlines and schedules around due to simple communication. Additionally, one great thing in Lund is that the methods of teaching are quite varied. Different teachers are used (professors, phd students, and consultants). We work in computer labs, have lectures, projects, assignments, seminars, and the material is delivered in various ways which I think makes it more effective. In Edinburgh, the schedule was pretty fixed. Of course, the downside of the class schedule here is I never know where I need to go, at what time, and what class I will take the next day!
Since I have to be honest, I think the professors in Edinburgh were a bit more effective. Maybe it is due to experience, some of the professors in Edinburgh had 30+ years of experience. I also liked talking to the pHD students in Edinburgh, it really felt like they knew what they were talking about and were some pretty intense thinkers that will be at the front of the fire field soon. Which brings me to another comment, and maybe a general comment about something I've noticed about Swedish society, is that people are so passive! In Edinburgh, the professors were a bit forceful and at the very least confident. Even if they might have been wrong, you couldn't tell, and so I felt like they knew their stuff well (which they did). Here, most of the teachers are pretty good, but nobody really gives me that full blown confidence, there is just some passiveness to the style of teaching (which as I said, I think is also part of my general observation about the reticent-ness of Swedish society for the good or bad). Also, gotta say that Jose in Edinburgh was really the best teacher I think I have had, including my undergrad years. In fact, it says a lot nowadays (due to our heavy reliance on technology) if you can just walk into class and use chalk and that's it to teach the class and keep people captivated.
Otherwise, I really am enjoying the topics of the classes here. Advanced fire dynamics. Here we are learning a wide range of things related to fire behavior and smoke fill of buildings and rooms. We also spend about 6 weeks in small groups to prepare and then conduct a laboratory test in which we will start a fire and then study some parameters related to the fire (as well as learn how the laboratory equipment functions and theory and calculations behind them). We have a class on risk assessment. The..idea..is..to..reduce..risk.... Then, a class called 'Fires in Enclosures'. We don't really have any lectures in the class. More or less, a large part of the class involves learning a CFD (computational fluid dynamics) program which models fire and smoke (and lots of theory behind how the program works as well). The nice looking picture at the top was generated with this.
In the sliver of free time here and there, I just found time to join the gym! Here's to getting buff and huge! I'll be breaking bricks on my forehead soon and towing trucks in the World's Strongest Man on ESPN2. hahaha. Recently, a birthday party was had at Hernan's place to celebrate 3 of the student's birthdays that was quite fesetive, and happy birthday was sang simultaneously in at least 10 languages! By pulling several 10-12 hour study days, I recently was even able to take a Wednesday evening off to go to a couchsurfing meeting and actually meet some new people. Hopefully I can do the same in the future.
Cheers. Happy Thursday Evening from a -1 C(30 F w/o wind chill), snow-free Lund.
Hernan thought if he switched shirts with Netsanet he'd feel more Ethiopian, they look pretty happy!
Andrej, Hernan, Dennis, Netsanet, Claudia. (Slovenia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Arg.)
Netsanet tries mate for the first time after Hernan convices him that is is not a drug and argues that it is NOT the same thing as 'just tea':
Karlis, Netsanet, Molisa (Latvia, Eth, Zimbabwe):