Emergency Housing Relief for New Students
The housing situation is Helsinki has been particularly sparse for incoming students this fall, surprising even the Student Union (HYY). HYY set up emergency housing in the B-house of Domus Academica for students without a place to stay, promising a mat on the floor for only 10 FIM a night. Unfortunately, only three students have taken advantage of the cheap lodging to date. Tommi Björklund of HYY’s Social Policy Division feels they responded to the situation too late, information has been held up and an appropriate space proved difficult to find. Björklund promises that HYY will be better aware of the situation next fall. As with Finland’s other university cities, demand has focuses on single room apartments in downtown Helsinki. HOAS (The Helsinki Student Accomodation Organization) has empty rooms in Vantaa even now, but no one wants them. Björklund feels that inter-regional tickets for public transport from Helsinki’s neighboring cities are too expensive, but that alone doesn’t explain the lack of interest. “Perhaps we have just grown accustomed to an accomodation level that is too high.”
Opening Ceremonies 1997- More Wine and Rhetoric
The new academic year began with the traditional opening ceremony. The Rector began in the Cathedral with a good-natured, appropriately academic speech (The story goes that `Eureka’ first echoed in the streets of Syracuse over 2000 years ago…), after which the various student organizations each did their best to attract new members with their stands. The Marta group distributes a cookbook for making pennies stretch, student nations demonstrate their schnaps-song singing/meatball eating skills, and, this year, the political groups even have big names along, like the Center party’s former prime minister Esko Aho. As the clock approaches 2:30, everyone shows their excitement, giving away the reason why they are really there. Lines form in the Main Building and sweat begins to form on the brows of the hoards of students waiting for the FREE WINE AND SNACKS. History student Kai Kilpinen looks around, frustrated and amused, “I have to get into the proper position so I can grab with both hands,” he says. Inside the courtyard of the University, the atmosphere is more relaxed. Students and teachers alike sip their beers and try to eat their tacos without spilling them on their shirts. A conversation resembling the following is heard, “My My! What are you doing here? I thought you graduated already!” and “Yeah, well, it seems I see you here every fall.”
Not Before the Priest Says Amen
Premarital sex has long been the rule and not the exception in Finland. Ninety percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 feel that sex is a necessary part of dating. Maybe it was once considered radical to have intercourse before the marriage ceremony, but today the real radicals are those that abstain. They may be just a few, but they have a clear message: True Love Waits. A formal compaign by that name began in America in 1993 and has been a tremondous success there. More and more U.S. Christian teens are taking the celebacy vow until Mr or Ms Right walks down the aisle.
Now the movement is coming to Finland, a response to a growing demand in this country as well. An opening evening is scheduled at the Church in the Rock on October 23rd which will include CDs, brochures and, of course, True Love Waits Coupons. Each young person who signs the coupon makes a promise to wait. Some changes have been made, however, to better adapt the campaign to Finnish societal norms. Päivi Vekki of the Young People’s Team of the National Mission said the changes were necessary because, where America’s campaign stresses the eventual punishment awaiting those that transgress, Finns focus on trusting in God’s mercy. Vekki denies that the campaign is mimicking American trends, “The values that are represented in this campaign are straight from the Bible, not America.”
Assistant Professor Osmo Kontula of the National Insurance Fund comments, “We live in an individualistic, postmodern society today which has fragmented into numerous separate groups. It is therefore logical that there are people that speak on behalf of causes that deter from the mainstream.” You needn’t be a fortune teller to predict that the campaign will not be as successful in Finland as it has been in the States, however. “Finland accepts pluralistic values on a wider scale and we also have no moral majority.” Finns are also much more open about sex in general. “Young people can discuss different contraceptive alternatives with their partners without shame and contraceptives can be freely advertised. This openness is significant into adulthood because adults that relate to sexual matters openly enjoy their sex life more,” says Kontula.
Young Finns Party Supports Student Loans
University students in Finland currently have two options for financial support: the monthly student grant distributed by the Finnish state and an additional student loan aranged by the country’s various banks. Virtually every student takes advantage of the study grant – a mere 1,560 FIM a month, but with no need to pay back. Over the years, fewer students are choosing to take student loans, due to rising interest rates, but the clear majority of university students opt to take both forms of compensation.
Interestingly, the university student faction of the newly revived political party in Finland, the Young Finns, has recently indicated its agreement with a recent critique by State Secretary Raimo Sailas from the Finance Ministry of student’s demand for a completely state-sponsored financial aid system. The Young Finns student organization, known as Sylinusu, hopes to put more responsibility for studies and financial support with the students themselves by changing the finance system so that studies would be supported by student loans only. Their vision of the future is one where “State-backed, market student loans and stipends granted by private foundations would play a central role in the funding of higher education.” Sylinusu’s Chairperson Leena Rosti comments, “It would, of course, require that taxes were lowered to the extent that students would be able to pay their loans back once they moved into working life.” Other party suggestions include expansion of the higher education system to accomodate more students, and `proficiency certificates’ to distinquish skills and information more freely and efficiently than the current system.
The suggestion has found few supporters in the university community. Chair of the Helsinki Student Union Esa Iivonen feels that the new party is just throwing out ideas without thinking them through. “Loan money is a huge risk for students. Only children of parents that are well-off would dare to study.” Rosti replies, “Student unions defend existing structures too much. They don’t dare to do anything radical.”
Writing a diary is considered one of the most personal forms of writing. Some write of the happenings in their life, others use it as a release – pouring their feelings onto the paper. Sunday Sept.20, 1987 Oh God. I never would have believed that it was really true what parents and the biology books said: the teenage years are the hardest. I have cried more times in the last week without any reason that I ever have before. Laura Pekonen, 22, reads the first few lines from her very first diary, written when she was just 12 years old. Laura is now well into her 17th diary book and her longest break has been a mere three months. Laura now lives in the U.S. and often reads her old diaries to reminisce about her past in Finland. “It is nice to read how I got this far,” she comments.
Where boys get Matchbox cars or construction kits for their birthdays, girls are more often than not recipients of a Barbie or a diary with a lock. Katarina Eskola, a docent of sociology, has studied diaries and admits they are mostly a female phenomenon. “About every fifth man writes a diary, but two-thirds of women say they have poured their feelings into some kind of book at one time.” Merete Mazzarella of the Scandanavian Literature department has studied diaries as well and writes her own regularly. In today’s dislocated society, people feel increasing without roots. As addresses change, individuals’ sense of their background fades. Many are concerned with saving their day-to-day reports for future generations. ” It is a certain kind of narcissism. By writing we hope to stop time and bring some sense to our reality,” Mazzarella says. She quotes Virgina Woolf, “Nothing is real until it is recorded.”