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First steps

Timo Kovala | 03.03.2014

Our Student Union is currently facing strong forces of change. For the first time in its history there are a number of active international degree students taking part in the central decision-making process. Simply the presence of students from diverse national and cultural backgrounds has been enough to ruffle up some feathers in the organisation. The situation is comparable to a child taking its first steps: one starts with carefully putting one foot before the other rather than trying to run right from the start. Inclusion of international students in TYY is at its infancy and from this year onwards we will be laying the groundwork for a truly international TYY of the future. This change makes it necessary to critically evaluate some of our established customs and create new ways of managing diversity.

The question of language in the Student Union council meetings is one of the first issues that we have had to deal with. The council ruled during a meeting on 26th February that, in order to accommodate non-Finnish speaking council members, there should be interpreters present at the meetings to give real-time translation of the discussions. The council thought it best to give all members an equal opportunity to participate in the discussions free of any possible restrictions of language. This decision is a sign that the council as a whole is fully committed to the advancement of internationality in the student community of the University of Turku.

The matter of language is a larger issue that is not limited to the council. It is no secret that language creates barriers. These barriers are not always only practical but also cultural and social. The use of a lingua franca as working language means equal opportunities of involvement for all students. Unfortunately scant few sub-organisations and societies have in place structures to include international students in their decision-making process.

Now we bring to light the difference between integration and inclusion. Certainly, we do have a lot of services, events and hobbies available to international students, but what about actual involvement? The next phase in the internationalisation process of TYY will likely be the creation of new means for international degree students to affect their own study programmes and be involved in their respective subject organisations. This will not happen overnight and will undoubtably require great effort by the whole student community.

These are the first steps. Only time will tell whether or not these changes in the Student Union will lead to more profound changes later on.

Timo Kovala
Board Member for International Affairs

Timo Kovala