Tsemppi was founded in May 2004 by a group of international students who aimed at compensating for the lack of organizations by acting in the interest of a fast growing but underrepresented group of students. The need of establishing an association became evident in November 2003, when a small group of international students tried with no success to be elected in the HYY parliament.
After a few informal meetings in which the identity of the association was defined by recognizing some basic common needs, Tsemppi was registered under the auspices of HYY with three main purposes:
- raise awareness on the international students, their needs and contributions at the University of Helsinki and the City of Helsinki;
- be a channel for international students to get involved in the student life of the University of Helsinki, and to provide a forum for networking and long-term social relations for international degree students;
- monitor and promote the interests of international students at all levels of the University of Helsinki.
Among the dozen of international students who participated to the founding meetings, the most active were Giuseppe Lugano, Laura Ojanen, Soeren Berg Rasmussen, Marco Valentini and Karolina Wrona. A number of key persons from HYY, namely Alina Belskaya and Sofia Lähdeniemi, provided important support for the establishment of the association.
Soeren Berg Rasmussen was elected as the first President of Tsemppi at the first general meeting of Tsemppi in May 2004. During the first year of activities, a number of interesting initiatives were organized to make Tsemppi known and involve other international degree students: among others, Tsemppi
- launched a web-page with a forum and a mailing-list to reach its members;
- initiated the series “Stories around the fireplace”, warm welcome to the new international students;
- organized a campaign to have one page in English in Ylioppilaslethi;
- arranged several meetings with other student organizations to discuss cooperation and exchange of relevant information;
- presented itself to the student community through promotional material (pins, pamphlet) and to a wider audience through articles in SixDegrees, Helsingin Sanomat, Kauppalehti and Le Francofinn;
- organized sport activities, such as football games in Kumpula.
In May 2005 Karolina Wrona took Soeren’s inheritance at Tsemppi presidency. Thanks to successful activities of the first year, Tsemppi obtained a room in the New Student House in September 2005. The event that launched the Tsemppi room as an informal meeting point for the international students was the Finnish LG club, event where international students could practice their Finnish skills, at beginner, intermediate and advanced level, with voluntary instructors. International dinner evenings were another important event that was launched in this period to introduce the multitude of cultures present in Finland through countries’ traditional food recipes. In the same period, Tsemppi also added some benefits to membership by associating discounts, such as free pulla and coffee at Café Esplanadi, discounts on pizzas at Pizzeria Pompei and meals at restaurant La Divina Fattoria) to the Tsemppi sticker to add to the student card and renew year by year.
As Karolina had to leave Finland for a few months, Giuseppe Lugano was elected President in September 2005. In HYY, Sofia Lahdeniemi had been replaced by Anne Kettunen, who became Tsemppi’s main contact person in HYY. In that period, Tsemppi’s popularity was growing thanks to its successful kick-off; as a result, the University of Helsinki realized that Tsemppi could represent a useful means to support the implementation of the internationalization strategy of the university. Tsemppi took the challenge and initiated cooperation with the Career Services of the University of Helsinki, giving a presentation to the lecture series “Finding a job in Finland” and advertising jobs for international students through its mailing-list. Although the core interest of Tsemppi remained the University of Helsinki, a number of presentations were given in other universities, such as the University of Arts and Design, in order to promote the creation of additional Tsemppi-sections in Helsinki and around Finland. The ambitious idea of establishing social ties, discussing topics of common interest, and possibly cooperate with international students at Finnish level represented the motivation to create an Annual Conference on International Students (ANCIS), the first major project of Tsemppi. The first edition, organized in Helsinki, was a big success and provided additional motivation to organize it again in the following years. In the same year, two other large-scale projects, the Tsemppi movie and Mobile Tsemppi, were launched but not completed.
The next Presidents were Ami Ganguli (2006), Tianyan Liu (2008) and Julia Toivanen(2009). They continued the work of Tsemppi, providing events and meeting to strengthen the community of international and internationally minded students at the University of Helsinki. In the elections for the Student Parliament in the Autumn of 2009,Anna Bessanova was elected to represent Tsemppi and Soeren Berg Rasmussen became a member of the Board of HYY, the Student Union of the University of Helsinki, making Tsemppi an organization that cannot be overlooked when talking about the needs and interests of international students at the University.
In February 2010, Johanna Leinius was elected President of Tsemppi and continued to promote the interests of international students in the University environment, but also providing opportunities for international students to meet. The most important event that was organized in the spring period was the Anniversary Celebration of Tsemppi in April, with representatives of the HYY Board holding speeches, the Band The Ran providing music, and a buffet of tasty finger food for those attending the celebration.
In February 2011, a new Tsemppi Board was elected and the following month, the organization changed its Rules.
Currently, the Tsemppi Board, run by Louchin Chi as of February 2016, continues to support internationality and integration in Finnish Society and at the University of Helsinki for the sake of internationally students and researchers in higher education.