The superfast and colourful international sector

This blog post is the first part of a two-part blog series on the Board Meeting of the European Students’ Union, which was held in Malta 1–7.5.2017. The next blog post will explain the decisions that were made at the Board Meeting.


This picture was taken in Malta on 2 May. We had arrived at the Board Meeting of our umbrella organisation the European Students’ Union the previous day, which was May Day. Heading to the airport at 4 am was tough, because as student activists, we will naturally aim to stay close to students’ everyday lives, which includes taking part in lively May Day celebrations. But we love what we do, which helps even the most tired of party-goers to make a bit more of an effort. From the bar to McDonald’s, grab a few chicken nuggets, on with the cap and off we went to make decisions on the direction of our European umbrella organisation. I think this attitude describes the international sector perfectly. Sometimes this work requires physical effort and sacrifice. Sometimes you just have to be superfast and find the energy to keep going.


Struggling through breakfast after much too strong cocktails the night before, singing the Pippi Longstocking song after the roll call, tens of proposed amendments to political documents, endless profound discussions on education, equality and saving the world. All these things make me fall in love with international advocacy work again and again. Based on what gets posted on Instagram, you would be forgiven for thinking that these international trips are all fun and games – and we do have a lot of fun. But we also discuss extensive themes which have a major impact on us as students and our generation in general. Education has been made the most important theme of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which defines the European Union’s direction in relation to equality, educational equity and wellbeing. This is the result of persistent work, and would not have been achieved if the European student movement did not have a regular platform where we can meet and create joint guidelines. These guidelines are then promoted between meetings at the European Parliament, the Commission and the decision-making organs of the Bologna Process. That is what ESU does, and what SYL does in ESU.

A traditional Cultural night, which for Finland means reindeer meat, Fazer’s blue and mint booze!


It is unbelievable how a coalition of national student unions from over 40 countries can make decisions in such an efficient manner. The Board Meeting in Malta was also ESU’s 35th anniversary, and to celebrate there was an alumni event and a gala. One alumnus described really well what ESU actually is: “A surprisingly effective, ineffective union”. Even though the information regarding schedules is only provided at the very last minute, even though northern unions spend at least 40 minutes waiting for the southern unions before the meeting is quorate, and even though the debate sometimes gets very heated, everything always gets sorted out in the end and we part as friends after the meetings. This gives you hope in these times, when reactionary forces try to create physical and mental borders between people. In the end, people from different countries are not really that different; we all just want to create a better future for students.

Recovering from the BM took its toll, and when I got home I slept for 24 hours. It feels pretty empty to return to Finland after a Board Meeting week, and it takes a little while to remember that I no longer have to spend all my time in meeting rooms. But the homecoming anxiety is relieved by the knowledge that we will repeat it all in Israel in December!


Veera Alahuhta

SYL Board Member, International affairs and development cooperation


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