What was life like for exchange students in the Student Village 20 years ago? Fellow students together in Turku to think back on their time together as students at the start of the millenium.
A lot has changed in two decades. Aitiopaikka, the Ikituuri high-rise, or Tyyssija with its gym and restaurants were nowhere to be seen in the Student Village back in 2003. The same goes for Fölläri bikes, let alone electric scooters. Even smartphones had not yet taken over our everyday lives like they would in the coming years.
However, at least one thing has remained unchanged. With each autumn, a large number of new tenants arrive in Student Village from different parts of Finland and the world. In autumn 2003, among the new arrivals were Greg from the United States and David and Enrique from Spain, who came to Turku as exchange students. In the Student Village, they got to know not only each other, but also Riia, a language student who worked as a tutor for international students.
This year, they and other fellow students from back then met in Turku after 20 years and reminisced about student life in the Student Village at the beginning of the millennium.
Cultural exchange in the shared kitchens
Finnish autumn weather can come as quite a shock to many international students when they first arrive. This also happened to David, who lived in building 12A. He says that he spent his first night in Finland sleeping wrapped only in a curtain.
After the chilly start, the atmosphere was warmed not only by a decent blanket, but also by a tight and multicultural exchange student community that quickly provided new friends. The community was also a great way to learn about other cultures – and not least in the form of food. The friends all fondly remember the evenings spent in the Student Village’s shared kitchens. At evening get-togethers, people took turns preparing dishes from America, Greece, Italy and Spain among other countries.
In addition to learning about the different countries’ food cultures, the evening meetings also introduced people to the traditional Finnish sauna and the Turku region. In the Student Village, everything was close by. Usually just a bike ride away.
“The Student Village was a great place to live, because you could find everything you needed right there. A convenience store, shared kitchens, saunas and, of course, other students,” recalls Greg.
From schoolmates to lifelong friends
An exchange lasting one academic year may seem like a fleeting moment, but it’s more than enough time to form lifelong friendships. This also happened to David, Greg, Enrique, and Riia, who still speak fondly of the exchange student community from way back.
“We were like one big family,” says Enrique, who has visited several of his fellow students in their home countries since his exchange year.
David also says that he kept in touch with his fellow students after the exchange. Former student friends can be found in Spain, Greece, Italy, Poland, Germany, and Finland – and some of them even attended David’s wedding. And now, even after 20 years, the friends say that being together is still just as easy and comfortable as it was in their student years. The Student Village and Turku may have changed, but the friendship remains.
“Life has taken everyone in different directions, but in the end the years haven’t changed anyone all that much. The conversation picked up from where we left off last time!”, Riia laughs.