Oulun ylioppilaslehti 2016

International Degree Student Elected as Vice President of OYY

It has finally happened. History has been made as the first International Degree student ever has been elected Vice President of The Student Council of the Student Union of the University of Oulu (OYY) in September 2016. Sergei Kopytin, 26, originally from Pskov, Russia, graduated from Pskov State University as a teacher of English and German languages. At the moment he is doing his Master’s Degree at the University of Oulu in Learning, Education and Technology. We chatted with Sergei about the elections, student union activities, his views on internationalisation in Finland and his future plans.

TEKSTI Margarita Khartanovich

KUVAT Minna Koivunen

What were the main challenges in the process of being elected to this position?
We had to first find out if there are any legal obstacles which might prevent an international student like me from applying for this position, as it was the first case of such kind. We didn’t find any. My nomination will obviously influence some of the communication schemes inside the OYY office and bring at least a bit of English to some of the meetings which were only in Finnish previously.

How did you come across OYY and how did you get involved in its activities?
I started volunteering at OYY and attending the events like International Section right after I started my studies at the University of Oulu in 2014, thus I’ve been around for a while. Being the second ever international student in the OYY’s Council, I felt like I had a lot to contribute. In my humble opinion, the more diverse the backgrounds of people in the Council are, the better.

Will things change somehow for international students now that they have you as their representative?
I don’t see my new position as the main trigger for some brand new changes. My focus will remain on doing my job well and being as dedicated to it as I was before. I’m totally open for communication with any students – international or not – and I highly encourage them to get in touch with me if they have anything on their minds they want to share with me.

Why do you think you are the first international student ever in the OYY’s student council presidency?
I’m not the right person to ask this question. My colleagues were the ones voting. I think my background, experience and past actions had an influence. Plus you have to act and try. I applied in the best way I could, but without having any huge expectations. And it all worked out.

I definitely think the Council needs to have more international students aboard. However, it’s not about the quantity in this case, it’s about the quality of their participation. I’d like to encourage anyone who wants to get involved to apply for the Council in the future and not to be afraid of any challenges it might bring.

What will be the first thing you will do as Vice President?
We’ll keep on working as one team and will strive to improve things as much as we can until the end of the year. We have some plans in mind and we will do our best to have them all come to life.

What’s your opinion about the University of Oulu, its new strategy and the Joint Arctic Agenda?
I’ve loved the University of Oulu from day one. Its new strategy puts an emphasis on our background and location instead of putting it to the back burner, which I appreciate a lot. We have so many unique things to be proud of. It’s definitely a way for us to rightfully stand out.

I’d like to remind all the students that they can help their University to develop further and contribute to the success of the new strategy. If you feel you have some time on your hands you could dedicate to your University while improving your own CV, I highly encourage you to apply for the brand new Tellus Volunteering Programme. Together we can make our University and our city much more student-friendly and exciting to study and to live in.

What do you think about internationalisation in Finland? Is it just a buzzword or a real thing happening?
It’s a bit of both. It’s really happening, of course, and a lot of great people are working on it a lot. But sometimes I feel that the problem is that the international people themselves are talking about it way more than doing something to support and accelerate it. It would help if international students took more actions themselves instead of waiting for things to happen.

Most of the doors are already open, really – you just have to go out there and start contributing. I never really had problems being an international student here – not everything is available in English, of course, but it’s okay – we’re in Finland, after all, thus the omnipresence of the Finnish language makes a lot of sense, right?

Instead of blindly complaining, some people might just learn to adjust a bit and be more vocal about the challenges they are facing. The great people who are listening and who are ready to help you are always around.

Margarita Khartanovich

UUNI Editor, Master’s degree in Journalism (University of Tampere). Interested in politics, history, music, social issues and education. Twitter: @marthatcher

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