Last Thursday, you had the chance to meet us at the Fresher’s Adventure, a traditional kick-off-the-year event organized by the Student Union. Although the weather wasn’t the best, we were lucky to get a spot under the roof (in a beautiful room in the main building), and spent the afternoon giving away points, patches and candies to competing teams for our Una Europa-related activities.
What tasks did we prepare? There were two options:
The first one was a game called General Knowledge. There are 11 universities in the Una Europa network, located in 11 European countries. Quite a number, right? The competing teams had the challenging task of identifying pictures of the campuses of all 11 of them, and on top of that matching them with the right university logo. Although it was a tough task, all our participants did a great job, and hopefully also learned a bit more about the diversity of European uni life.
The second task was a game of charades: one person had to act out a specific university, while the rest of the team had two attempts to guess which one it is. Also, not a particularly easy task, but the teams came up with some great sketches that even we couldn’t help but laugh.
Do you know what the Leuven and Krakow campuses look like, and what is the logo of Sorbonne or the Freie Universität in Berlin? Would you have the courage to act out the universities of Zurich, Dublin or Bologna? If you want to give it a try, join us next time we are in the Guidance Corner, or at any other event – we will let you know in advance on the blog and in our new Telegram group. Or join us at our next meetup event on Monday 17th October in Thirsty Scholar from 17.00 (more info in the Telegram group 😊).
Very adventurous greetings from Sara, Eugenia, Helena, Saana, Yasmin and Jace!
“I joined the local task force to meet people and make some new friends – coming to a new city as an international student can be tough on social life. In Una Europa volunteers, I found a great bunch of funny, kind, enthusiastic people from all around Europe who are passionate about the organization’s mission, believe in European integration, and want to help make it happen. Needless to say that they are also a great company to go for a beer after the work is done, and chat about our experiences with living in Helsinki both as seasoned locals or fresh newcomers. So if you’re looking for a nice community and volunteer work with EU purpose, join our next meeting – we’re already excited to meet you :)!” Helena Drdlova
We’re excited to launch our fall application for the Una Europa Local Student Task Force. We had a great experience this spring with the inaugural task force, so great that many of them are continuing with us this fall, but we also have increased our ambitions and are therefore looking for creative, curious and proactive students to join the team!
What is Una Europa?
Una Europa is an alliance of 11 European universities, collaborating to create innovative and unique educational offerings and other curricular and extracurricular activities for you and you 600.000 fellow students at these universities!
This includes a 2-credit MOOC on the impact of AI in Society (start studying here), challenge-based learning initiatives such as Una.Together (we’ll launch the next challenge in spring 2023), and the student congress (currently open for applications for fully funded participation in Krakow this fall). These are just a few examples of our initiatives and opportunities that you might be able to participate and help develop if you join the local task force.
What does it mean to be part of the Local task force?
Being a member in the local task force here at the University of Helsinki means that you will join a team of motivated and enthusiastic students! We are open for all backgrounds and study fields and levels of study. Currently we’re a mix of both international and Finnish students and range from bachelor to master to PhD students. We meet every other week and plan activities, events, brainstorm and implement activities.
A big part of the work is helping to create awareness about initiatives (such as those mentioned above), but you will also be part of defining future initiatives of Una Europa (both here in Helsinki but it can also be on the European level!) and work on how students can be more involved in what Una Europa should be now and in the future.
Una Europa is a young initiative (we’re only three years in) and we have just received funding for the next four years. So how can this kind of exciting, close collaboration between 11 universities benefit you and your fellow students here in Helsinki more? How would you like to engage or collaborate with you fellow students across Europa? What kind of initiatives and conversation do you think we need to have about the future of higher education here in Europe? What opportunities do you see within such a network? These are some of the questions we’re trying to answer.
Sure, that sounds great, but what are some concrete things you do?
Well, to be honest that is up to you! In spring we were hosting both formal events discussing about the different universities in the alliance, sharing about the opportunities and promoting multilingualism. We did take-overs on the Student Union Instagram and the University of Helsinki Instagram. We were part of organising a huge event for all the universities in Helsinki. We also had a few social events and collaborated with other internationally minded associations here in Helsinki. In the fall we’re planning to do even more social events, to give students here in Helsinki more of a taste of the student cultures in our partner universities, get the chance to engage in more European networking with fellow student local task forces in other universities and do more events and awareness raising. But any good ideas are warmly welcome!
Hm okay, you say international student associations, is this only for international students?
No definitely not! Una Europa is for all students, not matter your nationality, whether you’ve been abroad or not or whether you’re new to Helsinki and Finland or not! We primarily speak English to allow everyone to participate, but we’re very nice and friendly and you don’t need perfect English to participate! This is also a place to grow and learn and most of us are not native speakers 😊 What we are looking for are people with an open mind, interested to work in an intercultural environment and to participate and challenge themselves to do new things!
We hope to receive your application for the local task force, it will be open until 9.9.2022. If you have any more questions don’t hesitate to reach out to the student engagement coordinator for Una Europa Stinne Vognaes (email@example.com). When you are ready, you can apply here.
You might wonder why you should read about internationalisation in the time of COVID-19. This pandemic has, for the first time in our lifetime, shut down borders and quite literally grounded us. Does it really make sense to talk about international experiences without physical mobility? Topias Tolonen’s answer is ‘yes’. As this crisis has shown us, we need to rethink what internationalisation means and how we make it accessible to everyone, maybe even right here at home.
Topias Tolonen is not new to the conversation about the value and challenges that comes with internationalisation. He is currently in the International Affairs Group at the University of Helsinki, which is where everything that has to do with internationalisation is debated. In addition, he is actively involved with the Student Union of the University of Helsinki, where he also deals with issues of international affairs among other things. In January 2020, he was selected to represent the University of Helsinki in the Una Europa Student Board and he just finished his term this August. Una Europa is an alliance with eight member universities, the University of Helsinki is one of them. The alliance has embarked on a journey towards a more integrated European Education Area and a common European campus. This means imagining the future of higher education through joint degrees, virtual mobility, living labs and much more.
But for Topias Tolonen the interest and passion for internationalisation started long before applying for the student board of Una Europa.
“I have been active in the Student Union for years, most recently I’ve started working as a specialist on the topics of higher education policy and internationalisation. I have been thinking about what it means for a university to be international and what that might look like in practice. The reason why I applied to join the student board of Una Europa is that I saw this alliance as an opportunity to learn. I wanted to see their approach to this question and get an example of a concrete manifestation of what an international university could look like.”
Reflecting on his time as a student representative in Una Europa, he argues that it was not just about understanding how this alliance might help or support internationalisation. In Topias’ opinion, it was also a way to get engaged and potentially impact the European landscape of higher education. Una Europa is an entry point to participate in and shape that conversation.
This is a big endeavour, and many challenges lie ahead but also plenty of opportunities. Topias was working with seven other students, each representing one of the other participating universities. Their role was to bring the student voice to this alliance, to make sure that what is being done in the different working groups has relevance to students and is addressing students’ wants and needs. Initiatives include joint bachelors, masters and doctoral programs, virtual mobility, new pedagogical approaches, challenge-based learning and much more.
The student board of Una Europa sends representatives to the steering and executive committee meetings. The goal is for the student voice to be present and to have a clear link between the high-level decision-making taking place in the steering groups and working groups and the students on each campus. Topias really sees it as quality assurance of the work that is happening to make sure that it is benefiting students and other stakeholders. The money for the project is coming from Erasmus, so students should definitely have a clear voice in Topias’ opinion.
“It is challenging when you are part of a newly started project. How to put the structures in place that keep students involved and informed continuously and make sure that we as the student board were kept informed about new information and knowledge being circulated.”
Topias Tolonen is very clear on the value of international experiences and would like more students to benefit from it. He sees Una Europa as a possibility to remove the obstacles and challenges that students might be facing when considering an international experience.
“Based on the Eurostudent VIII study, one of the key points that keeps Finnish students from applying to go abroad is financial matters. The cost can be high and they lose the income from their job while abroad. There are also many practical questions and just many unknown factors that make people think twice. Una Europa is piloting virtual mobility, which is very interesting, but I’m also curious to see the potential and implementation of blended mobility.”
Topias really wants to expand and rethink the idea of mobility. He wants it to be accessible to a broader range of students and work to break down as many barriers as possible. He argues that there are many initiatives that could make the process of going abroad easier, such as centralising information and making the application process clear and simple.
“I still believe that the threshold to applying to go abroad is too high. That is an issue. But again, if everything goes according to the plan, an alliance like Una Europa will support us in breaking down these barriers and making the technical and administrative side of things much simpler. I think that is very valuable and something that all students should really be excited about!”
Topias Tolonen has finished his term as a Student Board member, he is now focusing his energy working at the Student Union of University of Helsinki (HYY) as a specialist in higher education policy. This conversation took place in the fall of 2020.
Since September this year, Teemu Turkki is the new student board member for Una Europa.