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International student life is an open scene

On the first week of January, 54 new students from 14 different countries over three continents started flowing towards Vaasa. Equipped with noticeably positive attitude, they opened the International year of Vaasa with the tutor-driven First Night Party in Fontana Club. Despite the novelty of basically everything, the whole event seemed like a whole lot of fun for both exchange students and their 12 Finnish tutors. According to the club owner, that Saturday night was, however, a peaceful, silent night. In other words, more is yet to come.

In one sense, the international student life reminds a marathon. It’s a full-semester struggle to participate in all the events, trips and get-togethers, not to forget classes. Therefore the participants can get quite out of breath before it’s time to rest at the end of the study period. Some part takers start their run with a too high velocity wearing themselves out even before the halfway is reached. The toughest ones carry on with their exchange marathon all through the crowded dancefloors of Fontana, over the waves of ESN Baltic Sea Cruise or through, say, the apocalyptic mixture of frost and heat of the ice swimming & sauna course. The story goes that the ones most torn by this run even manage to – similarly to Olympic marathoners at times – undercut the expectations of their home institutes. Run responsibly, that is.

International student life, despite its name, does not only refer to students that of foreign origin. Having foreigners blended up with the Finns is the Student Union’s international functionaries’ theme of the year, thus the participation of Finns in what are called “exchange student events” is encouraged – and vice versa. The irony beyond the idea is that according to feedback polls, both foreigners and locals feel it’s difficult to get to know the other group even if they wanted to. From a Finnish international’s point of view, this invisible barrier seems breakable: a few footsteps and some curiosity should do it. Moreover, attendance to events such as the periodical International Sits Party provides one of the best ways to get to know other nationalities, be those Finnish or whichever of the university’s over thirty nationalities.
The city of Vaasa provides one of the country’s best playgrounds for international student life. Astonishing 20% of the city’s inhabitants are students. Consequently, the student life flourishes while several student events take place weekly. Almost everything is within reach by bike or foot, owing to the compact city architecture. Every semester the seven colleges and universities receive together a decent amount of exchange students who seem to keep discovering each others throughout the long, hectic and exciting semester. Being part of that rumba is nothing less than an everystudent’s right.

Ossi Kukkonen
International tutor coordinator

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