More than fun and games

UEF Bulletin 2017

People sometimes think that students’ leisure time is all about partying. For ESN Joensuu, however, the most important thing is to provide students with an international platform for different kinds of activities.

Text Maj Vuorre Photo ESN Joensuu

“People can go out and party any day, they don’t need our help to do that. We’d rather invest our budget and manpower and womanpower in organising things that benefit the community and raise people’s awareness of something we consider important,” says Lina Munčytė, President of ESN Joensuu and third-year student of English literature and culture.
For instance, ESN Joensuu is involved in the ExchangeAbility project, which is being carried out at the ESN level throughout Europe. The project seeks to raise awareness of students with disabilities, to promote accessibility, and to encourage students with disabilities to go abroad. As a local effort, ESN Joensuu volunteers have mapped the university campus to see how accessible it is, and whether accessibility ramps and rails have been installed in places where they are needed, for example.  

The Erasmus Student Network, or ESN, has 16 sections in Finland, with ESN Joensuu operating on UEF’s Joensuu Campus and ESN KISA on the Kuopio Campus. The two sections collaborate with one another to share knowledge and exchange ideas and best practices.  

ESN Joensuu is the most multicultural section in Finland. “We have people from every continent volunteering for us. Most of our active members are international students, but we are trying really hard to get Finnish students involved as well. Many Finnish students think that ESN is for international students only – but they are international to us! Anybody can become a member: we are very open and inclusive,” Munčytė says.

The range of activities organised by ESN Joensuu is diverse: language cafés, international dinners, music evenings, poetry jams, charity events, trips to places such as St Petersburg and Lapland, and also a few parties.

“Our events are usually very popular and sometimes we run into capacity problems. This year, we had 80 people going with us to St Petersburg, and we’ve just booked an extra bus for our trip to Lapland. It will be three busloads of people this year,” says Usoa Toledo, ESN Joensuu’s Event Manager and second-year early language education student.

People join ESN Joensuu for different reasons. For Laís Oliveira, who is in her first year of primary education studies, ESN activities are a reason to get out of the house. “I come from Brazil, and it’s quite difficult for me to get out of the house in this weather. The fact that I have a board meeting or an event to organise does the trick. In Brazil, there is no similar platform for international students to meet one another. Here, I’m an equal member of the community and I feel that I can contribute and have my opinion heard.”

Involvement in ESN can be addictive and have far-reaching consequences. Joan Carreres first came to Joensuu four years ago as an exchange student. “Back then, I joined ESN Joensuu and went with them to Lapland and St Petersburg. Now I’m here to do my Master’s degree in environmental biology, and it seems I can’t stop working for ESN,” he says, in the capacity of a board member and ESN Joensuu’s Communications Manager.

Usoa Toledo, too, has a long-term relationship with ESN. “I first learnt about ESN during my exchange in Sweden. ESN did so much for me back then that I felt I had to give something back now.”