Chances of finding an apartment as an exchange student are getting slimmer in Turku.
Most exchange students arriving to study at the University of Turku find roof over their heads from The Student Village Foundation of Turku (TYS) or from Retrodorm, an exchange student dormitory provided by the city of Turku. TYS has a total of 360 rooms for exchange students in two housing locations while Retrodorm fits a bit less than a 100 students.
That is far from enough for those around 800 students arriving to the four universities of Turku each autumn. For example all TYS apartments for exchange students were rented out already in mid-May.
IN PREVIOUS years TYS has had separate quotas for exchange students from each university. This has profited University of Turku, which – as the biggest university – had the biggest quotas. Now the exchange students apply on first-come, first-served basis.
“Quotas caused a lot of waiting for the applicants and extra e-mails for us while the apartments were empty”, says Janette Merisaari, Communication Coordinator from TYS.
Quotas gone and number of TYS flats down from past years 500 to 360 this autumn, University of Turku is struggling to ease the shortage and hoping for more furnished apartments for exchange students.
“Easier housing would benefit us a lot. It is a selling point when creating new partnerships with universities abroad”, says Liisa Järvinen, International Officer at the university.
But TYS has refused. The reason behind the decision is the disparity in the numbers of incoming exchange students between autumn and spring term.
For example this year only 193 exchange students chose the spring semester compared to those 306 starting this autumn in University of Turku. TYS could offer more apartments during the fall term, but then the flats would lie empty in the spring. That in turn would cost money to TYS and eventually for TYS tenants.
Simultaneously the University of Turku is unwilling to bear the financial burden of allocating more apartments to exchange students, a responsibility that now falls on TYS. Rather the university would like to see the influx of exchange students to even out between terms. A worthy goal, but a hard one to achieve.
SATU NURMI, the International Affairs Specialist in the Student Union of University of Turku (TYY), hopes to see more flats available for exchange students on the private rental market.
“Exchange students could live in a shared apartment or in an extra room of a detached house in order to get to know Finns better”, Nurmi suggests.
In future, the overall capacity of TYS is increasing due to new buildings in the Student Village. The 255 apartments of Aitiopaikka house are available from the beginning of 2019. During the same year starts the construction of Tyyssija house, which will accommodate further 200 students.
“Maybe when these [buildings] are ready we could also think about increasing the quota for exchange students”, says Manager of Housing Affairs Pirjo Lipponen-Vaitomaa from TYS.
At the moment she doesn’t see the expansion possible, as each autumn around 2 000 Finnish students applying for an apartment from TYS also have to look for a flat elsewhere.
What has been done to ease the housing issue?
The Student Village Foundation (TYS) has tried several methods to alleviate the apartment shortage:
• Some of the rooms were furnished with two beds. Only a few students chose to share their room in exchange for a smaller rent. The idea was dispensed with.
• It is possible to get a subtenant if the permanent tenant goes abroad. Neither this option has proven effective. As the responsibility of the apartment stays with the permanent tenant, only few have chosen to sublease.
• Permanent tenants can also put their contract on hold for the duration of their own exchange period so TYS can lease the apartment forward. However, tenants are not guaranteed to get the same exact apartment back, only similar apartment type from the same housing location.
Tuition fees do not encourage students from outside of EU and EEA countries to begin their studies at the University of Turku. (02/2018)
Difficulties remain in communication between the complex networks within UTU, the Student Union (TYY) and the international students. Tutors could play an important role in introducing the subject-specific organizations to the international students. (04/2017)
Emma Röntynen, first year folkloristics student at the University of Turku, collected stories from the Student Village for a practice thesis. She ended up with a good 45 tales. (01/2018)