In addition to Finnish students, there’s a growing number of international students studying at Aalto. Already over one tenth of Aalto students are international: there are approximately 950 international degree students and approximately 850 exchange students. A few of them know Finnish but the vast majority of them use English as their daily language. To involve the international students in your association, the most important thing is to provide English communications and events where participation does not require Finnish skills.
It is important that international students get involved in association and recreational activities as they are one of the best ways to become part of the student community and make Finnish friends. On the other hand, this also allows Finnish students to develop their language skills and intercultural competence. International students are usually very interested to get acquainted with the Finns but do not necessarily feel welcome in association activities if the activities are not specifically promoted to them in English.
Basic activities interest the international students
When planning activities for international students, the best way is to involve them in the association’s normal activities that are aimed at the Finns, rather than isolating international students to their own activities. International students also have a few of their own organisations and events, which have their own essential role, but especially the degree students are here for a long time and want to feel that they are part of the Finnish society. Many of them have the same interests as the Finns, such as music, sports, student politics, corporate visits, or guild and subject organisation activities.
For the comfort of international students, the most important thing is that other association members speak English when international students are present, unless the international students specifically ask to practise Finnish. In addition, it is also good to note some cultural differences. The Finns’ relationship with alcohol and nudity is different from a number of other cultures. Therefore, it is advisable to organise events where drinking is not the main issue, and have separate shifts for men and women in sauna evenings. The best way to find out how to take cultural differences into account is to ask the international students themselves.
Person in charge of international affairs in every association
The best way to take the international students into account in association activities is to appoint a person in charge of international affairs. The person in charge is a board member or an active member whose duty is to take into account the international students’ perspective in all matters and to remind about it if necessary. The person ensures that the association informs about its activities and events in English and makes sure that students who do not know Finnish are not isolated in the association events. The person in charge of international affairs welcomes international students, tells them how to participate in activities and looks after their comfort.
However, the person in charge of international affairs is not supposed to be responsible for all the international members of the association all alone; his or her role is to coordinate the bigger picture. To make things work, everyone in the association needs to take international students and the use of English into account in their own activities.
How to reach international students?
AYY’s weekly newsletter
AYY’s translators translate the weekly newsletter in its entirety into Swedish and English. Texts can be submitted to the communications officer (tiedottaja(at)ayy.fi) in Finnish or English. Only texts that are submitted in English will be included in other language versions. The English weekly newsletter will be sent to the international students’ lists on Monday or Tuesday when the translation is ready. Texts should be sent by 10am on Fridays. They should be as short as possible, preferably only a few lines.
On the Facebook site International AYY you can announce in English any event or issue which might interest the international students.
Mailing lists of international students
• exchange(at)list.ayy.fi (reaches hundreds of exchange students)
• int-degree(at)list.ayy.fi (reaches hundreds of degree students)
AYY’s specialist for international affairs moderates the lists. Please send your message directly to the list address. Messages are forwarded to recipients as soon as the moderator has approved it. You cannot send attachments to the list.
AYY’s weekly newsletter is sent to these lists on Mondays or Tuesdays as soon as the translation is ready. It is usually best to include event information in the weekly newsletter in order to avoid spam on the list.
Anyone can follow the lists by subscribing at
The association must also create an English version of its association profile on ayy.fi! At least basic information, such as the contact details of the association, should be available on each association’s English profile page on AYY.fi.
Association’s own communications
The association website and Facebook groups should include in English at least the basic information about the association, contact details of the person in charge of international affairs and information on how to get involved in activities.
If it feels too difficult to write frequently changing sections on the website or everyday e-mails in English, you should at least include bilingual titles. In this way, international students know what the matter is and it is much easier for them to ask for further information or use Google translate.
Assistance in international affairs
Advice and support in international affairs are provided by the Student Union’s specialist for international affairs and the board member in charge of international affairs. They both can be reached by email at international(at)ayy.fi.
AYY’s international sector promotes Aalto’s internationalisation from a student’s perspective and acts as the interest representative of international students. That is why we strive to make every effort to facilitate the international students’ full access to the student community activities and we are glad to give advice on how to reach the international students, for example.