How European do people feel in Las Palmas, Porto or Sankt Peterburg? How do the AEGEE antennae in these cities cope with living on the edge of Europe? In the fifth part of the series “Living on the edge of Europe”, Krista Kauhaniemi, President of AEGEE-Helsinki, reports from the Finnish capital.

AEGEE-Helsinki event1Golden Times: Let’s start with the basics: how many members do you have? And in what year was your antenna founded?
Krista Kauhaniemi: AEGEE-Helsinki was found in 1992, so we had an amazing 20th Anniversary Event last December. Last year we had around 70 members, of which twentysomething are active. So, we are quite a small antenna in European comparison though one of the biggest antennae in Northern Europe.

Golden Times: How European-minded are normal people and students in your city?
Krista: In Helsinki, I would say that most people are European-minded. When you go to the countryside of Finland, they might be less European-minded. However, Finland has been a part of EU for almost 20 years now and we take it quite for granted.

AEGEE-Helsinki krista
Krista Kauhaniemi

Golden Times: Is it hard to find members?
Krista: We have had problems in finding members since there are so many student activities and organizations available in Helsinki. In addition, many or most students have also a part-time job so they feel that they do not have enough time to be active in a student organization.

Golden Times: What do you tell potential members when they say: “AEGEE sounds nice, but all the events are far away…”
Krista (smiles): Well, at least for all of our current members that is only a positive thing! What would be a better reason to travel far away than an AEGEE event? Many of our members also like the fact that with AEGEE, they travel to places where they would not have gone otherwise. One example of this is the Agora Skopje in 2011.

Golden Times: Are there also positive aspects from your geographical location? If yes, which ones?
Krista: For sure! For example for people who come to our events from different parts of Europe, they find that Finland is actually quite exotic. Summer here combined with Finnish nature is quite amazing.

AEGEE-Helsinki event2Golden Times: How much does travelling cost to Central European locations, such as Munich or Vienna?
Krista: It depends on the dates and how early you book, but I personally have travelled Helsinki-Vienna-Helsinki for 130 Euros. A two-way flight to Munich does not usually exceed 200 Euros. It is all about timing, I think. Keep in mind that the only time-efficient way to travel from Finland to Central Europe is by plane.

Golden Times: Roughly how many foreign members are attending your events year year?
Krista: That is really hard to say. In Summer Universities there are around 35 foreigners and in other events the amount fluctuates a lot. In our anniversary event in December we had around 20 foreigners. In other words, we do not have problems in attracting people to our events even though Finland is considered to be far away.

AEGEE-Helsinki event4Golden Times: Did you cooperate in 2012 with other antennae and do you plan that for 2013 as well?
Krista: We have a tradition of doing a TSU with close antennae. In 2011, we co-operated with AEGEE-Sankt-Peterburg and AEGEE-Tallin, in 2012 with AEGEE-Tallin and this year our partner will be AEGEE-Kobenhavn.

Golden Times: Which international events are you planning for 2013?
Krista: Our Network Meeting is coming up in March, and of course our TSU in July. We have not planned autumn or winter events that much yet.

Golden Times: Do you sometimes wish your antenna was more central or do you enjoy being at the edge of Europe?
Krista: When it comes to weather, sometimes I really wish we were located in a southern part of Europe! But otherwise, no. We do not feel that we are left out of anything. Being in the edge of Europe is actually a strength for us when it comes to AEGEE events. We are so different from many other antennae. That makes us unique.