It is all about Europe

17.9.2018, siiriliitia

How is the European Union doing right now, eight months before the European elections? The biggest democracy event of the world is more than half a year away, but it is worth starting to talk about it now at Aalto, too.

The AYY Board visited Brussels in the summer to share with EU decision-makers what is going on with Aalto students and to discuss EU collaboration and the Union’s topical themes, such as globalisation, circular economy and digitalisation. Our entourage also featured a delegation from our partner student union from Tsinghua, with whom we met e.g. Commissioner Jyrki Katainen.

A lot has happened since the EU parliamentary elections in 2014.

The economy of the EU area is growing again, but the unity of the Union has been tested by both the refugee crisis and the unforeseen withdrawal process of a member state. Despite the tensions, the Brexit negotiations have reminded Europeans of how much the EU affects our daily lives.

The ability of us EU members to take for granted the free movement of people, thoughts and things is unique. The central values of the EU are also a prerequisite for world-class educational and research collaboration in the international Aalto community.

According to a recent survey conducted by Taloustutkimus, 89 per cent of young Finns identify themselves as citizens of the European Union, and 81 per cent consider EU membership a good thing.

The survey also highlights the role of the EU as a resolver of global challenges. Our biggest societal challenges, such as climate change and major changes in working life, will not be resolved on a national level.

In the upcoming European elections, a new European Parliament will be elected that is responsible for EU legislation alongside the European Council consisting of the member states’ governments. Hence, Finland’s direction in terms of the EU will also be defined in the national parliamentary election, which also takes place next spring.

The winning party of the elections will lead not only Finland but also Europe: the future ministers will take charge of the EU during Finland’s Presidency period in autumn 2019 and will have the opportunity to influence the Union’s direction. Finland’s future Commissioner will most likely also be decided based on the parliamentary election results.

In other words, it is worth considering the whole election spring as an entity – our collective future will be built on all levels of decision-making.

So, now is the time for the student generation to announce what kind of a future we want.

During the autumn and the beginning of next year, AYY intends to prepare for the election spring by bringing up various future topics considered important by students. What kind of a Europe would you want? The decisions made now will have the most impact on our opportunities, in particular.

Rosa Väisänen
Advocacy Specialist: international affairs and new students

Creating the future at work!

10.9.2018, ottobergius

What does it feel like to work for Symbio?

We asked our Junior UI/UX Designer Valentin to tell more about his experiences about Symbio as a workplace. Read his thoughts about joining Symbio as a Junior Designer after graduating from university.

“Feels great! I really like the atmosphere here and the projects I’m working on are super up-to-date and interesting. Plus, I get to do what I love, which is combining technology, design and innovation in unexpected ways. I like to think I’m creating a future even my kids might use some day.”

Support, encourage, interact

“Life as a UI designer? Most of the time I work independently. But I can always turn to my team members for help and that all-important second opinion. We support each other, come up with new solutions together and interact through our work. Sharing the same office space with nice, friendly people also makes the grind part of any job more fun!”

“When it comes to my future, I meet with my managers regularly to discuss what I should be doing in terms of professional development and further learning. They know what they’re talking about because they’re right there, doing the same things I do.”

Changing an entire ecosystem

I’m currently working with a global automotive components manufacturer. They recently decided to create their own ecosystem for the car industry together with Symbio in an innovation lab. The cool part is that they entrusted us with everything – from system and software design to final testing.

If you are looking for launch your career with creative and innovative minds in a modern working environment, tick the Symbio box! You won’t regret it.

Want to know more about working in Symbio?

Get to know our company, culture and career opportunities at https://tick.symbio.com/

Symbio is a global innovation and R&D service partner with innovation centers in the United States, Finland and China. We help customers to develop high quality IoT solutions and digital services: solutions and services that have not been invented before. For more information about our references, take a look at our websites www.symbio.com/fi.

Students strongly involved with the development of AYY’s housing services

05.9.2018, siiriliitia

How could student living be made even better? Aalto University Student Union involves its members in developing even more successful housing services.

Students of the Information Technology Program course

The rental of reasonably price student apartments is one of the most essential member services of AYY.

Besides the reasonable price, AYY’s real estate strategy defines other goals for its operations, one of which is the development of communal living and increasing its popularity. It’s an important topic, for even though construction will increase the share of studio apartments in AYY’s apartment portfolio, about one third of the apartments are still shared apartments.

This year, AYY has invested and continues to invest in the development of its housing services in many ways. There have been several small and even bigger updates to our search system Domo during the year, and the development work continues. In spring 2018, AYY became a member of the Finnish Association of Student Housing Organisations, or SOA, and cooperation with other student housing communities has been increased.

Plenty of work is also being done in collaboration with the Student Union’s members. In summer 2018, AYY joined forces with Aalto University in the form of the Information Technology Program course. As part of the course, a group of students surveyed the current situation of AYY’s housing services by interviewing residents and employees, for example.

In addition, the group researched other operators’ housing services, came up with new service ideas and thought of ways to highlight the benefits offered by communal living.

During the project, two significant issues in need of development came up: communication about the alternatives of communal living already at the application stage, and supporting the occupants in making the apartments’ communal spaces comfortable and more home-like.

Later this year, AYY will organise an even wider survey of its members’ experiences and wishes. The member questionnaire will be sent out in the autumn and will focus on housing and member services. Here in the Student Union’s housing team, we’re already excited to hear the results and ideas coming to us via the questionnaire. We’ll definitely put them to good use when planning next year’s operations.

AYY houses several small and bigger communities whose occupants are comfortable in their apartments, and the spaces look like their occupants. We at the Student Union will continue to work towards producing even more happy communities in the future.

Riitu Nuutinen
AYY Service Manager

Equality belongs to everybody

31.8.2018, siiriliitia

With a new semester beginning, it’s good to think about what kind of a community we want to be for our new students.

Many are nervous about the first day. New students are wondering how they’ll be received in their new university. We who are already here need to take responsibility for our community being as open, safe, inclusive and equal as possible to everyone here as well as all newcomers.

Aalto University Student Union wants to keep discussions on equality matters open both among the student community and at the University, so that we can all work together towards an even better community.

Equality work is always present in the everyday of AYY. The Student Union has a harassment contact person service that students facing harassment situations can contact for help and advice. The AYY experts advise and train student tutors and active association members on equality matters. This autumn, AYY is also campaigning against all kinds of harassment occurring amongst the student community.

To while away a summer’s day, I asked the Aalto President Ilkka Niemelä for his thoughts on equality. Take a look at the video clip of our chat.

Wishing an amazing new semester to the entire Aalto community,

Noora Vänttinen
Chair of the AYY Board

Welcome to Espoo – let’s develop the community together!

30.8.2018, ottobergius

Why did you come to Finland?

I’ve heard that’s the question people with foreign background are most often asked here. I’m not going to ask that. Of course you came to Finland! It’s the happiest country in the world with top quality education and a super active student culture. We have fresh air, lush nature (and snow!), room to breathe and to develop yourself. Now it’s up to you to make the most of your journey in the land of Nokia, Rovio and Junction (all from Espoo, by the way)!

I’m especially happy you chose to study in Espoo! Espoo is the second largest city in Finland (with 279,044 inhabitans, to be precise) and you’re one of the about 18,500 students in town. Innovation is a word you cannot avoid when talking about Espoo – we’re home to the biggest innovation ecosystem in Northern Europe, Espoo Innovation Garden, and we were named the Most Intelligent Community in the World in 2018. Not bad, eh?

Maybe the best thing about the innovation ecosystem in Espoo is that it’s strongly based on the idea of cooperation, peer-support and community, so don’t hesitate to get involved. Your journey into the community might start in the student organizations, continue to the startup scene, evolve to masters thesis work at one of the research organizations or companies, and before you notice, you’ve decided to stay here. All it takes is a curious mind, an active attitude, and building your networks from the day one.

Espoo is one of the most international cities in Finland – currently home to 155 different nationalities. According to estimations, the amount of foreign language speakers in Espoo will double by 2030, when we’ll have 30% of the working age population not speaking Finnish or Swedish as their mother tongue. We encourage everyone to learn Finnish or Swedish, as it makes integration into the job market and into the society much easier, but we also want it to be easy to settle down in Espoo and to use the services you are entitled to as our resident.

In 2017, the city council made the decision to introduce English as one of the languages of service in Espoo. We’re the first city in Finland to do this, and as there is no guide book for a process this size, we need your help. Please share your ideas and experiences about public services (e.g. health care, libraries, sport venues) and help us develop a city that works for everyone. The survey is open until 10.9.2018.

Kiitos paljon, and once again, a warm welcome to Espoo. we’re happy you decided to study here!

Milla Ovaska

The writer works as the Head of International Affairs in the City of Espoo and her favourite lunch spot in Otaniemi is in Dipoli. See you around!

P.S. My colleagues at VisitEspoo would get angry at me if I forgot to mention how awesome nature and culture Espoo has! National park, island hopping, museums and activity parks can all be found at www.visitespoo.fi

The Year of Arts: The creative art of pole dancing

20.8.2018, siiriliitia

In 2018, Aalto University Student Union is celebrating the Year of Art. Throughout the year, we invite various creative individuals or groups within the Aalto community to talk about their art. In August, we hear from the pole dance association Otanko.

Image: Assi Vainikka

Otanko, or the Otaniemi pole dance association, was founded precisely three years ago by a group of pole dance enthusiasts. The association organises weekly pole dancing classes and other related activities for its members, while non-members can enjoy their performances or try out the sport for themselves. At the moment, Otanko has around 150 members and 12 instructors.

The association operates within the Aalto University Student Union, but the atmosphere of their dance classes is most interdisciplinary: the group also features several students from the University of Helsinki, for example. There’s absolutely no need to have previous experience of pole dancing to take part in the activities. Classes are offered from beginner level onwards, and more than half of the current instructors began their own pole dance careers by taking Otanko classes.

Pole dance is an art form that combines dance and acrobatics, with its moves revolving around a vertical pole that’s around 45 mm thick.

The sport has its roots in Chinese pole – a circus skill developed before the Common Era – and in the Mallakhamb sport originating in 12th-century India. In both of these, the vertical pole around which the athletes perform tricks is thicker and coarser than the pole used today.

In its current form, pole dance is still a young sport. The first studio was founded in the 1990s. There are constantly new moves, techniques and expression methods being developed which, compared to sports established longer ago, enables pole dancers to use a great deal of creativity even in world championship competitions.

Audiences can see pole dance performances at various events, for example, as well as in pole dance competitions all year round. In addition, the internet – especially Instagram and YouTube – offer a nearly endless supply of videos to watch. Anyone interested in the sport is welcome to pop in on one of Otanko’s beginners’ classes, for example, to see if pole dance is for them. There are also several commercial pole dance studios in the metropolitan area, in which you can try out the sport.

Most people coming to our classes have discovered pole dance while looking for new challenges in the field of exercise and ways to express themselves through dance. Indeed, a typical pole dancer has an athletic or a dance background, although this is by no means a necessity. The sport is fascinating because even beginners are able to do and express a lot, yet even the best of dancers still has plenty more to learn.

What many find particularly inspiring about pole dance is the way that movement and expression on the pole are not restricted by having to stand on your feet: on the pole, you move in the air while your body is supported by nearly all of your body parts in turn. Often the most attractive moves are indeed performed high up in the air with all limbs free to create beautiful lines.

Pole dance is art, just like all other art forms incorporating dance and acrobatics. It can be used to evoke emotions, tell stories and express the dancer’s inner world.

At the moment, pole dance differs from other dance genres especially in the way it enables the athletes to use an exceptional amount of creativity even in the very highest levels of competition. There’s not just one correct method of expression or atmosphere for a pole dance choreography, and in addition to combining the established basic moves, dancers have plenty of room to come up with their own unique moves. An objectively right or wrong way to pole dance simply doesn’t exist.

Sara Ikonen
President of Otanko ry

The students of the future will live on basic income

20.7.2018, heikkiisotalo

If we want the Student Union to have an actual impact on things, it must be present in the places where the social debate takes place. This can be done at SuomiAreena, a week-long event in Pori that brings together Finnish decision-makers, the media and those interested in politics. Two members of the AYY Board and two AYY employees will take part in the event.

The cross-party panel Social Security of Tomorrow – New, Old or Recycled? took an in-depth look into the problems of the social security system. However, the role of students in the possible reforms was neglected almost entirely. This question is of the utmost importance, however.

In addition to their studies, students are expected to work in their own field, establish startup companies and acquire social skills through volunteering. At present, the study grant alone is not enough for studying, but it is also difficult to make work and the students’ low income limits match. The general housing allowance, on the other hand, is dependent on the possible spouse’s income (or in the worst case scenario, the income of one’s roommate, who is considered as a spouse), which in practice creates a maintenance liability, which is poorly suited to the values of the 2010s. This is a difficult equation.

On top of this, the Finnish higher education system does not recognize part-time studying. 86 percent of higher education students consider themselves to be full-time students, whereas 14 percent consider themselves to be part-time students. We are not talking about students working as a cashier at the local store: 53 percent of students say that their work is related closely or quite closely to the content of their own degree programs.

One solution to the above-mentioned challenges would be a step-by-step transition to a basic income system.

AYY supports gratuitous basic income, which would also include means-tested parts. Even when implemented in a cost-neutral way, basic income would reduce bureaucracy and preserve the basic function of social security as a safety net. As a first step in the transition to the basic income model, social security should be made individual-based: housing allowance, social assistance and labor market subsidy should be personal and independent of the possible spouse’s income.

It is up to the new Government to overhaul the income system, and the perspective of the students must also be taken into account. It is not just about how many euros everyone will get. It is about whether Finland can bring up people that lead the economy and change the world also in the future. We can achieve this by improving student well-being.

Try out the Student Simulator and see what kind of challenges related to income students have to face.

Lauri Seppäläinen
Member of the Board

Chinese lessons for the Aalto community

11.6.2018, siiriliitia

The previous and current boards of the Aalto University Student Union visited China and South Korea to get to know the local student community. In this blog post the Board members open their experiences on the trip.

AYY’s delegation in Beijing

The first week of AYY’s China visit was spent mostly in Shanghai (our Student center delegation spent this week in South Korea, read the blog post) and the second in Beijing, entertained as guests of the Tsinghua university.

The purpose of the trip was to expand views of the participants, and through that the Student Union’s, on the scope of universities and student unions beyond Finnish borders. China offered excellent opportunities for this, due to the differences in cultures.

One of the big lessons on the trip was that despite the differences China and Finland have, both struggle with the same kinds of problems regarding studies. Good examples include getting the international students integrated into the student community and keeping up good negotiating conditions to the universities.

The solutions, however, differ between the two countries. So, the goals of” sharing best practices” and” benchmarking” succeeded well. Expanding your point of view and getting to know various kinds of solutions will be sure to refresh AYY’s activities in the future.

Our delegation simultaneously improved their skills in working in a global atmosphere, meaning learning to account for cultural differences and using different languages in discussing both heavier and lighter topics.

Internationalizing is a key factor in the modern world. What we learned will help us better to act in our ever so increasingly international Student Union, and the message spreads to other actives in the Aalto community.

We had the pleasure of getting to know our hosts, the Tsinghua uni. staff and political figures during various events. We also got to know several corporate companies along with distinct culturally valuable landmarks and places.

Shanghai is an especially interesting center of commerce in China, where we had the opportunity to see the opportunities Finnish people can have in China, and in return bring a Finnish point of view to China and its environs.

Both our trip to China and the upcoming Chinese trip to Europe is being aimed to be funded mainly with outside grants, funds and corporate cooperation. The goals of the trip were tied in many ways on corporate life.

China is an interesting business venture for Finnish and other western companies, meaning it is a potential site for a future career to students of Aalto University. Thus, bringing AYY, the Aalto community and Aalto itself known in a positive way in China is important.

We hope that cooperation will be the edge we need in the future, giving us a better opportunity to succeed in one of the largest economies in the world.

Western interest in general towards China also opens new opportunities for the Student Union in corporate cooperation and enables several important and noteworthy meetings with decision-makers both in Finland, Europe and in China. The meetings will then create new opportunities for the advocacy work our Student Union does.

Finnish students caps on the Great Wall of China

Each trip is of course countered with a return trip, with us acting as hosts. We are anxiously anticipating our esteemed Chinese guests to Finland, so we can expand their knowledge of European university education and AYY’s activities!

Mikael Liimatainen
AYY board member (internationality)

Julius Luukkanen
AYY board member (artistic activities, brand, communications, archives and museum)

Year of Art: 20 years of glorious metal at the heart of Otaniemi

05.6.2018, siiriliitia

During 2018 the Student Union is celebrating the Year of Art. To celebrate, we give voice to several creative individuals or groups acting in the Aalto community. In May, it is Metal Club Mökä’s turn.

Mökä goofing around at the 2018 Sitsikilpailut contest

Metal Club Mökä is a culture and sports association acting in the Student Union’s sphere of influence, with the mission of spreading the holy message of metal music to every nook and cranny.

The Club, more affectionately known as Mökä (a Finnish word meaning “disturbing loud noise”), was born in 1998 from the crazy needs of metal fans in the teekkari community, more expressly their wish to host a metal festival at the Alvari square. The task was too grand for just one person, so the metalheads had to find more metalheads to help with the organizing. That was where it all began.

We listen to heavy music. We experience the fires of hell when in the sauna. We organize gigs for bands. We grill when the weather is right (meaning constantly). We do trips to heavy metal events. We help with the Tuska festival organizing every year. And to boot, we are active at playing floorball and football!

In August 2018, on the 4rd and 4th days the renowned Mökäfest is making a comeback.

The festival, open to everyone, celebrates the milestone of Mökä spreading the glory of heavy metal music both in Otaniemi and elsewhere for a grand total of 20 years.

The festival, held for the third time, is organized at the Täffä restaurant, with the Rantasauna hosting the afterparty. The festival offers something for everyone who enjoys heavy music, and we will see both Mökä-centered and Finland heavy culture renown bands. The confirmed bands so far are Ever Circling Wolves, Perihelion Ship, Cause of Death, Caught In The Between, Abstrakt, Asgardium, ARBALEST plays Bolt Thrower, Brymir, and Urn.

The festival combines several different purposes. In addition to being the Mökä equivalent of an annual celebration ball and acting as a meeting spot for all the academic heavy metal clubs of Finland, it is the biggest realization of the music we love, in Otaniemi. The idea of spreading metal music is to play it to the crowds. And to play it live.

Mökä has organized dozens of gigs around the metropolitan area throughout its history. Bigger is better, however, and inspired by domestic and international festivals, we wish to have one of our own! The inspiration is of course drawn from older Mökäfest events from 2013 and 2015.

While the festival is not taking place in the Alvari square, the future remains open.

How is metal music art, then? One cannot live without screeching guitars and double bass drum combos, that’s why! No other style of music has the raw strength of metal.

Metal is about raw emotion and animalistic energy. It whips people into a frenzy and unleashes the animal within. Raging around in a mosh pit and whipping your hair around releases and unravels stress.

The general mistake, however, is to think of metal as a one-dimensional” poundfest”. Metal has its fair share of virtuoso musicians, with lyrics that are as pondering and noteworthy as any other genre. The number of different subgenres in metal is truly mind-boggling. In addition to the more known subgenres of trash, death, black and power metal, the genre has had pretty much every instrument and genre mixed in at some point. Metal bands are found aplenty all around the world.

The power and diversity of metal will be proven true at the Mökäfest. See you there.

Combat Monster performing at the 2013 Mökäfest


Henrik Romppainen

Metal Club Mökä Vice Chair

Campus inspiration from Korea

29.5.2018, siiriliitia

The Aalto University Student Union Board visited Korea in May to see local university campuses. The trip sparked a lot of thoughts on how the Otaniemi campus could be developed.

Getting to know internationality at the campus, Korea Design Factory. Yonsei. Picture: Emma Savela

The AYY Board makes a bi-yearly trip to China to visit our friendship student union at the Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Each time the trip includes a second place of visit. The aim of the visit is to learn something new from the actions of other universities and student unions. This time, the AYY delegation visited the Aalto cooperation universities in Korea; KAIST, Yonsei and SNU (Seoul National University).

New kinds of growing methods are tested on the roof of the environmental tech department. SNU. Pictured Rosa Väisänen, Niko Ferm and Tapio Hautamäki. Picture: Emma Savela

University life in South Korea is interesting in many ways. Despite cultural differences, the similarities are numerous: PISA success, the quality of teaching and education, the efforts on technological development… The populace in Korea is aging like in Finland and the need for outside experts is growing, so international students are lured in with a similar manner.

There are differences, of course. In contrast to Finnish cutbacks in education, the Korean education and research investments seem endless. For example, during 2015, a total of 69% of young adults in Korea had higher education degrees. The number is the highest in all OECD countries, and 28 percentiles higher than the Finnish number. (OECD 2017: Population with tertiary education).

There was a lot to learn, understand and benchmark during the visit! We sought for tips and tricks at the four campuses visited, especially in things pertaining to campus development with Otaniemi and our other large project, the Student Center, in mind.

Stairs for sitting at the new KAIST library. Could something like this be built at, for example, the Student Center? KAIST. Picture: Emma Savela

Sports have a strong presence on campus. KAIST. Picture: Emma Savela

The general impression on Korean university campuses is that their outdoor areas are especially well accounted for. There are a lot of pleasant outdoor spaces.

For example, a water element is centrally placed at the KAIST campus (dubbed the “Ducky pond” by the locals), opening to a central yard and terrace area. Other campuses have many pleasant spots aplenty, available for students to spend time, study, have a break or just enjoy an ice cream.

During summer, the importance of these kinds of spots in Otaniemi is very visible. The small terrace next to the AYY Central Office is jam-packed with people enjoying the weather during warm summer days. Maybe we should have more places like this?

There is a pond located on a central spot at campus, surrounded by an avenue and a terrace. KAIST. Picture: Emma Savela

Yonsei campus has a comfortable lounging area, created with plants and different uses of textured materials. Yonsei. Picture: Emma Savela

Greenery, plants and diverse nature are also points of focus on campus areas.

The Aalto campus area has been called green and close to nature many times. Still, these factors are even more present in Korea.

While nature plays a significant role in Otaniemi, for example the seaside and beaches are not very utilized at all. How often do you even notice that the campus is right by the sea?

Otaniemi has a lot of potential, however. The upcoming campus development will most certainly focus more on the outdoor areas in the future.

Green digs at the Yonsei main campus. Yonsei. Picture: Emma Savela

Regarding the student center, the Korean examples lack a straight “bullseye” that would fulfil the vision planned for Otaniemi.

However, on a general level, the benchmarking was really useful. It was very instructional to see how concepts that we have on paper have been implemented in a different environment. We found examples of work spaces, printing spots and club rooms.

Stylized entrance into the facilities of a party organizing association. SNU. Picture: Emma Savela

Dance practice at a local student center hallway. SNU. Picture: Emma Savela

In general, the everyday life in Korean universities differs a lot from Finland.

The most memorable thing at each university were probably all the very familiar well-being and equality themes and their implementation on each campus.

Human rights and ways to intervene in harassment are being advertised with big posters and online ads. Help can be reached through phone lines and from help centers located on campuses. In addition to campus development, we also received a lot of clever ideas for AYY’s equality work.

Posters on human rights on campus. Yonsei. Picture: Tapio Hautamäki

The best thing about the visit were the numerous discussions we had with local students and staff. So, thank you to KAIST, Yonsei, Korean Design Factory and SNU for the heartfelt cooperation!

Emma Savela
AYY board member (real estate and student center, living and other services)

Rosa Väisänen
Advocacy specialist (international matters and new students)