I arrived at Uniarts Helsinki in 2021 but I would I started belonging since before. I arrived in Finland right before the pandemic and with the changes that our world had, I wanted to put my mind into the arts. The Open University opened the gates for me to discover Uniarts Helsinki, which became more than just a place to study but a community for me. New people that eventually became friends, new expectations to ahold. I enjoyed the variety of courses, study paths, discussions on worldwide issues and how they were affecting our cultural world. I also remember the freedom we had to ask for improvements and new challenges in our classes and careers. Most especially, I can personally tell that in the moments of struggling in our personal lives, the people behind the institution gave a helping hand and a smile when needed. Ranging from the teachers, coordinators, career directors to the priest and the wellbeing services and so on. There were always lines to talk, and people willing to listen.
As a foreign-born artist living in Finland, making a home away from ‘home’ had me constantly ruminating about being represented: how representation matters and how rightful it is to have a voice, perhaps a different voice, in places where voices tend to come from similar surroundings. These types of ideas guided me to apply for a position in the University Collegium, and I am glad that I’ve had the chance to participate in it since the beginning of 2023. For those who don’t know, the Collegium is one of the governance entities of the university. It is formed with representatives from the student body, academic and service personnel. It is responsible for discussing matters that hold accountability to the different policies of the university.
In this atmosphere, I was faced with a bigger challenge: working from my own perspective but representing other voices that could not be sitting at that same table. A table, that at first seemed intimidating, foreign, and dealing with subjects of utter complexity, that would define the experience of perhaps others like me, who have changed what was known for their own dreams of a life with something better. The responsibility of speaking for them and listening to others’ perspectives became a new reason to integrate, to belong. I’m very happy to say that it didn’t take long for me to feel part of the discussion. Again, the people sitting on those other chairs made me feel confident expressing myself. It proved to me once again that here my opinion is valued, respected, heard.
I am sure that we can all think of measures that could be improved throughout our school. I know the language policy in process and future of the internationalization of our university are at the peak of my thoughts. It is a work in progress to get better accessibility at our university, especially for those of us who have not yet achieved fluency in Finnish.
Throughout the studies there are many opportunities offered to us to speak up, and several channels where we can have our opinions be heard. Currently the most familiar service is the Tuudo course feedback. Some programmes offer the Personal Development course, which is an excellent way to get to know the happenings of your programme and how to collaborate with your peers outside the classroom. In 2024, the Rector’s Questionnaire asks the students to express their opinions and review the status of their programs, academies, and the university overall. If we are aiming for better results, these chances should not be missed. We should take our responsibility of speaking up and aim for a more integrated and conscious university.
At Uniarts Helsinki, I’ve discovered a community that is looking to understand, learn and provide quality education and experiences for the students, researchers, personnel, and those who devote their hours daily to it. Of course, nothing is perfect and with bigger adventures there are bigger challenges to confront, but I trust the people who are leading those services. I know they will look for a more fair development for our fast-paced life and future.
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