Finland joined Erasmus Student Network in 1993. Already before that some attempts were made to establish the first ESN section in Finland. For example, in the beginning of the 1990s National Union of Finnish Students organised a seminar where also Swedish advocate of ESN was invited. She did her best to make the student unions to join ESN at once. But at that time the general feeling towards the international organisations that were popping up in Europe was a bit sceptical.
The actual story started when the international secretary of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki, Teppo Heiskanen, got a phone call asking him to come to Maastricht for the Annual General Meeting in 1993. He was really impressed: people he met in Maastricht were doing exactly the same that they were trying to do in Helsinki.
In the end, the Board of the Student Union in Helsinki was convinced that ESN truly was a serious attempt to tackle the problems of growing student exchange and ESN HYY became the first Finnish section in 1993. Teppo Heiskanen was the first National Representative of Finland and already the next year, in 1994, Helsinki organised the AGM. As a curiosity it could be mentioned that the ESN logo used back then saw the daylight in the capital of Finland.
Helsinki immediately spread the good word, and soon other student organisations followed. Turku, Tampere and Vaasa were the next ones to join the network and the first unofficial National Platform was held in 1994. It was crucial for ESN’s success in Finland that it was the student unions that joined: the infrastructure and funds were there to be taken. In 1994 Finnish ESN actives organised so called ESN TEMPUS Tour to Baltic countries and Poland to establish good relations with student organisations in the Institutions of Higher Education. The same year ESN sections in Turku started a starting package service to provide international students with basic household equipment when they arrive. The same service continues still today and is one of the most appreciated services that the Student Union offers for incoming exchange students.
The number of the ESN sections has been going up steadily, to reach 15 sections in 2005. Finnish sections are geographically wide spread: five in Helsinki area, three in Turku, two in Tampere and the rest of the sections are in Vaasa, Oulu, Rovaniemi, Jyväskylä and Joensuu. Most of the Finnish ESN sections are part of their student unions working as international committees. Sections participate in national and international events on their own cost or with the financial support of their higher education institution or student union. Most of the sections operate closely not only with their student unions, but also with their institutions’ international student tutors. Recent changes in the Finnish university and student union structures have also affected some ESN sections. For example, couple of sections have changed their name and some have merged into one. Currently (2010), three Finnish sections have registered as legal associations.
Finnish sections vary in size and how they work but in general the ESNers all over the country organise sauna evenings, pub nights, sports, different kind of language activities, city races, parties and trips to Stockholm, Lapland, Tallinn and St Petersburg to name but a few things. On national level, Finnish sections cooperate mainly regionally but plans have been made to have more national cooperation.
During the years Finnish ESNers have actively participated in international events. For example, in 2002 when Nordic Network Meeting was organised in Estonia 25 participants out of 59 were from Finland. Annually, ESN Finland joins the Annual General Meeting and Northern European Platform with around 15-20 participants. Finnish sections have also taken part in ESN Sea Battle since fall 2008.
Even though the idea of creating a national level body in Finland was discussed already in the National Platform held in Helsinki 1999, it took almost ten years before it actually happened. As the network grew it became clear that National Board was needed to take over the domestic ESN responsibilities, to support the Finnish sections and to represent ESN in Finnish contexts.
During the years 2008-2009 a National Board working group was preparing the matter and writing statutes and standing orders for ESN Finland. The first official National Board was elected in the National Platform of spring 2009 organised at the Arctic Circle, in Rovaniemi. Since the beginning of year 2010 ESN Finland has been a registered legal association which members are the Finnish ESN sections. ESN Finland’s highest decision-making body is the National Platform which usually consists of one or two representatives from each section. Since the mid-90’s National Platforms have been organised at least twice a year.
For several years ESN Finland has been financially supported by the Centre of International Mobility, CIMO (National Agency). After the establishment of the National Board it has been possible to strengthen the Finnish network and carry out bigger projects. For example, ESN Overalls have made it easier for exchange students to participate in the Finnish student culture. The board seeks for new co-operation partners, promotes the benefits and international projects of ESN for the sections and develops the use of the different communication channels within the network.
Sections of ESN Finland spring 2012
National Representatives of ESN Finland
Finland’s Members of the International Board
National Board Working Group 2008-2009
National Board 2009-2010
National Board 2010-2011
National Board 2011-2012
National Board 2012 (transition board)
International Events hosted by Finland
History of National Platforms:
Compiled by Aino Henriksson and Laura Isomäki, November 2010.
Updated June 2012