I Was Wrong About…Early Mornings

Photo by Inka Vappula

My friends and family know that early mornings and I have never been in cahoots. In some circles it’s even my unfortunate claim to fame: “Oh, you’re that Inka, the one who threw a punch at someone for trying to wake you up. Yeah, I’ve heard about you”. For the record, it’s been 10 years, it only happened once, and I missed. So put down the sticks people, that horse is mulch by now.

Photo by Inka Vappula

Photo by Inka Vappula

Grossly exaggerated stories aside, I truly have always hated early mornings. I don’t feel grumpy per se, although I have been told I look like I’m ready to murder, I’m just slow to start—like an old PC. I don’t think I’ve ever woken up naturally with the sunrise. And I’ve always had a strong distaste for those inspirational morning quotes: “the morning is full of possibilities” and all that crap.  The whole day is full of possibilities if you ask me. Silly morning-person propaganda, I thought.

University is a paradise for slow starters, such as myself. During my first semester, I made the mistake of enrolling in a linguistics course, which ran at 8:30 am on Fridays. Mostly I remember having a stiff neck all spring from sleeping sitting up. I rectified the situation by planning my schedule so that I never had to be up and about before noon. Ah, bliss!

However, during the past year, my optimal, late-riser schedule went topsy-turvy. I began a teacher-training program, which meant that most weekdays I had to either be attending classes or teaching them by 8 o’clock. It was my Everest.

In the beginning it was a twisted form of torture, I’m not going to lie. Even with a dangerously high coffee dosage, I felt—and probably looked like—the living dead, dragging my cumbrous feet from point A to point B, dazed and unaware of my surroundings. And I was constantly finding myself in the toilet, due to the unlawful amounts of coffee I was consuming. Torture, I tell you! I was miserable and much more adamant in my hatred of early mornings than I’d ever been.

Photo by Inka Vappula

Photo by Inka Vappula

As the year has progressed, however, strange things have begun to happen. First, my body stopped resisting the new rhythm of life, and then my attitude began to shift as well. I’ve come to relish the way my senses are attuned to the morning and the routines I’ve adopted: the softness of woolen socks as I slip them on and tiptoe downstairs to make coffee; the familiar drip and gurgle accompanied by the rich aroma of a fresh brew as it falls in the pot; dark winter mornings, eating breakfast in the candlelight; or in the spring, watching the sun put on a splendid color display as it climbs lazily across the horizon.

The stillness, the serenity.

I’m a long way from becoming the person who jumps straight out of bed into running shoes. I doubt I’ll ever be that person. But I will admit: I was wrong about early mornings. They are okay–dare I say–even enjoyable, as long as they contain coffee and solitude.

Inaugural Interviews: BTSB Talks with SUB President Niko Haussila

Peace and order?

BTSB interviewed Niko Haussila, the newly-elected SUB presidents, on his election, that other election, the direction SUB will take under his rule, and more!

Niko, congratulations on your recent election as President of SUB! What are the feels right now at the start of your presidential 2017?

It still doesn’t feel entirely real yet, since the new board hasn’t gotten properly started yet and we’re still waiting on our first meeting. I feel like I have a decent idea of what I’m expected to do as president, but it’s impossible to know what the next year is really going to be like, so it’s all a big unknown.

Now, you had quite the journey to become elected from among three candidates, one of them the incumbent president. How would you describe the race? Why do you think you managed the feat?

It was a pretty tense race because for the first time that I’ve seen, the candidates were announced in advance instead of declaring at the election meeting. Knowing what you’re up against relieves a bit of the uncertainty, but it definitely also introduced a different kind of nervousness for the run-up. The election process at the meeting was also a lot more structured, with individual interviews of the candidates using previously prepared questions. I don’t always do very well in those situations, so I was pretty worried about that going in.

You could tell that right up until the results were announced, nobody really had any idea how it was going to go, so there was a lot of excitement in the air at the meeting. I did my best to prepare some convincing arguments in advance, and I feel that really helped me to build a case in the interview, relying mostly on my wide experience as a three-year board member and the financial knowhow I’ve gained from my previous work as treasurer.

We have no shame.

One might think that ousting the sitting president signals a measure of discontent in the voters or possibly a divided governing body from the previous term. How would you comment?

I absolutely disagree. Even going into the election, I felt like he might easily win on the strength of his popularity, because everyone agrees he did a fantastic job last year, but at the same time I thought his status as the sitting president might actually be a big handicap for him. There’s been a pretty strong tradition of one-term presidencies at SUB, and that definitely worked in my favor at the election meeting. I can’t comment on where the votes went, but in terms of morale there was never any kind of split in last year’s board, the team spirit has been amazing and I feel like that really showed in our level of activity last year.

Moving on from this election to digress into another, I understand that you have a US-FIN dual-citizenship and would very much like to hear your views on Trump’s looming inauguration.

Well, I don’t want to sound too alarmist, but I feel like now would be an excellent time to start living like every day could be your last. Seriously though, while I do feel like ever since Election Day there’s been barely any breaks in the bad news from across the water, I’m hopeful that we’ll only need to deal with four years of this nonsense, and maybe the long-term damage won’t be quite as devastating as we now fear. That said, I don’t think anyone has a very strong sense of where all of this is going, least of all the man himself. We’ll just have to wait and see.

What kind of an experience was following the US election for you?

Nerve-racking. Unfortunately, and against my better judgment, I can’t help but follow US elections very closely, and this last one was not easy on the spirit. I never really thought Trump would win, but the constant flow of bad news for Hillary was still discouraging to watch. The Wikileaks thing was awful, but following the whole Trump sexual harrassment scandal, I felt like Hillary pretty much had it in the bag.

Then Comey happened, and suddenly everything changed, and for the first time all year I started feeling like there was a real danger Trump might win. I still believed Hillary would probably beat him, and it was a close-run thing, but there you go. I think she basically lost the election over a vague FBI announcement that was missing all the essential information and eventually proved to be nothing at all. Just incredible.

On a lighter note, my sources indicate that you are quite the whiz in kitchen. Could you tell our readers a bit more about this side of yours?

I don’t want to make too much of it, Master Chef I ain’t, but I do like to cook. I enjoy good food a great deal, and I feel like being able to make it at home is one cornerstone of a happy life. I like cooking lots of different types of food and trying out new recipes, anything from Italian to Chinese. Lately I’ve also been getting increasingly into making cocktails.

And what other things are you passionate about on your free time?

I’m very big on movies, and also keeping up with the best new TV series, which are in a kind of golden age lately. I also enjoy both computer and board games, and naturally books.

Let’s talk more about SUB and student life. First of all, what are your plans in general for the SUB-urban community?

I don’t really have any grand, radical vision for SUB, I think the past few years have been great for us and I’d very much like to keep that going. Mostly I’m thinking of focusing on making small procedural improvements here and there and introducing new ideas where they’re called for. It’s difficult to be more specific at this point, we’ll just have to see what the new year brings.

As we know, the university is still going through massive changes in administration, degree structures, and more. How is SUB planning to support its members through these changes? What concrete means do you see organizations having in making things easier for their members, old and new?

Our studies coordinators have and will be working hard to keep abreast of the changes that will affect our members, and guide our fellow English students through whatever transition process emerges. That said, there’s only so much we can do as a student organization. Some of our members are working with the staff to try to guide things in the right direction, but for the most part all we can do is wait for edicts on high and then try to figure out a response.

SUB has been fairly successful in promoting activities other than parties in the past few years with increased focus on, for example, sports, study groups, and working life orientation. What are the next steps on this front?

Just to keep it rolling first and foremost, and if we can do that, then build on the progress we’ve made. All of our various sectors have been doing a great job lately, and I absolutely want to keep that momentum and encourage each new board member to show initiative and use their creativity in the new year. Express yourselves!

As has been customary since times of yore, we went and photoshopped your likeness onto a blockbuster movie poster. Now, if you’re being completely honest, wouldn’t the Empire do a great job at providing peace and order for our SUB-galaxy? Or are you just one of those pesky rebels, a rogue one?

Don’t take this as a reflection of my politics, but I must admit that I’ve always had a bit of an affinity for the Empire. What can I say? They have cooler outfits and music, and it doesn’t get much cooler than Darth Vader.

Thank you so much Niko for these comments. We wish you a prosperous reign of no terror or tyranny whatsoever!

No promises.

The Little Choices and Big Choices in Campus Life

coffee feature

coffee featureNot everything that the university has to offer is overtly advertised: sometimes you have to do some digging to find the most fascinating courses, teachers, and clubs that your school has to offer. Not all courses that are interesting are promoted by tutors or teachers, and they certainly won’t appear on your syllabus if they’re not directly within your chosen major. There’s so much more that the university has to offer in addition to the courses required to earn your degree – and now is the time to take full advantage of your right to study! Some of my personal favorites are courses from the Faculty of Theology, like “Folk Religion” and “Women in Buddhism”. A range of fascinating topics are also covered by Dario Martinelli, an Italian gentleman who visits from Lithuania at least once a year to teach intensive courses about animals in cinema, the Beatles, and Hitchcock. I can also wholeheartedly recommend television studies, which provide a lot of interesting topics if you get past the basic theory (which can sometimes err on the side of a snooze fest). The course selection naturally varies year to year, but you can easily search for courses based on the faculty through WebOodi.

Most of the professors at University of Helsinki are good teachers, but there are of course some who are simply more captivating or engaging than others. There are some great professors within the English department: Elizabeth Peterson, who has even won the Teacher of the Year award, is a knowledgeable and engaging teacher who manages to hold students’ attention for the whole lecture without fail. Mark Shackleton’s sense of humor and easygoingness are guaranteed to keep you coming back to his lectures. Nely Keinänen, Bo Petterson, and Howard Sklar are also all great literature experts. Outside of our department, for example, the folk religion enthusiast Terhi Utriainen is a lovely character who is truly passionate about her subject.

staircaseThere are also all sorts of things worth trying outside of classes: in case the department of English still organizes trips to Stratford, I warmly recommend attending. The 10-day study trip to London and Stratford-upon-Avon will open up your cultural horizons: you’ll see some of the most amazing theater and learn about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it. Similarly, cruises to Tallinn, excursions to Nuuksio, and whatever trips that SUB ry (or any other organization) might be organizing are always a wonderful opportunity to do something new and fun with your classmates outside of school.

All the potential extracurricular activities that you were bombarded with during the opening carnival are there to help you balance out the studying that you’ll be doing during your first year. By no means should you try to attend everything – you’ll end up getting a burnout in a month. But rather, try a few things that sound the most interesting and you might just find yourself a new hobby. And luckily there’s no obligation to attend more than once – if you find that anime isn’t your thing after all, don’t worry about it. You can visit most clubs and organizations just to see what they’re all about and if it’s not your cup of tea, you can try another activity. That’s the fun of university: this is truly the time to experiment and enjoy new things! And whatever you do, don’t let your syllabus or your major limit you, because no one is actually expecting you to just sit down in front of your books 24/7.

Study spaces are sometimes hard to find if you’re not willing to branch outside the main library Kaisa. However, there are tons of little nooks and crannies all over campus that you can take advantage of! Obviously there are cafés like Gaudeamus Kirja ja Kahvi downstairs from Kaisa, which means that you can quickly pop upstairs to grab books if you need them. Also, next to the library there is Steam Coffee, which gives students 10 per cent discount. If you don’t wish to spend money on a cup of coffee, there are lounge areas in almost every floor in Metsätalo – there’s no need to stick to the armchairs in the 3rd floor hallway. Other libraries are available too – both public and campus ones. The Nordic Culture Point in Kaisaniemenkatu is a charming combination of a library and a living room, and it even offers free Wi-Fi. It tends to go unnoticed by many, despite its central location on the campus. If you wish to stay in Kaisa, however, go downstairs instead of heading up: the lower you go, the less people there are. In the cellar floors there are very quiet areas to work on your essays and projects.

coffee om nomNaturally, between classes you will need nourishment, which tends to mean a visit to one of UniCafes on campus. You should be aware that the menu differs in all of them, so even if the food is not to your liking at Metsätalo, Porthania might still be serving your favorite food. It’s easiest to check online the menus for the different UniCafes so that you don’t waste a trip. A favorite of mine is the one in Ylioppilasaukio, which has even had chicken in red wine sauce for 2.50 euros. It doesn’t get better than that! The best times to go eat are during the early day or later in the evening, because obviously everyone is hitting the food queues around noon. If you pack a cheap snack like an energy bar or fruit with you and get through the lunch time with that, you’re more likely to find a seat when you go eat a proper meal.

There are so many things that affect your time at the university, from the food at Unicafe to the courses you take. All these little parts make up the whole of your university experience, which hopefully will be amazing and exciting. There is an immense amount of freedom when it comes to studying at our university and everyone should take full advantage of it, from the smallest choices to the big ones. Don’t let anything stop you if you feel like doing something crazy like pairing a television studies minor with a philosophy one, while majoring in English (it’s a working combo – trust me). Do what interests you, because this is your chance to learn anything and try new things. Make choices that improve aspects of your everyday life as a student and you’ll end up loving the whole experience.

NecroMancErS, or, the National Meeting of English Students in Vaasa

NMES is a yearly event where English students all across our dark and gloomy land get together and rage against the dying of the light. This is made easier by it being organised in the springtime when darkness is loosing its grip already. I mean, we are English students not some demigods on a quest and we will take an easy way out if we can. But I digress; the 23rd annual NMES was held in Vaasa from 10.-12. of April and the theme was necromancy.

How did the theme affect the gathering? To tell you the truth there may have been corpses resurrected during the night for all I know, because the levels of alcohol consumption may have caused some slight irregularities in my observational skills, but I never saw any real evidence of it. Okay, I lied. Some of the faces that greeted me in the morning, when I stirred from my nightly three-hour powernap, may have been resurrected corpses. However, they seemed to get livelier as the evening approached so I tend to think it has more to do with the alcohol, and, quite frankly, the fact that these were English students and thus not accustomed to getting up before noon without a huge pot of coffee, a string of swearwords and an existential crisis over the direction of their lives.

Ah, but there was a more formal and academic side to this event as well, where the theme was extremely visible. Firstly, there was the pub crawl race where we were divided up into random groups named after supernatural creatures (No I don’t think any of the teams were called Sam or Dean) and then ran around Vaasa, occasionally without underwear, trying our best to score points in the tasks given to us. We did not win, but we were very well socially lubricated by the time we got to the sauna and after party, which I think is a victory in itself.

(c) Sampsa Granström

They can in major in Dark Magic in Vaasa!?!

Then the following day there were the lectures: one on monsters by Tiina Mäntymäki and another on necromancy by Johannes Sumuvuori. Of the two the necromancy lecture must be commended on both its theoretical side, which was surprisingly math and physics heavy on a poor hung over arts student but still fascinating, and on its more practical black magick approach, which made much more sense to someone who just spent the previous week writing an essay on the supernatural in Hamlet. Sadly the fruit fly did not stir, but we were promised that the efforts would not be abandoned and they hoped to get some graduate students for test subjects.

And finally there was the academic dinner party. Where cultures clashed as the traditions met and battled for supremacy, but were quite quickly resolved by the song masters who calmed the boiling blood of the chieftains of each city. No, not really but there were some cultural differences and, to us, odd habits but things went quite smoothly, although the girl next to me wanted to hurt quite a few of the people suggesting songs, because she couldn’t eat. I found this hilarious.

There is also a tradition of putting on shows of some sort for these events. This year the theme for the shows was D&D, and no it isn’t dick on dick like some of our entourage thought, it stands for dungeons and dragons, the roleplaying game. The shows were varied and Oulu Jyväskylä won it fair and square with their tinfoil helmets and armours. (Damn those handsome devils.) I would recount what the shows were about, but honestly it was the latter third of the party when these took place and there were many songs before them and I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Overall the night was a success and even the dark lord, who made a surprise appearance, did not cause too much of a stir and thankfully no one gave up the hobbit, even at the after party.

(c) Sampsa Granström

One of the more lively undead at our, erm, hotel.

These kinds of events are always interesting, because you end up meeting people from exotic locations like Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Vaasa and Oulu and slightly less exotic, but equally perplexing ones like Turku and Tampere. These people are well… strange when you get right down to it and that is a singularly wonderful thing. They are proof that no matter where you go in this country, although the madness that affected us to study English takes many forms and it drives us toward different goals, the level of strangeness remains the same. For me it was my first NMES and I can’t wait for the next one, because it really was a wonderful way to burst the insular, albeit rather large, bubble that we seem to get trapped in in our own universities and student organizations. It was wonderful to see that when our paths cross gloriousness ensues.

Hanging on to the Corporate Ladder

(c) Susan Huotari

Autumn is here – a time for new beginnings. And what a wonderful time it is. Schools open their doors for a new semester, and welcome their reinforcement troops, freshmen, with open arms. Plans are made, extra-curricular activities are attended and – did I forget something? – ah yes, courses are completed. After all, the main objective is to graduate at some point. Time to get a haircut and a real job, as the saying goes. Eventually, you might want settle down, buy your own house and spend your holidays travelling. End of story? Maybe not…

So what if, let’s say a decade later, you find yourself at a crossroads, just like me. You are well nested in the corporate world, but you realise that you’re not done with studying and you want to do something totally different. It’s time for a change, a new beginning. However, this time it’s far more complicated. This time you’ve already got the nine-to-five job, a sufficient housing loan and to some extent (more than you would care to admit…) set in your ways. And of course, there are now other people to consider as well.

Admittedly, it’s not an easy task, but it’s also not an impossible one. Now the big question is do you have to quit your job if you intend to study? No, you don’t.

The most flexible options while working is Open University, which offers an impressive selection of subjects. It even opens the door to minor studies in subjects which otherwise would not be possible. Of course, they come with a price tag (except in the summer time) but if you’re working it’s not too big a sacrifice.

Employers also offer many options that allow their employees to personalise their work schedule, e.g. flex-time which allows you (within certain limits) to choose when you work, as long as you meet the total daily/weekly/monthly hours. Personal schedules can be agreed upon even beyond flex-time: full-time work can temporarily be turned into part-time work or you can take advantage of a study leave.

Although there are many options, it doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be straightforward… Juggling work and studies will put more than just artful tensions into your calendar. The best way to tackle them is to look at them as challenges, not as problems. Make the calendar your friend and not the enemy. Do I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day? Oh absolutely. I also wish I had the figure of a swimwear model and a million euros in my bank account, but I better not hold my breath while I wait.

On a more positive note, combining work and studies does have its advantages, too. Having spent so many years in corporate life has -in a positive way – left its traces on me. The ‘work-me’ has in a way become a part of my identity and the flow of working life the natural everyday rhythm that I feel comfortable with. This, however, was not always the case…

A lot has changed since my previous studies over a decade ago and not least in my attitude towards making an effort. Back then I felt that studying was just a necessary stop on the way to a degree and a “real” job. With a mind-set of that sort, it’s hard to believe that anything good would come out of it, but somehow it all worked out well and I got my degree.

I eventually ended up in software development and very soon after discovered what project work was all about. It’s a universal fact that anything project related is always limited: time, resources and information. You name it. Projects also have a nasty habit of overlapping. Yet amazing new products are developed all the time and seemingly impossible deadlines are met. It never seizes to astonish me.

But seriously speaking, a project is nothing more than meticulous management. A project is knowledge of what you’re aiming for and recognising the risks involved, making as detailed a plan as possible and constantly keeping track of progress. These are no tricks of the trade but simple tools that can be applied to anything, even studies. In a sense, a project plan is merely the working life equivalent of HOPS.

So in a sense the work-study combination is not really any different from what I’ve done on a daily basis for many years. The only difference is that this time it’s a project called University that overlaps with a project called Work, and the beauty of it is that I get to be the project manager. I’m convinced that they can even be beneficial to each other. While project Work goes about its business with a rhythm that readily reflects over to project University, project University gets to be the host the party and being is such a delightful host, makes project Work smile even when it might otherwise be feeling grumpy. Of course there are occasions when I hope I could skip a day (or two..) of Work, but for the moment I intend to keep a firm grip on the ladder.

Oh and in case you were wondering, I do sleep and I have social life…

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Freshman Haikus

BTSB has received leaked information on the results of the SUBlympics this orientation week! The freshmen were asked to compose double haikus, summing up their feelings of their first days as university students. Without further ado, here they are, these autumnal buds of poetic genius:

Everything is new
What the fuck is happening
The hell should I know

So many people
I can’t remember their names
Nothing more to say

We are so confused
Tired after the day’s walks
We just want to rest

Pants moist from the grass
The mighty Norpat rises
To a new challenge”

I am not yet drunk
Therefore asking me to write
A haiku is wrong

Confused as I was
I am sure our tutors will
Help me get wasted

Where the fuck am I
Is there anyone who cares
The tutors perhaps

The teachers perhaps
No, they just want to get drunk
But hey, so do I