In November, Lotta Leinonen from the Student Union of the University of Oulu (OYY) was elected President of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) for 2023. This year, Lotta was the chair of the OYY Board. What made Lotta interested in student activities, and what are her thoughts on the coming year? Read more about next year’s president!
Hi! I’m Lotta Leinonen from Mikkeli. I’m 24 and will be living until the end of the year in Oulu with my husband, Antti. I have a younger brother, and my mom and dad encouraged me to ski. I major in marketing at Oulu Business School, and I completed my bachelor’s degree in social media influencing the spring Finland was under the coronavirus pandemic. During my free time, I enjoy meeting friends and listening to podcasts.
How did you get interested in student activities?
I’ve always been active in many things, and the biggest spark for getting involved in student advocacy came when I was at upper secondary school. A little by chance, I became chair of the student body at my school and joined the Union of Upper Secondary School Students, where I met other young people interested in influencing. I met some amazing people and learned great ways to make a difference, and I was chosen for various positions of trust.
Once I got to university, I didn’t really know what avenues were available for these kinds of activities. Now, after five years, I can safely say that there was plenty to do. The Finanssi student association offered me a position to develop my skills and become closely associated with the faculty, and to see what happens behind the scenes in education. As part of the student union, I discovered how much influence students can have, and became part of university-level decision-making.
I am greatly honoured to be the SYL President next year, and I find it a great opportunity to apply the know-how and experience I have built up over the years.
What do you see as the biggest problems that higher education students currently face?
Students have had to manage in exceptional conditions for many years, and the outlook is worrying. A society that’s overly focused on achievement and competition also makes young people push themselves way too hard. Current problems relate specifically to income, mental health and availability of support. As long as a person doesn’t experience any unexpected setbacks, student life is on the whole great, but if you have problems and are finding it hard to cope, it takes a very long time to get any help. This should never be the case. Anyone needing help should be looked after well and given the support they need as early as possible.
What do you consider the students’ key targets in next year’s parliamentary elections?
Strengthening students’ livelihood are one of the key goals in the parliamentary elections. Steady income helps students study well and look after their mental wellbeing, as they don’t have to worry about money so much. Students must also be vocal about high-quality and free education. If we don’t stand up for these issues, who will?
A sustainable future is only possible with sustainable solutions, and we need them now. Students expect action to ensure a future that is sustainable ecologically, financially, socially and culturally. We need incentives to reduce harmful emissions and to stop loss of biodiversity.
What kinds of matters do you want to promote as SYL’s president for 2023?
I want to promote things that make life easier for students. Education is a large part of it, and a secure livelihood ensures a good student life. Also, the university community helps people get the most out of their student years. I want to bring the student field together to further our common goals. It is important for SYL and the student unions to stick together, and I want to inspire students to make a difference in the parliamentary elections. We are all needed!
Read more about SYL’s board for next year: SYL’s board for 2023 has been elected.