Inside Aalto: What's the Student Community Really Like?
When thinking of Finland, “lively” and “eventful” are probably not the first adjectives that come to mind. But when it comes to the community at Aalto, I cannot find a better way to describe my life here. It still amazes me how after 3 years of living on campus, I still hear of events and clubs that are completely new to me. There are over two hundred active student associations running under the Aalto University Student Union (AYY), and it definitely shows.
On my very first day in orientation week, I was introduced to the very Finnish custom of student guilds. Guilds are associations specific to each study field, meaning that as soon as you get to Aalto you have direct access to a whole community of students from all study years/levels, who share similar courses and interests as yours. I am currently studying Digital Systems and Design, therefore am part of the Automation and Systems Technology Guild. Within your guild, you have endless opportunities, ranging from networking opportunities, company excursions, and job fairs to more relaxed and fun hangouts, sauna nights and even dinner parties.
Guilds are barely the surface of the community at Aalto. There are endless other types of associations for students to explore and be a part of: sports, musical, cultural, society, other hobbies and so on… It’s often a joke that if you can name an interest, there’s probably a club for it. I cannot stress enough how much investment there is in giving students all possible resources for their wellbeing and opportunities here. It’s even relatively simple and encouraged to create your own association if you have a new idea!
So there is always something to do around campus whether you want to test your programming skills on a hackathon, sit back and relax listening to music or play complicated board games. You will definitely hear of different sport games and trips going on, and especially sauna nights, since that is a big Finnish tradition after a cold winter day or a long summer night. From my experience I have seen such a wide variety of events that the community definitely tailors to different personalities, so that you can find your place being an extrovert or an introvert.
How accessible are all the student events?
Most events organized by the student associations welcome whoever wants to join! It really is as simple as showing up. This gives you a great chance to test out new hobbies and check out if a specific club is the place for you or not, test out the waters before joining them. I have personally tried out quite a few different clubs and in consequence seen a lot of different events and personalities! When it comes to financial accessibility, you’ll find a mix of free and paid events. Although tickets to paid events are usually highly affordable.
With all that being said, what impresses me the most here is the fact that all these associations and initiatives are completely run by students. The entire community is made from volunteer work and I think that speaks volumes to the whole mindset around campus. Generally speaking, students are extremely motivated to organize events, help others, concretize new ideas, orient new students, participate in elections and so on. I’ve experienced an amazing sense of approachability, where it feels really easy to walk up to a new person and ask for help or simply just have a conversation.
How does it feel like to volunteer in the student community?
For me, volunteering has been one of the best parts of being a student at Aalto. I’ve definitely gained multiple skills from it! I started small, just helping out on a few events and being a tutor to the new students.. Fast forward to my 4th semester here and I was organizing dinner parties with a 3-course-meal and live entertainment for 200 students! This speaks a little to the opportunities you have in our community. You can do as little or as much as you want. I have definitely gained leadership, organizational and sales skills I certainly did not have before. But the best of it all has been meeting new students. I am constantly in close contact with people from all over the world, all with different life experiences and cultural backgrounds. Of course, attending events gives you the same opportunity of meeting new people, but nothing solidifies connections like grocery shopping for an event or struggling with an excel budget sheet together.
All in all, there is a lot to explore within the Aalto community. A lot more than I can cover in a blog post anyways. The positive and engaged community here is definitely reflected on each Aalto student and their studies. I really appreciate having the chance to connect with friends doing all sorts of different activities after a hard day of studying. Having the Aalto student life is an experience that you can only really understand by moving to campus!