University Life Dreams to Reality
For many Finns, passing the University entrance exam is their ticket to paradise. Visions of academic freedom, stacks of books and intellectual environments dance in their heads. However, as dreams of university student life give way to reality, more than one student has been disappointed. Maikki has studied art history for one year. “I sit in the library every day, either reading or writing. I have to write a lot, I’ve always got some essay due. In high school, I dreamed of academic freedom: being able to arrange my own schedule and avoid being swamped with work. But, I have to meet my obligations if I want to make progress with my studies”, he comments.
Minna is studying German now for the third year. “I really don’t even like German. I would like to be studying biology or geography, but I haven’t been able to study for the entrance exam well enough. I’ll try again next year.” After a year in Switzerland as an au pair, she decided to pursue a subject she knew she could master. “Here I am for the third year now. It’s not fun to study when you’re not interested. They don’t teach you to speak or use German here, it’s all linguistics. I know its wrong to be studying here and taking the place of someone who could be really motivated.”
Irja left her theology studies after three years and now studies to be a nurse. “I should have left right away when I realized I wasn¦t interested, but I wanted to keep trying. I was embarrassing to admit that I had made a mistake…I had the completely wrong picture of what theology was. It was my own fault, I should have informed myself better in high school.” She also had problems finding friends in the faculty, “There are all sorts of different people there. At times I felt as if I was too normal for them. Some were horribly critical and, with others, you couldn¦t question anything.”
Studying law for the fourth year, Markus describes his studies as “plodding on and sitting in lecture halls.” He continues, “There is not much room for finding your potential. There’s only a small amount of writing, small group work and oral presentations. The law has already been written “we don¦t have to compose it.” Tests in law studies are infamous in Finland, requiring at times thousands of pages of reading. “I myself study long days for a short period. Some people read through the material regularly over the course of several months.”
SYL Celebrates 75th Birthday
On March 6, the Finnish University Students¦ Union (SYL) celebrated its 75th birthday with a party at the Old Student House. At the same time, a book honoring the occasion, Frakkeja ja villapaitoja (Tuxedos and wool sweaters), was released and the winners of the university student writing competition were announced. Silja Tenhunen, whose story Montonen ja minä (Montonen and I), won the contest, feels the stories entered in the contest don¦t describe the Finnish university students’ day-to-day life per se, rather they are “stories with their own world.”
The Chairperson of SYL, Janne Laine, spoke in his address of the university students¦ future fight against corporate takeover in Finland. Parliamentarian Ilkka Kanerva gave the key-note speech in which he re-membered student life of the 1970¦s when wool sweaters were giving way to black briefcases. “We couldn’t image our identity without an attache case by our side.” Minister of Education Olli-Pekka Heinonen wrapped up the party with a tunafish buffet. “Radical!”, one guest was heard to exclaim.
The Evening Milking of the Cows
As long as parliamentarians in Finland pick their noses, stick pens in their ears, slur their words, rub microphones passionately and nod off in Parliament, the Finnish television program Iltalypsy (Evening Milking) will continue to make Finns laugh. Iltalypsy appeared for the first time in the spring of 1993. Finns weren¦t hooked immediately, the show did poorly in the ratings. In the fall of 1994, however, viewer numbers began to rise and today over one million Finns watch Iltalypsy on Saturday nights. The concept for the Iltalypsy show was borrowed from the BBC¦s Not Nine O¦clock News – making satire of politicians by dubbing over video coverage of representative behavior during parliamentary sessions, for example.
Professional actors play the parts of news anchors Leila Toroskainen (Eeva Litmanen) and Mika Wirta (Heikki Määttänen). Finnish actor Jukka Puotila is responsible for impersonating the various public figures in the dubbing sequences. He says, “People without self-confidence and personality are difficult to imitate. Nose pickers like Seppo Kääriäinen, on the other hand, are real treats.”
Anu Valve is the driving force behind the show, as director. Iltalypsy makes it a point to talk straight and poke innocent, childish fun at people. “At times we may say something nasty, but it is always true,” explains Valve. Last week Iltalypsy reported on Ben Zyskowicz¦s skiing vacation at a kibbutz and Teemu Selänne was taunted for giving a too detailed account of his baby¦s birth. No public figure in Finland is safe. Except one. Valve explains, “Any pieces about Mauno Koivisto have to be approved by the presidential office. They are ridiculously uptight for this day and age.”
Media and the Law Lecture Series
Of course the media doesn¦t have any influence on legal jurisdiction, or does it? The stormy relationship between the media and the legal establishment will be analyzed on March 20th in a Studia Juridica lecture series arranged by the legal students association Pykälä. Some of the topics to be addressed include the limits on freedom of speech, as well as the de facto condemnatory power of the press and its influence on the legal power to condemn and citizen¦s legal protection. Everyone interested in these issues is welcome to attend. The lectures will take place at the Radio and TV Institute of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation at Radiokatu 5 D on March 20th from 2-5 p.m.
Scheduling The University Week
The University of Helsinki has 29,416 students, each with different timetables. First year students overload their study week with too many classes, the more experienced leave at least Fridays free and thesis writers drag themselves to lectures only once a week. Academic freedom leaves almost every student to decide their weekly schedule for themselves. Virpi Pyhänniska studies French and Swedish. She currently attends 26 hours of class per week, with Fridays free. “Almost all of my classes have mandatory attendance,” tells Virpi. Subject matter are grammar, translation, literature and even legal language. “Perhaps I have too many classes,” she says, “Many days are over 10 hours long.”
Santtu Marjanaho is studying psychology for the second year now and has filled his schedule with psychotherapy, neuropsychology, behavioral neurochemistry, philosophy and English. He explains, “There were so many interesting courses that my calendar filled up by mistake. I used to study in the Math department and I never had this problem there.”
Mari and Vesa Järvinen both study theology and share the same time table. Three classes a week for them both: Swedish, Method Education and Ethics. Vesa also participated in a thesis seminar group. Marko Sallisalmi studies medicine and therefore belongs to the small minority of University students that receive a set schedule each semester. No academic freedom for medical students. He comments, “It’s no different than high school.” His days are full of Pathology, Surgery, Internal Diseases and Laboratory Medicine. “Our system isn¦t very flexible, but on the other hand, it insures that I graduate in a reasonable amount of time.”
Italian Simone Centonze studies Russian Language and Literature. She has filled her schedule with everything the University has to offer those who don¦t speak Finnish. She¦s not happy with the small number of classes in English, but comments, “Despite that, I¦ve been able to find everything I would like to study in one form or another.”
Nobody Loves Me
Doris DÃœrrie‘s new German film Keiner liebt mich (Nobody Loves Me) is not a film just for singles or women, although it is about a single woman. Fanny Fink feels her biological clock ticking away as her thirtieth birthday approaches. She needs a new man fast. She meets her neighbor Orfeo de Altamar with whom she develops a close friendship.
Fanny is played in the movie by Maria Schrader, who gives the character qualities all women can relate to. Who couldn¦t like a person who dresses in black, wears skeleton earrings and draws crosses on the bathroom tile seams? Or sleeps with a teddy bear and believes fortune tellers? A melancholy beautiful film is created from simple everyday ingredients in this film. Edith Piaf¦s song Non, Je ne regrette rien is used as background music and suits the environs of Cologne, Germany well.
Translation by Pamela Kaskinen