‘The Chair of Kronos has traditionally run as a candidate in the Representative Council elections on HYAL’s list’, the Chair of HYY’s Board at the time told me in autumn 2007. It was a comment that defined my life and use of time for the following eight years. After three active and rewarding years in my subject organisation, I was leaving the history students’ own positions behind me. Luckily, I had active and more experienced people encouraging me and explaining why I should join the Student Union’s activities and what I could learn from them.
The Student Union won me over. It was fun to run an election campaign with a good team, new things in HYY were interesting and politics felt worth influencing. Reforming the operating grant model for organisations and relocating our premises when the third student house was completed took over my free time quite efficiently – and I was not even sorry for it. Learning new things and influencing matters in HYY were inspiring by themselves.
I was already somewhat familiar with organisational affairs and influencing study affairs from my subject organisation. However, the Student Union managed to surprise me with its diversity: we got to build a more sustainable city, campaign for the climate act and debate with top researchers on the funding of education. We were able to safely learn new things in a group where someone always knew a bit more about their own theme and knew how to instruct us novices. At the same time, we got to constantly develop the things we learned and apply them on the organisational field.
The importance of communication was also emphasised: organisations did not care how many nights the Representative Council members spent negotiating in the meeting rooms of the New Student House if we did not tell them about the victories we achieved. Being in active contact with your own field – the communities on whose mandate you were acting in HYY – was an indicator of the success of all activities. This was a vital lesson for my later working life and political activity.
After the years spent in HYY, me and many of my independent friends continued advocacy work by joining parties. On many evenings, we have reminisced about the past and compared the things we learned in the Representative Council to our current responsibilities, in larger and smaller parties. We have often concluded that out of all the election campaigns we have run, none have so far beaten the organisation of our Representative Council campaigns. Later, as a vice council member of the Helsinki City Council, I have also come to appreciate the structured and civilised manner of discussion in HYY’s Representative Council.
The Student Union offered me another degree and cornerstone of competence to accompany my master’s degree. My degree in arts is now complemented by everything acquired during my years in HYY: negotiation and lobbying skills, skills in campaign and project management and, most of all, the vast network of skilled, familiar people from HYY who now act in different sectors of society. Because if anything, HYY taught me how to cooperate. To trust and to earn the trust of others. To accept and take responsibility. To envision and work hard at the same time. If you are still thinking whether it is worth it to join, I encourage you not to hesitate. The adventure in HYY is sure to pay itself back!
The writer spent the best years of her youth at the New Student House. She acted as a member of HYY’s Board in 2009 and its Chair in 2010 as well as the Chair of the National Union of University Students in Finland in 2011. She is also the former Secretary General of HYY. Currently, she is acting as the Director in charge of communications and advocacy work at Nuori kirkko ry.