AYY <3 Tsinghua

Where Finnish people pride themselves in high standard of education, so do the Chinese. Beijing, a bustling city of 20 million people is the third largest in the world, but in technological education their Tsinghua University is ranked number one, unrivaled even by the famous MIT. And just as in any educational facility, they have a student union to improve the lives of their nearly 40 thousand students.

The cooperation between Tsinghua University’s Student Union SUTU with Finnish students started by chance in 2004, when two students and active members of their respective student unions met at a European Conference and decided to bring their worlds closer together. Since then the original party to cooperate with SUTU, the Student Union of the Helsinki University of Technology (TKY) has ceased to exist and merged with other student unions into AYY, Aalto-university Student Union. Despite this, both parties have worked ceaselessly to strengthen the bonds between them. A SUTU delegate visits Finland every year, and in return two of AYY’s boards travel to China every other year.

This year the visit of Chinese students fell upon mid-August. Knowing the Finnish summer AYY’s board members had been worried about the activities they had organised all summer, scared they might be foiled by fickle storms. As Monday came and the guests arrived, they were greeted by the oh so familiar summer drizzle. But they weren’t unprepared, and soon the bleak grey skies were obscured by umbrellas, one more colourful than the other.

First day in rainy Espoo.

The Chinese students’ flight had been long, so Monday’s programme was kept brief: a short introduction of both student unions’ functions, as well as a few ice breakers. A tour around the campus ended in the newly renovated Dipoli, where students met up with newly appointed President of Aalto, Ilkka Niemelä. The night ended on a high note as the company gathered at AYY’s Rantasauna, the seaside sauna. The guests were greeted by an old AYY spokesperson of 2013, Piia Kuosmanen, who had taken her turn visiting SUTU and who now works closely with Chinese businesses in the field of technology. With her lead the two groups talked about the similarities and differences in Finnish and Chinese cultures. Naturally the guests also got a first-hand experience of the Finnish culture, as they got to warm up in the sauna as well as take a dip into the cold, cold sea.

As Tuesday rolled around, so did the sun, finally gracing Helsinki with its warmth. The Chinese guests were given an extensive tour of our beautiful capital, its nature and architecture – most notably Kamppi’s Chapel of Silence, The Parliament House and its surroundings, as well as more industrial areas such as that around Nosturi.

The first company visit planned lead the delegation to Naisasialiito Unioni, the feminist non-governmental organization. Its Secretary General, Milla Pyykkönen, lead a conversation that interested both the Chinese and Finnish representatives. The parties got to hear about the development of gender equality in Finland, as well as Naisliitto Unioni’s project to increase gender sensitivity in early childhood education.

Board member Onni guiding the tour around the campus.


As the weather continued to surprise and delight, the visit continued with a trip to the national park of Nuuksio and its picturesque lakeside. As could be expected, the programme constisted of grilling, sauna and general wandering around the forest. As citizens of an industrial metropolis, the guests were most fascinated by blueberries, right there for their picking.

To balance out the relaxing day surrounded by nature, the next day was filled with excursions to Helsinki area’s businesses, starting with Metso Automation in Vantaa. The company’s Director of Technology, Jukka Borgman, walked the party through the workings of the organization, as well as the physical facilities. Highly automated valve and flow control device producing plant gave our guests interesting view of Finland’s advanced manufacturing industry. The tour ended in lunch in Metso’s own cafeteria.

Board member Pyry explaining the blueprints of Dipoli.


Obviously one excursion a day is not enough, so in the afternoon the delegation headed to Finnair’s headquarters, located at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport. A general introduction was lead by Finnair’s VP Group Treasurer, Christine Rovelli, followed by a workshop on the development of Finnair’s services on the Chinese market, facilitated by the Project Lead in Corporate Development, Henrik Balkin. Afterwards Finnair kindly invited the students for snacks and a great view over the whole airport. And as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, the night ended with a headfirst dive into the culture of Finnish academic table parties, sitsit.

The Chinese guests’ last full day in Finland began together with the chair of board of Espoo City Council, Markku Markkula, who also serves as a chair of board in EU Committee of Regions. He walked the students through the development of the city. The afternoon was spent at Eteläranta which houses the headquarters of Elinkeinoelämän keskusliitto, Confederation of Finnish Industries. EK’s leading economist, Penna Urrila, told the delegation about how the Finnish economy is constructed and how it is going to develop in the future.

In the evening the guests had some time to pack up before meeting up for a dinner party that also served as Aalto’s former President Tuula Teeri’s farewell party. The party continued long into the night, but by 5 in the morning the Chinese part of the company had to leave for the airport, accompanied by a few sleepy-eyed members of AYY’s board.

The Finnish boards’ reciprocal visit to Beijing will have to wait until next year. But we are sure that the bonds we built will last and that our visit will be as much of a success as SUTU’s trip here – full of smiles, excitement and mutual appreciation. 再见 (zài jiàn) – it doesn’t mean goodbye, it means see you later!

Text: Noora Vänttinen/Katarina Vesikko

Photos: Petteri Heliste


Sähköpostiosoitettasi ei julkaista. Pakolliset kentät on merkitty *