University of Vaasa’s international students were not that active apart from some Friday night parties and a few organized trips to local sightseeing. But that was until September 2010. Photo: Sami Seppänen
University of Vaasa’s international students were not that active apart from some Friday night parties and a few organized trips to local sightseeing. But that was until September 2010.2010 has witnessed a lot more than classes, group works and coffee at the cafés happening at Vaasa, thanks to inspired, loud and hyperactive international students and their Finnish friends.
The Vaasa university debate team, organized by fellow grad student Alberto Guzman, is heading to the international debate competition hosted by Harvard University in February, 2011.
‘‘The whole thing started in September when I figured that there was not much extra activities going on in the campus,'' says Guzman, a first year ICS grad student from Monterrey, Mexico.
He wanted to help the international office with more connections with US universities. But more than the drive to win, the debate rehearsals are dominated by fun, laughter and sharing of ideas.
‘‘We wanted more bonding among international students and with our Finnish friends in the campus,'' says Vincenzo Riccardi, a Modern Finnish student. ‘‘And the debate team has done just that for us.''
Guzman was not even sure the university would agree to the idea of taking part in a debating competition in the US when he first signed in Vaasa University at the organizer's website.
‘‘I knew they would love the idea'', he says. And he was right. The university did not only like the idea, they have gone further covering a third of the expense on the trip to Harvard.
The invitation to join the debate team was put on the degree student club's Facebook page (which Guzman created with friends). ‘‘I had serious doubts about it at first,'' he admits. ‘‘When I raised the possibility of a debate team from Vaasa, people were surprised or said ‘debate and Finland' are not words that synchronize well,'' he quips.
But a steady flow of students interested to join the debate proved Guzman's critiques wrong in November. The debate team now has 10 members from Morocco to Mexico, Portugal, and India, representing every continent.
And it holds rehearsal sessions twice a week where Guzman takes a coaching role to guide debaters. ‘‘I did this before in the US'', he says, ‘‘we help each other out and I give them some ideas of what it will look like.''
The Vaasa news website, Vaasa Centauris also another brainchild born out of collective creativity of three students. It first started as a note in Guzman's Facebook page and was then upgraded by Riccardi to a blog and finally into a website by Krister Kari.
Its fanbase now counts 160 members from as far as Poland. The interactive portal gets about 100 visitors a day and its features news of all sorts. Visits to the website primarily come from Finland followed by the USA.
The activity team - now represented by Guzman, Riccardi, Kari, Carita Dahlskog and Jan Bosas - is now pitching its plans to Finnair and Kilroy Travels in an effort to secure sponsorship for the cost in the USA. ABB has become the latest company to support the debate team.
Quidditch. Okay, it is a fictional game and it sucks, but the international students have played it for fun in the campus snow and are even going for the international quidditch championship in New York.
You might have never heard of this game, so here is a little clue; it came from author J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series where it is developed by wizards and witches in the books.
Vaasa's team will play Harvard University and Emerson College in Boston after the Harvard National Conference in New York. The team will also feature in the Quidditch magazine this month. (the magazine reaches around 40 universities in the States and Canada).
More activities are coming up in the second semester of this academic year and that means more teams for debate competitions and weird sports. We wish our debaters the best of luck Harvard.
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