Master's student Anna Huttunen: ‘Listening to others can help you listen to yourself’

Anna Huttunen felt welcomed and part of the community when she started her studies at Aalto University in 2018. Alongside her studies, Huttunen makes the voices of the student community heard and promotes student wellbeing in her roles as a tutor and wellbeing ambassador
Anna Huttunen
'The best thing about tutoring is meeting new people and making friends along the way,' says Anna Huttunen. Photo: Leevi Rönty

Who are you?

I am Anna Huttunen, a sixth-year student of applied physics and mathematics. Alongside my studies I have been an active volunteer for various causes in the Guild of Physics, for example as a tutor for new students. In March 2023, I started as a wellbeing ambassador in Aalto University's Oasis of Radical Wellbeing project.

How did you end up as a tutor?

I wanted other students to feel as welcome and respected as I did when I started my studies at Aalto. A welcoming environment makes it easier to start studying.

As a first-year student, I noticed that I and many of my peers felt like only the very top grades would suffice. My tutor at that time told me that for him, the pass-satisfactory and mid-range grades were good enough. I feel that it was important that someone said it out loud. Although it was difficult for me to grasp at that point. I have also wanted to be the person who can listen and discuss these things as well as promote awareness of one’s own wellbeing. Especially at the beginning of your studies, there can be a strong need to prove yourself. It is easy to feel that you are alone with your insecurities.

Over the years, I have been a tutor for Bachelor's and Master's students as well as exchange students. This semester will be my third time as a tutor for exchange students. Meeting and helping new students has always felt like my kind of a thing.

How did you become a wellbeing ambassador and what are your responsibilities?

I applied for the role because it seemed well aligned with the volunteer work I had been doing in my own guild. In the Guild of Physics, I was a part of the Fiilis team. There we, for example, created an interactive map for our guild magazine Kvantti’s website to help students find university and city services suited for different needs and situations. I also co-wrote an article for our magazine in which we interviewed other guild members about their mental health and wellbeing.

As a wellbeing ambassador, I am one of the links between students and the university. Wellbeing ambassadors are a part of the diverse team of people trying to improve the wellbeing of our community. This means we take part in wellbeing related projects, participate in university events and talk to students and staff. We communicate the wellbeing needs and concerns of the student community to Aalto’s decisionmakers. We also use social media to inform students about wellbeing courses and services, such as Personal Impact courses and how to book an appointment for a study psychologist. 

What have you learned about student wellbeing from your roles?

I learned about my own wellbeing by talking to older students - their experiences helped me understand my symptoms better and to seek help when I needed it. Due to these conversations, I wanted to talk about my own wellbeing challenges openly in the student community. I have found that many people can relate to my feelings. I’ve also realised how common and widespread the need for help really is. Some students need more free time into their daily lives, while others are thinking about going to therapy.

After writing the article for our guild magazine Kvantti, I received messages from students who needed support. I have gone for walks with some of the people with whom the article resonated to talk about my experiences and how Kela-assisted therapy works. It is important to have people in the student community you can talk to. At events, students have said that talking about wellbeing and informing people about services is very appreciated and important.

What would you like to say to other students about wellbeing?

When you feel well, studies also feel inspiring. It is a good indicator of your wellbeing. Studies should offer feelings of excitement, not feel like a constant struggle.

I hope that students will listen to their feelings. If the workload feels overwhelming, it’s okay to drop a course or skip a lecture. These kinds of choices help you with your studies. There should also be room in your calendar for just doing nothing. It's important to have time to eat a proper lunch and relax. You should also reserve time to do stuff just for fun. The most productive thing you can do is take care of yourself!

I would also like to encourage students to talk about their challenges and difficulties. It can feel scary to admit that a course topic feels challenging and ask for help, but it's worth it. That's why it's a good idea to work together – to encourage and help others. Even in group work, you can be open about needing more time for other tasks and say that you can be more involved later. Communicating and being open about things encourages people around you to do the same.

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