Now, don’t get me wrong. The National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) does not resemble a reality TV show (or at least not very often), but the values often heard from reality TV host Sami Kuronen were, in all their corniness, realised during my autumn at SYL.
Three months as a communications trainee at SYL just flew by. The orientation was comprehensive, and I was welcomed into the work community with open arms. Already during the first week, I felt like I belonged. We cried and (especially) laughed together.
As a work community, SYL is welcoming, and working there was educational. On many Sunday evenings, I was happy to start the new work week, even though commuting from Tampere to Helsinki by train at 7 am took a strict sleep schedule and loads of coffee.
I got the chance to take photos, write, publish content on social media and design the layout of communications materials. I learnt what kinds of processes are related to communicating on different campaigns and events, for example. There was never a dull moment at work, as the tasks were really varied. For example, I ended up arranging a General Assembly afterparty at a nightclub, picking up wine at Alko and inviting printing shops to tender. I also got to go on a trip to Brussels, meet new people from different student unions and attempt to break free from an escape room.
The best thing about SYL was definitely the fact that I was trusted like a colleague who had been working there for years. Throughout the internship, I was given a lot of responsibility, and everyone trusted me to get things done on time. SYL was also a workplace where everyone was interested in how the others were doing. In addition to learning about communications, which was the aim of the internship, I also gained a lot of experience in a good workplace culture.
Of course, SYL’s work was also greatly influenced by the current political climate and proposed changes affecting students. I was also offered the opportunity to participate in important discussions that were not necessarily directly related to my work. I never thought you could learn so much about student politics in three months.
During my time at SYL, I got a huge amount of information, met wonderful people and learnt new skills. I look back at my internship with gratitude and longing. But, as I heard many times during the autumn, ‘You can leave SYL, but SYL will never leave you.’