UTUambassador Kristyna and Tuomas from Student Union TYY discuss in a podcast studio

Podcast: Colours of UniTurku | Cobalt Blue: Student Union TYY

Colours of UniTurku introduces TYY, the Student Union of the University of Turku. #utuambassador Kristýna Hřivnáčová and Tuomas Alm talk about what the Union does and what student organisations are. Tuomas shares his experiences with both – and a cruise trip! 

Colours of UniTurku is a podcast by international student ambassadors of the University of Turku, introducing the unique student life and colourful student organisations in Turku, Finland.

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Host: Hi everyone, welcome to Colours of UniTurku, a podcast about student organisations at the University of Turku. For those not familiar, student organisations are kind of like a hobby group where students gather around things they like or things they study. I am Kristyna, also a student, and today's theme is blue. I'll be talking to Tuomas from TYY. Thank you for joining us, Tuomas.

Guest: Glad to be here.

Host: For our audiences who might have never heard of you before, what does TYY stand for and what is it? 

Guest: Yeah. So hello, everyone. My name is Tuomas and I'm from the executive board of TYY. In English, Student Union of the University of Turku. And in short, we are the advocacy group for all university students at the University of Turku, so our task is to make certain that your studies go as smoothly as possible here at the University of Turku

Host: Very good, thank you very much. What are the benefits of becoming a member of TYY as a student? 

Guest: Well, the most obvious benefit of being a member of the student union is the student card with which you get all your student benefits, for example, the discounted food prices at all of our restaurants and also at the different students’ restaurants from all over Finland. Other than that, we do subsidise the different student organisations, so that's maybe one kind of benefit you. 

Host: That is definitely very useful to all of our students, and we thank you very much for your hard work. Now, I'm sure TYY organises events or activities around the year. What kind of things do you do? 

Guest: The student union focuses on traditional events like Vappu on the 1st of May. We have, no, not the 1st of May. What’s before May…

Host: April? 

Guest: Yeah, in April, we have the Lakitus, so in the evening everyone can, like, that's when you officially can put on your student cap, and before that on the University Hill, we have Vappu Boolit, so an event for us where the different student organisations serve booli. And then on the 1st of May we actually have a picnic on the Vartiovuori. Other than that, we have Porthanin päivä, so Porthan’s Day, which is the, like, anniversary day of the student union. In addition, we organise things like the welcome fair for the orientation week when new students arrive. 

Host: Thank you very much. Well, you've given us a lot of Finnish names and a lot of events. Which one was your favourite or is your favourite to attend? 

Guest: I think Vappu the best event, that's maybe the high point of every student here and depending on the organisation, Vappu can last for anywhere between one week to three weeks, but the actual, like, the 30th of April and the 1st of May are the highlights, in my opinion. Those were the days when the student union is also the most involved. 

Host: OK, well, as you heard everybody, there is definitely a lot of things to do apart from studying at the University of Turku. You also mentioned that there is a picnic for the TYY anniversary. We actually heard that TYY just celebrated its 100th anniversary. How come you have lasted so long? What is the secret to your long life? 

Guest: Just, there's not a picnic for the anniversary. There's a parade for that because the anniversary is in November, so a picnic would be rather cold. That's an interesting question. For the first about 60 years, the student union was just a regular organisation like any other. And back in those days, what really kept us going was that the university was a lot smaller and there was also a lot more to be done. Nowadays, all student unions are more or less part of the university. We get our mandate from actually the law function of the universities and that means that we also represent students in the various decision-making bodies at the university. I think for the first 60 years it was because there was a lot of activity from the students and a lot to be done. And nowadays I think the fact that we have to exist by law would probably help.

Host: I would imagine so for sure. Now at the start of the podcast I have mentioned student organisations. What exactly are student organisations? Because there might be a lot of international students who actually have no experience with this phenomenon at all. 

Guest: Student organisations, well, first of all, they’re voluntary groups. You can more or less join any number of them you'd like. Most people probably joined their faculty organisation or subject organisation that is close to them by the fact that they study in the faculty or they study that specific subject. In addition, there’s various hobby organisations, so you might join those because… at least, if not join, you could attend their activities because, well, we have an organisation for beer pong, so maybe you like beer pong and attend their tournaments. We have the university choir so maybe if you like singing you could join that. So really the different student organisations, the only thing they have in common is that they are run by students, and other than that there really is a quite wide range of different kinds of organisations here at the University of Turku. 

Host: These organisations are run by students, you can join whichever you want, depending on what sort of things you like, what sort of things you study. But what kind of activities can a student do in that organisation? Do you have to be on the board? Do you actually have to do something?

Guest: Really depends on the organisation quite a lot. Because, of course, most organisations organise some kind of events which you can just go to. They could be free, or they could cost something, but you can just attend the different activities that the organisation actually does. Then depending on the organisation, they could have just the board that organises events or they could have some people, basically volunteers, who help with organising different events. So really depends on what kind of organisation we're talking about, what options you have. But of course, you can just go to the events and have fun, maybe invite your friends. If it's the kind of organisation that has volunteers, then you can go and volunteer to help. And then of course all organisations need to have a board, so of course you can go to the autumn meeting, usually it’s in the autumn, when they selected new board. You can go to the autumn meeting and if you're a member of the organisation, then you can… and even if you're not, then you can probably sign up for the organisation at the meeting and then run for the board. Yeah, then it depends a little bit on what kind of organisation you're in and what your specific task is in that body. You could be responsible for finances, or you could be responsible for the events.

Host: Meaning you can either have just fun or you can have fun and also build up your CV at the same time. 

Guest: Yes, that's a good way of describing it. 

Host: Very well. Now, if you go around the Turku University campus, we see very often people wearing very brightly coloured pants covered in patches. What is that about? 

Guest: Well, the actual colour of the overalls – overalls are a long tradition in Finland – the colour of the overalls comes from what subjects you study. Some organisations, some subjects have the same colour, but usually you can tell just from the colour what organisation they belong to or what subject they study. But the overall patches are a bit different cause some of the patches are patches from just, like, organisations, so maybe, let's see, maybe you like American football so you're a supporter of the UTU Beaver Hunters. So, you could buy the overall patch because you're a fan of them. You could have just some kind of funny memes that you've made an overall patch from. But most of the patches are from different events. So if you are going to a sits party, if you're going to a pub crawl, any kind of party or anything like that, then you'll probably get some kind of patch from that. You can see from the different patches usually what different subjects people are interested in, what kind of hobbies they have, or you can also see what events they've gone to in the past. 

Host: I would like to also mention that sometimes it looks like a little bit of a competition. Because sometimes you can barely tell what colour the overalls were, they’re so covered in all sorts of funny things and events patches. It's really quite amazing. 

Guest: Yeah, it depends a little bit on how long you've studied, because if you studied for longer than you’ve attended more events probably, and also on how many events you just go to. But also it depends on how much you actually care about sewing them in because even though… I have many friends who have like piles of patches, but it's a lot of work to actually sew them in so in their actual overalls they have maybe three overall patches and the rest are in the closet somewhere. 

Host: That sounds actually quite interesting as well. Even though you have put in all of the work, the last step of sewing it in, no, not doing that part at all.

Guest: It’s really up to the person because if you just want to have fun at parties, then having the patch in your overalls is sort of, just because you enjoy the act of sewing them in, or they may know that it's because of tradition, maybe you have some other reason why you want to show properly your overalls full of patches. 

Host: As with many things over here, it all really depends on you and how much energy you want to invest. 

Guest: And especially with the overalls it doesn't really depend on you because overall patches is just one way of customising the way your overalls look. I have friends who exchanged like the… they actually exchange strips of the overalls, like, the sleeves. So they have like basically a rainbow of different colours in the sleeves, you could have something just hanging from your overalls and I know that in the winter especially you see people have put up like Christmas lights. They’re connected to the overalls, and they have, like, a battery in the pocket. You can really do quite a lot with the overalls. 

Host: It's very creative for sure. Well, so far we’ve had patches, we had student organisations, there are the overalls, but as I mentioned before, there might be a lot of people who have never done this before. So why is this important? Why are student organisations important? 

Guest: Student organisations, they’re… again, depending on the organisation, but if we start with subject organisations. Their most important task is to also act as a bond where people who study the same subject can actually meet other people from the same subject. And not just from like the classes but also from various years and even alumni. So that's one of the important tasks of subject organisations. The next one would probably have to be… like, the student union does advocacy on the university level, but if you have a problem with maybe one specific course, then it's more up to the subject organisation to conduct the faculty or the department that runs the course and tell that, well, there's actually a problem with this course. That's maybe for the subject organisations the two most important things that they do. For different hobby organisations, maybe most important task that they have is of course the basically produce, how do I put this… that they actually make certain that there are different events for all kinds of people because not all people like to go to parties and not all people want to join our football club or something like that. So main purpose of the different hobby organisations is that we have over I think we have almost sixty or seventy hobby organisations, so there's quite a lot of things to do in the University of Turku if you want to. For different kinds of people, there's different kind of activities that they can do. That's maybe the main point of those organisations, is to make certain that you actually have a group where you can enjoy activities that you'd like to do in your free time. 

Host: I would say that that is really important, especially if you come to a new country for the first time. Or if you just change cities, if you are from Finland, it can be quite difficult to find a friend group and it can be quite scary if you are not a party person, like you have said. So if you have a group where you can just watch a movie, bake together, have a meal, it sounds really important to me. 

Guest: Yeah, and I think we have an organisation for all those three activities you mentioned. I'm not certain about baking but I do know we have a foodies group. 

Host: Soon. I will start one, just to prove a point.

Guest: Really, for especially international degree students and exchange students, maybe one of the most important services that any organisation can have is that you actually make friends and make connections, not just from your specific subject but also, overall, people from Finland and people who have maybe actually like… networking is important if you actually want to get the job, of course. 

Host: True.

Guest: So if you'd like to stay in Finland after your studies or if you'd like to find a job, it's often quite useful to actually have a network, because not all… I think it's around 1/3 of jobs that are actually open for like, just put on the website that you can actually find it online. Around 2/3 of all spots are filled with just, like, so-called silent job searches. So it's really useful to actually have connections. I think that's one of the most important features, especially for exchange and international degree students, but also for students in general. 

Host: Yes, sp if you want to build any kind of network, either for a hobby or for a job in the future, it can be quite important to not only stay in your own subject, but to venture into other sort of places as well, because you never know what sort of people you might meet there.

Guest: Yeah, and it's most definitely important in today's world that you actually do make friends from also different kind of subjects, so not just your own, because the more complicated the world gets and the more will you get into more and more complex research questions, research themes, and just the kind of job you're going to do, you're probably not going to… well, I study economics. I'm probably not hanging with just people who study economics when I'm actually working, I probably have also people who are maybe good with mathematics, or maybe people who are great in technological fields. So it is often not just useful, but it's also really interesting to have discussions with people who have basically no idea what you study and you have more or less no idea what they're doing. 

Host: That's when magic happens, I'm sure. 

Guest: Indeed.

Host: We've been talking about student organisations. What kind of student organisations are you apart of or were a part of?

Guest: Well, first and foremost I'm a member of well, it's called Turun KY, but that's the organisation for all students who study at the Turku School of Economics. So that would be a faculty organisation. Then I'm a member and I used to be a board member of Akiva, which was the organisation for people who study accounting and finance and corporate law. That's basically my degree. Then I'm a member of quite a few different organisations, we have this… it's not, like, its own organisation, it was a department that organised sits parties, I’m a member of that. I'm also a member of a club that does, like, wine tastings. There's also an organisation which technically speaking I'm a member of, but I've never attended any of the events, I'm just on the e-mail list. They make their own beer.

Host: Brilliant. 

Guest: It's a fantastic organisation. What else…

Host: I think actually that we’ve established that you must have no free time left after all of this. 

Guest: Well. No, not really. 

Host: Fair enough.

Guest: Really, there’s quite a few different organisations and honestly you can join all of them if you'd like. Most of them are basically free. 

Host: Yeah, you will be very busy but you can definitely try. 

Guest: And you don't have to go to all events. But it's nice to be on basically all the e-mail lists and find out what's happening this week, and then you can decide if I'm going to this event or that event or maybe even stay at home.

Host: We never know what might come across. Now you are also a member of the TYY board. Why did you decide to join it? 

Guest: I decided to join that the TYY executive board basically because I was interested in, well, I've always been more or less interested in international affairs. And also like I had a couple of friends, maybe ten or so, exchange status or international degree students, and well, let's just say that there's quite a few problems. Well, the University of Turku itself is doing OK-ish with international students, but there's also quite a few things that are really difficult in the Finnish society if you don't speak any Finnish or Swedish. For example, getting mental healthcare or just overall accessing healthcare, even finding a great student housing can be a bit difficult at times. So there's a lot of things to do just to at least attempt to help international students find their place in Finland and also to make certain that maybe five years from now it would be easier for international students coming to study here. And that was that the kind of work that I was interested in doing. I had time to do it because, I mean, I’m in no hurry to actually graduate. So yeah, I applied to the executive board of TYY and their Student Union Council decided that, yeah, looks good, you can actually be on the board. For the past year, I've been on the board of TYY and starting from the 1st of January, I'll no longer be a part of the board. My year is done, so there will be a new person next year. 

Host: Well, thank you for everything you’ve shared so far. I have just one last question and that is, is there any funny memory that you could share about maybe an event you've gone to? 

Guest: There's a couple, couple funny memories, but I think the ones I'm actually able to share are… The TYY board has a tradition, going on for quite a few years at this point, where we go to the Christmas cruise of natural science students. One of the funny things is that most of the executive board members don't study natural sciences, and there we were, in the middle of chemists and physicists, so that was fun. But overall, it was rather intense cruise of 22 hours, but there was Trivial Pursuit competition and quite a few parties going on for the 22 hours, so definitely something I'd recommend, and definitely a funny memory. At least the parts I do remember.

Host: It sounds like something a movie should be made about. 

Guest: Hopefully not. I’d really prefer there were no videos of any anything that happened on that cruise.

Host: Of course, of course. 

Guest: You have to go yourself to stay and enjoy. And I think basically all the different fields have their own cruises. So ask around, there's probably a cruise happening at some point. 

Host: OK, see, even if you don't want to come for studying, you have to come for the cruise.

Guest: Definitely. 

Host: Alright. Well, thank you very much for joining us today, Tuomas. If people want to know more about TYY, where can they find you? 

Guest: The easiest place to find us is probably our Instagram, so @studentuniontyy or you can go to our website tyy.fi, you need to change the language to English. 

Host: Thank you very much. Now, all of these links will be in the podcast description along with links to the University of Turku, the students blog and the UTU Instagram account. So please follow and subscribe to us as well. Thank you everyone for listening. I will see you next time.