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In cooperation with Losch Luxembourg, we regularly present women who have a very special impact on Luxembourg society, either through their professional career or their personal stories.
As there is only a limited choice of complete study programmes in Luxembourg, many young Luxembourgers leave their home country after graduating from high school to study abroad. For most of them, it is the first time that they really stand on their own two feet. They start a new phase of their lives far away from home. In order to accompany them in this step, the young people are welcomed in their host country and looked after by student associations – the so-called Cercles. These cercles are united under the Association des Cercles d'Étudiants Luxembourgeois, ACEL in short, which represents Luxembourg students abroad.
In cooperation with Losch Luxembourg, we meet the president of the ACEL Polina Bashlay today and accompany her as she is giving the new CUPRA Born a test drive to the ACEL headquarters in Esch-Belval. With this unconventional compact car, CUPRA is launching its first fully electric model. With one of the most advanced electric powertrains ever used by the brand, the Born joins a series of Spanish high-performance cars characterised by a clean design and a sporty and emotional driving experience.
"At first I didn't really want to join the Cercle [then in Karlsruhe], but then I was persuaded to", Polina laughs. Today, three years after she was elected to the ACEL board, she is very happy that she changed her mind. Together with 14 other board members studying in Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Freiburg, Strasbourg, and many other cities, Polina and the ACEL represent around 10,000 students in 43 student groups in Europe and even the USA.
Last December, Polina was elected president of the association. This new position came with a lot of new tasks and responsibilities, but that is exactly what Polina is interested in. "You have to and want to be interested in the big picture, so that you can make the association a bit better and develop it further", she explains.
Polina is currently studying for her master's degree in civil engineering in Munich and often has to commute between the Bavarian capital and Luxembourg to give interviews, attend meetings and fulfil many other obligations.
Both as president of the ACEL and in her studies, planning – be it large student events or impressive buildings – gives her the greatest pleasure. The engineering profession is very diverse, but later she would like to specialise in structural engineering, where she would like to analyse and calculate the physical aspects, such as the influence of outside temperatures and weather conditions on the structures of buildings and other constructions. Driving through the Belval district, Polina can be particularly inspired in this sense, because here a future-oriented district is being built on a former wasteland, where just a few decades ago the huge blast furnaces of the steelworks smoked to bring prosperity to the whole country.
The imposing backdrop of this district, which combines the relics of a soot-smeared past with modern, forward-looking institutions, is definitely a fun place to show off the stylishly futuristic CUPRA. The compact EV (electric vehicle) is available in two different versions: either 204hp (150kW) or 231hp (170kW). Both use a water-cooled lithium-ion battery system positioned very low and centrally in the car, providing an optimal centre of gravity for greater agility, dynamics and a more balanced driving experience. The battery has a capacity of 58kWh and allows the car to travel up to 419 km without recharging. However, those looking for even more power and range have the option of equipping the Born with an e-Boost package. This allows you to drive a whopping 548 km in pure electric mode, for even longer driving pleasure and even better performance.
"Those looking for even more power and range have the option of equipping the Born with an e-Boost package. This allows you to drive a whopping 548 km in pure electric mode."
"It would be a car I would want for myself because it also drives extremely quietly. But driving it to Munich could be quite difficult", the 24-year-old notes. But CUPRA planned for this situation as well. Because in just 7 minutes, the Born can be quickly and easily recharged using a 170 kW charging station to achieve an additional range of 100 km. Even if the battery's charge level is only 5%, it can be recharged to 80% in just 35 minutes. This makes conventional journeys in urban areas but also longer journeys as easy and comfortable as with a combustion engine.
Polina completed her Bachelor's degree in Karlsruhe. "There was always something going on there and I felt very comfortable", she says. But at some point, Karlsruhe became a little too small for her and she decided to move to Munich. For the same reason, she decided to leave the rather small committee of the student group in Karlsruhe and join the ACEL board. She really wanted to organise and manage larger events, such as the well-known "Studentebal" or the event "Student fir en Dag". Every year, the latter gives prospective students the opportunity to get to know different universities, both in Luxembourg and abroad, before deciding on a city to study in. Within this framework, interested students have the opportunity to visit 21 cities and their universities in the company of the ACEL and the respective Cercle members from Cologne, Maastricht, Brussels, etc. In 2022, for the first time, they also travelled by plane to cities a little further away, such as Munich, Berlin and even Vienna.
With the CUPRA Born, you can reach most of these cities comfortably and with just a single battery charge. The electric car is not only an incredibly agile city runabout, but also impresses with its superior performance outside the city limits. For a sporty driving experience, the Born transfers its power to the rear wheels. Its enormous acceleration power and excellent road holding further underline this sporty driving experience.
Thanks to five different driving modes, the compact electric runabout can also be adapted to the respective needs of each driver: Range, Comfort, Performance, Individual and CUPRA mode (only available with e-Boost) are the names of the different modes, each of which adapts the engine behaviour, steering and suspension. Regardless of whether you prefer to drive in a leisurely, energy-saving, sporty or passionate manner, the CUPRA Born has the right mode ready for every driving situation and condition.
Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, the student years of many young people around the world were marked by numerous unforeseen challenges. To begin with, there was simply chaos everywhere. Some borders were closed, students could no longer get home or to university, courses and exams had to be postponed. The lack of contact with other students and family members also had a big impact on the mental health of many young people.
When the situation started to ease a bit and the borders were mostly reopened, the ACEL wanted to intervene immediately and, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, handed out codes for PCR tests so that students could get tested for free when entering and leaving the country.
"Actually, my studies are my hobby, because I invest everything else in the ACEL."
The cancellation of numerous exams at many universities has also meant that a lot of students are unable to graduate within the standard period of study. With this in mind, the ACEL campaigned for the state student allowance – the so-called "bourse" – to be extended by one semester. This measure was then implemented very quickly in order to accommodate the students a little.
Although the situation has been very difficult for months and years and only now seems to be slowly calming down again, Polina found it very exciting to be able to set up something completely new. "It was a great sense of achievement for us, because we know that we could help an incredible number of students with our measures", she says proudly.
As president, Polina is particularly keen to continue the digital development of the ACEL. After all, it is important to keep up with the times. And that's exactly what the developers of the new CUPRA Born thought too because it is completely networked. An intuitive infotainment system with numerous apps and functions that can be operated both at home and on the road make the Born ready for a completely connected future.
"The modern and minimalist design is also an absolute plus for me", says Polina, describing her first impression of the CUPRA's interior, which knows how to impress with its stylishly simple design. The sporty CUPRA steering wheel and the elegant, modern copper accents that run through the entire interior give the interior a uniform, noble, modern ambience.
Polina also totally appreciates the comfortable bucket seats – an absolute eye-catcher. Best of all, they come as standard with the CUPRA Born and are made from upcycled materials such as plastic collected from the ocean. So in this sense, the CUPRA brand is committed to sustainable action and active environmental protection on a grand scale, going far beyond its eco-friendly electric drive.
Polina also has a very special relationship with the sea. In the little free-time she has left between her studies and the ACEL, the 24-year-old has a very special hobby that she has been pursuing since her high school days. Together with other interested people, she regularly goes diving. Last year for example, she was in Spain by the sea and this year they are even planning to discover the fantastic underwater worlds of Bali. But Polina still invests most of her time in her own studies and those of thousands of other Luxembourg students. "Actually, my studies are my hobby, because I invest everything else in the ACEL", she laughs.
Unfortunately, since the beginning of the pandemic, fewer and fewer students are joining the various cercles. This is somehow understandable because, due to the Covid-19 measures, hardly any or no events could be organised. Fortunately, this period is now behind us and things can really get going again!
In the meantime, the ACEL is even visiting the different high schools in the country to introduce itself. The team of the association is always ready to listen to the questions of interested students and, with the help of its network of members from different student groups, always tries to find the right answers. "We are a small family that you can build yourself", is how the young president describes it.
For Polina, it's now slowly time to head back to Howald, where she has to hand over the Born again after her sporting excursion to the south of Luxembourg. But one thing has definitely become clear to her today: It is the perfect car for anyone who needs a lot of space in a compact format and it promises exciting and emotionally charged driving experiences with the most advanced technology and, of course, a low environmental impact.