Tsemppi, the international degree students` organisation at the University of Helsinki, was founded five years ago by a group of former exchange students. Having had such a lovely time in Finland, they decided to come back for the long haul. As the number of international students was on the rise, they figured they needed an organisation to promote their rights and make their lives at the university as easy and as enjoyable as possible.
Luckily, it was easy for these young Tsemppians to learn by example. What is great about this University above everything else, perhaps, is its vibrant campus life and the tradition to congregateand organise. Whether you`re into Dungeons and Dragons, Christian Rock, saving the planet, or you`re a debate geek, there is most likely a club at the University where you can meet like-minded people, with similarly… unique interests.
So, with a lot of enthusiasm and a little nudge from HYY, they founded Tsemppi, in traditional Finnish fashion, without much fanfare or sense of importance, a spirit which the organisation has maintained ever since. Hundreds of events and initiatives have since followed. Some more successful that others. The international dinner nights usually brought down the house, showcasing cuisines from Turkey to Namibia to China to Finland. Students from these countries cooked traditional dishes for the rest of us, taught us a little about their culture, making us feel both satisfied and less ignorant.
Among the more, well, experimental initiatives was the Tsemppi Emergency Line, for freshers in distress, which was a mobile phone carried in turn by various members of the board. It led to some spectacular nocturnal retrievals from Espoo of stranded freshers who had had their first encounter with Finnish viina, before learning how to use their bus cards. That is, I believe, when the board decided it was perhaps best to let the young ones fend for themselves, stand on their own two feet – at least those who could still manage to do so – and learn how to use public transportation.
Tsemppi has been as active in promoting the rights of foreign students as it has been in helping them integrate in Uni life and Finnish society. It organised Finnish courses that actually encouraged people to speak when the University were mostly teaching them grammar. It hosted “Stories around the fireplace” where students could share their experiences and learn from others about having a job in Finland, for example. The last such idea is “Finnish in a bottle” which is an initiative premised on the commonly known fact that a person`s ability to speak foreign languages, especially those of Finno-Ugric origin, is directly proportionate to the number of drinks that they`ve had.
So, because Tsemppi has managed to live up to their slogan, making us feel at home, indiscriminately bringing together international and Finnish students alike, they deserve our thanks and our support. And they deserve a hell of an anniversary party on the 25th of April. Come along!
irina.subulica ( a t ) googlemail.com
The writer is a Romanian degree student who loves reading politics as much as she loves reading Harry Potter.