While I was inter-railing through the south of France almost four years ago, I met a bunch of Finnish boys. The first thing they asked me was whether I knew anything about Finland. I mumbled something about fiords and Mika Hakkinen much to their dismay. I retorted defiantly by returning the question on my home country – Romania. They mumbled something about Ceausescu and we called it even.
One year later I was sitting an exam for the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki. One of the boys was now my boyfriend and I had discovered, it seemed, the best kept secret in Europe, Helsinki – the promised land of free, high standard standard, tertiary education.
Three years and two failed relationships later, my knowledge of Scandinavian geography now greatly improved, time has taken its toll on my relationship with Helsinki, both the town and the university.
But what is truly remarkable about my story is how unremarkable it is. This is the most likely story of all international students you will encounter on campus, in lectures, at the Unicafe. There is always some bizarre reason behind us ending up in Finland in the first place. It does not follow logically that while we’re contemplating our academic future in places like Romania, Germany, Canada or the U.S., Helsinki would naturally spring to mind.
Another thing that is so pervasive within the international student community is how contained it is and how segregated from its Finnish counterpart. And herein lies the idea of this new column in Ylioppilaslehti.
To the best of my abilities, I will try to introduce the readers, to the world of that elusive creature, the international student. You mostly hear from us when we complain about tuition fees, too small rooms for our societies or the sheer lack of information in English.
I will try to explain some of these issues from the viewpoint of an international student who has spent three years in Helsinki and is heavily involved in the two biggest international student organizations at the University: Helsinki Debating Society and Tsemppi.
Hopefully the most important thing that I will manage to achieve is surprise the readers of this magazine with how unexotic the international student community actually is and how similar the things we expect from the University, the Union and student life in general are as compared to anyone else.
So I could start by introducing myself. I’m Ina. 3rd year. Political History. Lovely to meet you.
irina.subulica ( a t ) googlemail.com