Common factor: Concern over environment

The Climate Café network is expanding to Oulu, as two residents of Oulu worried about climate change want to create a safe and open community for everyone. In the meetings, topics such as climate change as well as other environmental and preoccupying issues are discussed. The aim is to come up with local solutions to […]

TEKSTI Marjut Lauronen

KUVAT Tuuli Heikura

The Climate Café network is expanding to Oulu, as two residents of Oulu worried about climate change want to create a safe and open community for everyone. In the meetings, topics such as climate change as well as other environmental and preoccupying issues are discussed. The aim is to come up with local solutions to challenges posed by climate change from a northern perspective.

A relaxed hustle and bustle fills the Paljetti café at the Cultural Centre Valve on a Thursday evening in October. Oulu’s first Climate Café, which is part of the Climate Café movement, has gathered at the Paljetti café to talk about climate, environment, and sustainable development. Although the meeting is the first of its kind, nearly thirty persons interested in the subject have arrived there to chat about the topics.

As a phenomenon, the roots of the Climate Cafés are in 2015 in Scotland where a public lecture on climate change provoked discussion among the locals. People wanted to talk more about the topic and the idea of a monthly discussion group started forming.

Over time, the Climate Café community grew and new sub branches of it were formed all over Scotland and the world. The same goal connects all of the Climate Cafés that are part of the movement: to create safe spaces for conversations where everyone gets to chat and act on things that are dear to them.

Petr Stepanek, one of the organizers of Oulu’s Climate Café, also thinks that the people’s desire to talk about climate-related topics is strong, but finding a suitable environment for such discussions can be challenging.

”Climate change affects us all and it raises a lot of questions and worries. Many would like to talk about these things but they might not have gotten a chance to share their thoughts”, Stepanek notes. ”Many also have the urge to influence and act on things but have no knowledge of how to do so.”


”Public discourse about climate change is also often very exaggerated”, mentions Veera Juntunen, one of the organizers. ”Open and shared discussion could prove that this doesn’t have to be the case.”

Stepanek and Juntunen accidentally ended up talking with each other after one public lecture at the end of summer. During the summer, Stepanek had thought of organizing Climate Café activities at Oulu but he was faced with a language issue: he would need the help of someone fluent in Finnish because a shared language would help to handle things on a large enough scale and with the proper sensitivity.

When people are discussing difficult and worry-inducing topics, many find it is easier to talk about them in their native language. The threshold for participating in the Climate Café activities would be lower for many thanks to the use of two languages. Stepanek and Juntunen got on the same page very quickly and decided to bring Climate Café to Oulu.

Stepanek and Juntunen are both researchers at the University of Oulu. Stepanek works as a post-doctoral researcher of chemical physics in the NMR research unit and he also studies environmental engineering. Juntunen is working on a doctoral thesis about the production of solar hydrogen. Outside of work they are united by the worry about climate change and its impact on our environment which is why they are organizing a Climate Café in their freetime as a shared discussion space for the residents of Oulu.

”Above all we want to create communality, not an academic bubble. We are organizing the Climate Café as private persons, not in connection with the university”, Juntunen says.

The idea of the Climate Café is simple: those interested in the issue meet once a month over a cup of tea – or a cup of coffee, as we are in Finland – to chat about matters relating to climate change and other environmental challenges.

The communality cherished by the Climate Café concept is visible in the very first meeting as everyone gets to introduce themselves in turns. The participants come from different backgrounds but they all are brought together by the same thing: worry over the climate and our environment. Discussions are held both in Finnish and English in the meetings.

There is no specific, readily planned programme for future meetings as they are built around the wishes and needs of the participants. Besides discussion groups, the meetings can also include workshops or visiting speakers.

In Scotland, the local Climate Cafés have already been noticed by the decision-makers. In the beginning of October, in their meeting, the Scottish Parliament discussed the local effectiveness of the Climate Cafés as they managed to encourage local residents to save electricity by collaborating with the Heat energy guidance project.

The end result was impressive. The project reached over 700 households which means the amount of saved electricity was outstanding. Does the Climate Café of Oulu have similar goals?

Stepanek and Juntunen also hope that the ideas that develop in the Climate Café could be implemented in practice. ”The ultimate idea of the Climate Café is to share thoughts and experiences”, Stepanek says.

”Oulu is a relatively large city and lots of professionals from different fields live here. We would like to have local experts with hands-on experience and insight on the topics at hand as our speakers.”

In fact, Stepanek and Juntunen want to highlight the northern outlook in the topics of the Climate Café. The Climate Café is meant to become a discussion space for the local community where ideas are expressed from the perspective of their own area, taking their needs into account. The goal is to find local solutions that mirror the experiences and wishes of the residents of Oulu.

When examining Oulu from the perspective of the northern climate, one of the changes caused by climate change is the increase in the rainfall in the future. Is the infrastructure of the city prepared for increasing rainfall? What’s the situation like outside of the city? Additionally, the issues with fast fashion and renewable energy provoke discussion also here in Finland. The organizers of the Climate Café are hoping to get experts to speak of these topics among other things, as well as of new topics that come up in the conversations.

When it comes to societal influencing and appealing to decision-makers, Stepanek and Juntunen emphasize that the Climate Café is politically unaffiliated. They want to maintain the meetings as spaces for discussion that are open for everyone. They don’t want to politicize the conversations that are had in the Climate Café but due to the nature of them, they might sometimes turn political. That is not the intention, however.

”The people coming to these meetings come here as professionals of their field, not as political figures. Apoliticism means the discussions remain open and welcoming for all participants”, says Stepanek.

You don’t have to be a professional of the field or know exactly what it is that you want to do to participate in the Climate Café. It’s also not mandatory to partake in the conversations: it’s enough that you are interested in the topic and want to listen to others’ experiences and ideas.

Stepanek and Juntunen encourage people to attend the meetings and just be themselves. Children are also welcome in the Climate Café. If you are unsure about participating, you can drop in without commitments and just feel out the atmosphere. To those who are thinking about what to bring up in the discussions of the Climate Café and to those who are thinking if they have anything to say, Stepanek and Juntunen say encouragingly: 

”Come as you are”.

The Climate Café gathers together once a month on Thursdays. More specific dates and locations can be found on the Climate Cafe Oulu Facebook page and on Instagram @climatecafeoulu.

Marjut Lauronen

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Kaukana kotoa

Vaihto-opintoja markkinoidaan yhtenä parhaista tavoista hankkia kansainvälistä kokemusta. Oulun yliopistossa on valittavana useita eri vaihto-ohjelmia sekä satoja eri korkeakouluja niin Euroopassa, Pohjois-ja Etelä-Amerikassa, Aasiassa kuin Oseaniassa. Millainen kokemus vaihtojakso on? Kysyimme asiaa kahdelta viime lukuvuonna vaihdossa olleelta opiskelijalta.  Pitkäaikaisen unelman täyttymys Oulun yliopistossa luokanopettajaksi opiskeleva Meri Jurvansuu oli 12-vuotias, kun hänen ystävänsä sisko oli palannut Australiasta […]

Vaihto-opintoja markkinoidaan yhtenä parhaista tavoista hankkia kansainvälistä kokemusta. Oulun yliopistossa on valittavana useita eri vaihto-ohjelmia sekä satoja eri korkeakouluja niin Euroopassa, Pohjois-ja Etelä-Amerikassa, Aasiassa kuin Oseaniassa. Millainen kokemus vaihtojakso on? Kysyimme asiaa kahdelta viime lukuvuonna vaihdossa olleelta opiskelijalta. 

Pitkäaikaisen unelman täyttymys

Oulun yliopistossa luokanopettajaksi opiskeleva Meri Jurvansuu oli 12-vuotias, kun hänen ystävänsä sisko oli palannut Australiasta ja kertoi kokemuksistaan upeasta ilmastosta, työskentelystä farmilla ja yleisesti vuodestaan maassa. Seitsemännellä luokalla nuori ilmoitti, että hän menee yliopistoon ja lähtee vaihtoon Australiaan. 

Helmikuussa 2023 tuo unelma toteutui, kun Jurvansuu laskeutui Melbourneen ja aloitti puolen vuoden vaihtojakson Melbournen yliopistossa. “Kaukovaihtoihin pitää hakea todella aikaisin, joten tiesin lähdöstä jo vuotta ennen itse vaihdon alkamista”, Jurvansuu kertoo. Kaukokohteisiin hakuprosessi on muutenkin erilainen kuin esimerkiksi Erasmus-vaihtoon. Valintakriteereinä käytetään akateemisia perusteluita vaihtoon hakeutumiselle, motivaatiota, opintomenestystä ja kielitaitoa. SoleMove-hakemuksen lisäksi valintaprosessiin kuuluu ryhmähaastattelu. “Hakuprosessi oli aika raskas, mutta se todellakin kannatti”, Jurvansuu palaa muistelemaan epävarmaa hakuaikaa. 

Jurvansuu palasi Australiasta heinäkuussa ja aloittaa nyt viimeisen vuoden opintojaan Oulun yliopistossa. Vajaan puolen vuoden vaihtojakso hidasti opintoja hieman, sillä hän ei pystynyt suorittamaan toista sivuainetta loppuun viime keväänä Australiasta. “Nyt minulla on vain hieman kirittävää tänä vuonna. Kyllä tässä joutuu töitä tekemään.” Valmistuminen ajallaan on kuitenkin edelleen mahdollista. “Ei minulla toisaalta ole myöskään kiire valmistua, jos työmäärä tuntuu liian suurelta”, hän lisää. 

Vaihto-opiskelu on eittämättä rikastava ja arvokas kokemus ihan vain jo kansainvälistymisen näkökulmasta. Jurvansuun mielestä kuitenkaan ainakaan hänen tutkinto-ohjelmassaan mahdollisuudesta ei kerrota tarpeeksi. Ystäviensä kanssa keskustellessa hän on huomannut, että tutkinto-ohjelmien välillä on huomattavasti eroja, kuinka paljon vaihtoon lähtemiseen kannustetaan. Hän toivoisi, että vaihto-opiskelun mahdollisuutta painotettaisiin enemmän heti opintojen alusta. 

Kulttuurikokemuksia

Vaikka Jurvansuu ei kokenut suurta kulttuurishokkia muuttaessaan yli 15 000 kilometrin päähän, oli esimerkiksi opiskelijan arki hyvin erilaista Melbournessa. “Opiskelu oli hyvin itsenäistä, kävin yliopistolla vain kahtena päivänä viikossa ja muut päivät tein itsekseni tehtäviä.” Myös opiskelijakulttuuri oli erilainen, esimerkiksi haalareita ei opiskelijoilla näe Australiassa. Yleensä opiskelijayhteisön tapahtumat olivat päiväsaikaan tapahtuvia, kuten piknikkejä tai kampuksella olevia tapahtumia, ja alkoholittomia. 

Melbournea pidetään Australian kulttuurin ja taiteen keskuksena, eikä turhaan.  “Melbournessa tapahtuu aina jotain. Usein lähdin vain kävelemään päämäärättömästi ja aina tuli jotain tapahtumia, kuten katutaidetta tai konsertteja eteen. Kaupungissa on myös paljon ilmaisia museoita.” Ilmaiset elämykset olivat opiskelijalle iso plussa, koska kaupunki on muuten melko kallis ja erityisesti asuminen on kallista Melbournessa. “Säästöjä kannattaa olla, jos lähtee Australiaan.”

Vaihto-opiskelussa toiseen kulttuuriin soluttautuessa altistuu vääjäämättä itselle uusille asioille, ja ainakin Jurvansuun oman kokemuksen mukaan se laajentaa maailmankatsomusta ja tietämystä kulttuureista. “Meille muodostui tiivis vaihtareista koostunut porukka, jossa hoksasimme, että meillä kaikilla oli eri uskonto. Opin enemmän uskonnoista tuona aikana kuin ikinä koulussa”, hän kertoo esimerkkinä. 

Oppeja ja itsevarmuutta

Vaihto-opintoihin asti sosiaalinen ja muiden seurasta nauttiva Jurvansuu oli vältellyt yksinoloa. Vaihdossa hänen täytyi opetella olemaan myös yksin. “En ole koskaan ollut noin paljon itsekseni kuin Melbournessa. Opin nauttimaan omasta seurastani ja yksin asioiden tekemisestä.” Hän kuitenkin kertoo, että tunsi olonsa välillä yksinäiseksi ja jos nyt saisi päättää, hän olisi valinnut ajalle kimppakämpän. “Ajattelin silloin, että minulla olisi epämukava olo asua tuntemattomien kanssa. Olisi kuitenkin ollut kiva, jos olisi ollut aina joku, jolle jutella.” Vaihtoaika opettikin arvostamaan läheisiä entistä enemmän. Hän lähes herkistyy puhuessaan, kuinka perheen ja ystävien merkitys korostui ja erossa vietetty aika sai tajuamaan, kuinka rakkaita ihmisiä hänellä on ympärillään. 

Alkuun Jurvansuu myös koki, että omaa persoonaa oli vaikea tuoda esille englanniksi. Puhelias ja sarkastiseen huumoriin tottunut huomasi, että vaikka hän puhui hyvin englantia, hän ei pystynyt reagoimaan keskusteluissa yhtä nopeasti ja nokkelasti kuin omalla äidinkielellään. “Aluksi ajattelin, että nyt kaikki luulevat, että olen ihan tylsä. Englanti kuitenkin parani todella paljon ja nopeasti, ja tämäkin helpottui vaihdon myötä”, Jurvansuu muistelee. 

Vaikka tuleva luokanopettaja ei lähtenyt vaihtoon niinkään akateemisen puolen vuoksi, merkittävimpiä asioita, joita hän otti vaihtovuodesta mukaansa, olivat akateemisten taitojen kehittyminen ja opintoihin panostaminen. Jurvansuu kertoo, että Australian korkeaan tasoon pyrkivä opiskelukulttuuri vaikutti häneen positiivisesti ja kannusti panostamaan kurssisuorituksiin. “Opin kirjoittamaan todella hyviä esseitä”, hän yksilöi. 

Vaihtoaika vahvisti Jurvansuun tahtoa hakeutua valmistumisen jälkeen vapaaehtoistöihin. Hän kokee, että uuteen hyppääminen ja toiselle puolelle muuttaminen toi rohkeutta ja varmuutta omasta identiteetistä. “Tuli varmuutta, että kyllä mä pärjään ja pystyn. Nyt kynnys lähteä uuteen ja tuntemattomaan on matalampi.” 

Jurvansuu kannustaa kaikkia lähtemään vaihtoon. “Se on niin rikastuttava kokemus tulevaisuuden, kielitaidon ja itsevarmuuden kannalta.” Hän myös muistuttaa, kuinka ainutlaatuinen mahdollisuus se on kokea uutta. “Ei samankaltaista mahdollisuutta välttämättä ikinä myöhemmin elämässä tule, se kannattaa todellakin hyödyntää.”


All about education

When Jian Lee, 32, decided to spend a year in France she had only one goal – getting a degree. Jian had come to Finland to get her Master’s in Marketing just under a year ago when she moved again to study the second part of her degree in Bourdeaux, France. The arrangement was included in her Master’s studies as a double degree program student. 

Double degree programs are available in Oulu Business School for a limited amount of students. In the program a student receives a Master’s degree from two universities having studied in both for one year. 

Lee knew the year in France would not be about getting experiences, travelling or other traditionally associated activities during one’s exchange year but full-on studying. “I wrote my thesis remotely and went to courses in France, it was quite hectic”, Lee explains. She would be completing her degree in Oulu Business School simultaneously with another tuition in France.

But she didn’t mind. Finland was already the international experience she had longed for. This was about education. 

Lee felt that the more European degrees she can get the better for employment. Now graduated Master of Science plans to stay in Finland and going to France was a milestone for achieving this goal. 

“I felt that having various degrees in European countries it might be easier to get a job. Some people may feel like they want to get the foreign experience but in my case it was different because I was already a foreigner in Finland. I needed a degree, a diploma.” 

Even though Lee went to Bordeaux with one sole purpose in mind, in time she realized there was more to take away from the journey. “I was really busy and swamped, but I tried to find small windows of periods of time to go out in the city. I enjoyed the small stuff.” She mentions the good food and wineries of Bordeaux. 

Set a purpose for why you are going there. It will help you keep yourself uplifted in times of doubt.

It’s not all sunshine and roses

Being in a melting pot of people with different backgrounds made Lee aware of the diversity issues she was confronted with on a daily basis. “Diversity was just a textbook concept for me, but after experiencing the negative and positive things I learned how to deal with and manage issues with diversity”, she explains.

Having to meet new people from all over the world was also the greatest gift. “I made many international friends.The study program offers a lot of opportunities to be mixed with people from different backgrounds from all over the world.”

She also feels that being around people from different cultures expands one’s perspective. “The more I experience different cultures the more I can think about the person instead of the culture”, Lee says. During that year she learned to focus on the people she meets instead of the culture they represent. Once she opened her mind it helped her to grow as a global citizen of the world. This lesson has stayed with her after returning to Finland. “I proved many stereotypes to be wrong.”

For anyone thinking about going to exchange or preparing to leave, Lee has two pieces of advice. “First, set a purpose for why you are going there. It will help you keep yourself uplifted in times of doubt. Second, be open. Don’t have too many stereotypes. Learning about the culture beforehand is wise, but too much prevents you from having smooth experiences.”

Tuuli Heikura

Oulun ylioppilaslehden päätoimittaja ja kauppatieteiden maisteri, joka nauttii syväluotaavista ilmiöjutuista, kuluttaa lenkkipolkuja kahden koiransa kanssa ja haaveilee mankelin omistamisesta.

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Volunteer work created a foundation for a career

When ukrainian-libanonian Viera Karam moved to Finland to study, she let the startup world in Oulu whisk her away. Soon, she was helping organize events and finally ended up for paid labour as an entrepreneurial advisor. The difference between the Finnish and Ukrainian entrepreneur worlds finally became clear to Viera Karam as she was talking […]

When ukrainian-libanonian Viera Karam moved to Finland to study, she let the startup world in Oulu whisk her away. Soon, she was helping organize events and finally ended up for paid labour as an entrepreneurial advisor.

The difference between the Finnish and Ukrainian entrepreneur worlds finally became clear to Viera Karam as she was talking with bathcoat-wearing startup-entrepreneurs at Polar Bear Pitching -event’s back areas. For two years, Karam was a volunteer at the competition in which one holds a sales pitch of their company from an ice hole for judges.

“One gets introduced to different entrepreneurs and events related to the startup culture even though one does not think that they can be executed this fancily. The Ukrainian business culture is more traditional. But honestly – in what other place do people do this?”

Karam moved from Ukraine to Finland in 2017 when she started her studies in the international master’s programme in Education and Globalisation. In Ukraine, she had graduated as a Bachelor of Linguistics. Soon after, volunteer work and Oulu’s startup world swept her with it.

Karam has been a volunteer, a host and an organizer in not just Polar Bear Pitching but also in Startup Refugees -organization and Oulu’s Startup Weekend. They have also given fond memories.

“I learned a lot, for instance, about what challenges refugees face when they come to Finland. Of course the people I’ve seen in the events have stayed in my mind. Some of them have become friends or colleagues.”

Viera Karam kuvattuna Oulun yliopiston Alumni-juttusarjaan.
Kuva: Janne-Pekka Manninen
Viera Karam, photographed for the University Of Oulu Alumni stories.
Photo: Janne-Pekka Manninen
Networks grow as a volunteer

The activity beyond studies eventually led to paid labour as an international advisor at BusinessOulu. For the past two years, Karam has helped immigrants develop their business ideas all the way into companies.

“I don’t think that I would have a career in Oulu were I not in volunteer work. Those times gave me a massive amount of contacts, and I met people who helped me at different stages of finding work. They could go through my applications or hint at free positions somewhere.”

The contacts are crucial for anyone starting their career, but they are especially vital for immigrants.

“Usually people have to start from scratch when they arrive in a new country. Most of the time one does not know anything other than maybe their own partner and their friend group.”

Karam thinks that volunteer work is a great way to develop personal networks in any type of field.

“I recommend volunteer work to anyone whether they are Finnish or a foreigner. I think that building networks is the most important part in addition to getting experience from it. The majority probably hope to get to a type of work that they can love. By experiencing different tasks, one finds out what they enjoy and don’t enjoy doing. Overall, life is important to experience.”

Organizations and startups could learn from each other

Education has been useful in creating a career even though the initial career path of linguist and educationist took a surprising turn. In BusinessOulu’s video series Karam tells how studying has prepared her with the skills to face people from different backgrounds and to listen to their stories. Each immigrant’s story is different.

Crossing personal boundaries and facing new worlds often causes something fruitful. Karam believes that university organizations and the startup world could learn something from each other.

“Universities benefit greatly from the fact that new talent constantly flows in and out. Fresh ideas emerge from this type of space. I hope that we can also create with startup entrepreneurs an environment where new faces and ideas are openly acknowledged. Student organizations could learn from startups and their fast adaptability to changes.”

Karam has continued volunteer work with refugees, especially so when Russia attacked Ukraine.

“I speak the same language with the Ukrainian refugees and understand them. It is good if they have available local support. We have just founded the Association of Ukrainians in Northern Ostrobothnia, and we continue the development of the Ukrainian community in the Oulu area.”

Karam is moving into new things – from company advisor for immigrants to a startup program coordinator. In the future, she focuses on the development of service structures of startup entrepreneurs.

“Of course I am still in the use of Ukrainians also as a service advisor.”

Karam can speak Finnish fluently. She has not yet gone into an ice hole.

“I once went from a summer sauna to swimming on the last day of the summer. So far that has been cold enough of an experience for me.”

*This text was originally published in Finnish on Oulun ylioppilaslehti issue 2/2023.

Original text by Maria Karuvuori, translation by Jere Laitinen
Pictures Oulun yliopisto / Janne-Pekka Manninen

Maria Karuvuori

Kulttuuriantropologian opiskelija, joka on koukussa uuden oppimiseen. Pitää uimisesta, hyvin ja välittäen kirjoitetusta tekstistä, pienistä taloista ja suurista ajatuksista, kasveista ja eläimistä, kapakoista ja koti-illoista sekä toisinaan eläväisistä keskusteluista.

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