A century at an academy for making a difference

Dear reader,

SYL was founded 97 years ago to take care of Finnish university students’ international relations. For decades, SYL representatives were responsible for international relations at, for example, the Versailles Peace Negotiations, to which Finland could not send an official observer due to having lost the war. Balancing between the propaganda machines of the East and the West during the Cold War era, the collapsing of the Eastern Bloc, and finally the significance of European collaboration when Finland became a member of the European Union, were also emphasized in SYL’s international relations.

In addition to international relations, SYL has also taken care of students’ well-being in Finland: the Finnish Student Health Service was founded to account for students’ health care back in the 1950s. SYL brought the concept of affordable student housing to Finland and supported local students’ unions in founding student housing foundations. The union was also one of the first Finnish actors involved in development cooperation.

The soon-to-be centenarian has many faces: since the administrative reform in the 1960s, the union board has changed yearly, and few people have been involved for more than two years. The employees of the union have also changed frequently. Hence, SYL has acted as an educator for at least hundreds of young and ambitious policymakers.

All SYL actors from different decades can probably attest to how marvellous the adventures that one got to experience while working for the union were, how quickly one needed to learn enormous amounts of information and how meaningful the relationships found through SYL were. What they learned at SYL helped many people find a job, a circle of friends and even a family. However, throughout the decades, the most important thing has been to work for the benefit of students, as a voice of the future in society.

When the union turns 100 in 2021, we will hear and see an unprecedented collection of stories born within the scope of the union. You can get a first taste of the centennial history book through this blog series. Join us on the expedition!

With enthusiasm,

Katri Korolainen

President of SYL alumni RA. & SYL100 team

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