In November, Konstantin Kouzmitchev from Aalto University Student Union was elected President of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) for 2022. This year, Konsta has also acted as a member of SYL’s Board. What made Konsta get interested in student activities and what are his thoughts on the coming year? Read more about the President for 2022!
Hi! My name is Konsta Kouzmitchev, and I’m a 24-year-old student from Joensuu, Finland, with an immigrant background. I’m a fourth-year student of production economics at Aalto University, and in my free time, I enjoy a variety of racket sports, reading and spending time with friends.
How did you get interested in student activities?
I got the spark to get involved in active lobbying during my military service when I was part of the personnel of Ruotuväki, the official magazine of the Finnish Defence Forces. In Ruotuväki, I got to write news for all Finnish conscripts. During that time, I learnt tremendously about communications and the Finnish Defence Forces as a national influencer. After my military service, I started studying production economics and became active in lobbying in various sectors of the society. I got involved in both student activism as well as projects in the start-up world.
Since my first autumn as fresher, I have participated in a wide variety of really interesting projects: Aalto University Student Union’s Representative Council, lobbying for Aalto University’s production economics students in Europe and the Nordic countries, leading a Slush communications team consisting of volunteers as well as Wave Ventures, a private equity fund run by students. For the past year, I’ve acted as SYL’s board member responsible for international affairs.
Now, however, I’m about to take on the biggest challenge of my career in student activities as the future President of SYL. I’m so excited about that.
What do you see as the biggest challenges that university students are facing today?
University students are living in a constant state of uncertainty. In this rapidly-changing world, academic work is becoming fragmented, the environmental and climate crisis is deepening and the population is getting older. The state’s continuous need to make adjustments threaten the livelihood of students, and the capacity of our society worries people on both sides of the degrees. Then there’s the prolonged COVID pandemic, which has forced students to stay in their homes and taken away the communality related to being a student as well as the physical places to study. The uncertainty about forming a group of friends during studies and the future of teaching keep gnawing at the students.
This constant feeling of uncertainty takes a toll on students’ wellbeing and ability to cope. Over the past twenty years, the number of students suffering from mental health issues has increased significantly and the number of diagnoses has tripled. The pandemic has only accelerated this development, bringing its own challenges. Now the situation could already be called a mental health crisis.
A single student suffering from burnout is one too many. We must make sure that students stay well and remain able to cope.
What kinds of matters do you want to promote as SYL’s President for 2022?
As someone with an immigrant background, I’ve had good opportunities and I want to make life easier for everyone struggling with their own path. The student movement should offer everyone the opportunity to participate regardless of gender, age, origin, language skills, religion or other belief, opinion, health, disability or any other personal reason. By cherishing education and culture, following the principles of trilingual communication and providing a safer space for everyone, we will go a long way. SYL is a feminist, anti-racist organisation.
As a people-oriented leader, I firmly believe that genuine interaction with people is the main building block of trust. In this year of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, one priority has been to intensify efforts to unify the student movement. It’s only through close collaboration that our movement can be strong.
We need to take new initiatives and offer our own solutions, ones that meet the students’ needs. One of the initiatives that have been taken this year was the development of the Students at Risk scholarship system. It would help students who have fled their home country due to political persecution and violence come to Finland and complete their studies.
What are SYL’s key lobbying themes for next year?
Next year and in the coming years, permanent investments must be made in the wellbeing of students. Therapy must be guaranteed to everyone who needs it, training as a psychotherapist must be made free, and a sufficient number of study psychologists must be ensured. In addition to taking individual measures, we must address the structural problems related to students’ livelihood and pressure to complete their degree as quickly as possible. Moreover, sufficient funding must be made available for higher education, so that higher-education institutions can carry out their new tasks, such as promoting accessibility and digitalisation and increasing the number of starting places without compromising on quality.
We also need to speak out more and more about having fair generational policies. The student movement must require the decision-makers to take ambitious action on climate change, invest in mental health services for young people and make sustainable economic policy decisions. This will ensure that the society remains prosperous for future generations, as well. It’s the responsibility of the student movement to ensure that decision-makers hear the voice of the students. The decisions made now will affect us all even after our student days are over.
Read more about the board for next year: The SYL Board for 2022 has been elected