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Football player Tim Väyrynen and basketball player Helmi Tulonen are among Aalto University’s URHEA students

‘Aalto University has supported us in combining professional sports and studies in accordance with the principles of Urhea.’
Football field / Jalkapallokenttä. Kuva: Aleksi Poutanen
Photo: Aalto University/Aleksi Poutanen

Footballer Tim Väyrynen is a third-year student at the School of Business, where he majors in Finance. Since February, he has lived in the capital of Liechtenstein, Vaduz, and represented FC Vaduz, which play in the Swiss second tier. Tim says that he very much enjoys life in the city. 

Basketball player Helmi Tulonen, on the other hand, is a second-year student of Energy and Environmental Technology at the School of Engineering. She plans to graduate as a Bachelor of Science in Technology in spring 2024. Last season, Helmi played basketball in the Italian Serie A in Lucca, Tuscany. Helmi is about to start her summer season with the national team, who are aiming for the Universiades, or the Olympic Games for university students, in China. 

Both Helmi and Tim are URHEA students at Aalto. Aalto has a partnership agreement with the Helsinki Metropolitan Area sports academy URHEA and is therefore committed to supporting the dual career of its URHEA students, i.e. the flexible combination of sports and studies.

Jalkapalloilija Tim Väyrynen
Tim Väyrynen

Urhea is part of the daily life of Helmi and Tim

Tim Väyrynen joined the Urhea team when he started studying at Aalto. ‘Urhea is really visible in my daily life. As a professional athlete, I haven’t been able to complete my studies on the recommended schedule, but thanks to my Urhea membership, among other things, the university has been very understanding and encouraged the reconciliation of my work and studies. A few weeks ago, for example, I was able to take a course exam here in Vaduz at the university. The Urhea membership also allowed me to choose my major only after the second year of studies, which made combining my studies with sport possible. Every Urhea member also gets a UniSport season pass for free, which is a great benefit.’

Helmi learned about Urhea already at the Mäkelänrinne Upper Secondary School, or ‘Märsky’, and she too has been a member of Urhea since her first days at Aalto. Urhea is present also in Helmi’s everyday life. 

‘I have completed almost all my studies remotely. I usually arrive in Finland just in time for the exam week of the fourth period and spend the last period in Finland. I wouldn’t be a university student without Urhea, which has allowed me to work more flexibly without compromising on standards. I also don’t know if I would be mentally able to just play anymore without the counterbalance of studying. In other words, I would be in a situation where I’d have to choose between studying and sport. I’d be very sad to make that choice, which is why I’m very grateful for the opportunities created by Urhea. I have also received valuable mental coaching and sports psychologist services from Urhea, which have helped me a lot in my basketball career.’ 

More information and understanding about Urhea

Tim Väyrynen feels that Urhea has done and is doing important work for athletes. ‘Of course, it’s always a good idea to look for new ways to support athletes even better and more diversely. Urhea has, however, made steady progress and hopefully the trend will continue.’  

Koripalloilija Helmi Tulonen. Kuva: Ville Vuorinen
Helmi Tulonen. Photo: Ville Vuorinen

Helmi Tulonen hopes that Urhea will become even better known at Aalto University and among its teachers. ‘There still seem to be people who aren't familiar with Urhea. It would also be great if you could do at least one of the ten calculation exercises in the math courses remotely. The pandemic showed that it can be done, after all. In general, there could be more opportunities for remote and hybrid learning.’ 

As a former HBA player (Helsinki Basketball Academy) Helmi hopes in particular that information about Urhea would reach the current girl basketball players at Märsky. HBA-Märskyis a basketball club founded in 2011 that consists of students from the Mäkelänrinne sports high school. ‘I myself played university basketball in the U.S. for a year, and as an 18-year-old, I thought it was my only opportunity for a university degree. When I took my matriculation examination in 2017, I didn’t know anything about the different possibilities of combining university studies and professional sports. I would like to tell from my own experience that, thanks to Urhea, it is possible to simultaneously study for a bachelor's degree and play as a professional in Europe's top leagues and do both to the full.’ 

Text: Terhi Ollikainen

***

Urhea, founded in 2003, is an official elite sports academy approved by the Finnish Olympic Committee that supports the training of athletes, helps them combine sports and studies and brings expert coaching services to the everyday life of athletes and their coaches. As a partner of Urhea since 2015, Aalto University is committed to supporting the flexible combination of sports and studying and to taking into account the challenges and special needs of sports careers, for example by helping students in scheduling and planning their studies. The Urhea working group at Aalto serves as a link between Aalto University, Urhea and students and develops Aalto's practices to enable dual careers for athletes.

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