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Pinja Helasuo, preparing for Wappu: We are in this together

According to physics student Pinja Helasuo, the most challenging thing in daily life during COVID-19 has been tolerating spending all the time in the same room. The Guild of Physics and Helasuo’s closest friends and family have helped her cope. Helasuo was also involved in launching the WappuApu fundraising campaign to prevent student loneliness.
Photo: Tuukka Mattlar.
Photo: Tuukka Mattlar.

Pinja Helasuo, how did you become a physics student, summer worker and fuksi captain?

At general upper secondary school, I was interested in finding out what makes things happen. I am a very curious person and I wanted to find answers to phenomena in the surrounding world, such as why glass is transparent. Physics lessons and exercises opened my eyes and expanded my understanding, and this has been strengthened during my university studies in physics. This is my third year studying physics as a major subject. My studies also include courses in mathematics and computer science.

In the summer, I will work again at the Aalto University Department of Applied Physics in the same project in which I completed my bachelor’s thesis. It integrates solar cells into textiles, and it is led by Janne Halme from the Aalto Department of Applied Physics. The project is implemented with textile designers from the Department of Design, in cooperation with partner companies.

I became involved with the Guild of Physics during my first year, and I have been actively volunteering there. For two years, I served as a secretary of the board of the Guild of Physics, and now, as a ‘fuksi’ captain, I am responsible for integrating first year students or ‘fuksis’. My post began in January last year and, as a fuksi captain, I am responsible for the tasks up until Wappu when my fuksis receive their Teekkari caps, the most honourable symbol of technology students.

What have been the highlights of your student years?

The student community in Otaniemi is amazing. The best thing about my experiences has been the chance to share them with friends. That’s why my own Wappu as a first-year student was so cool. Now, as a fuksi captain, it has been a great to coach the new students towards joining the culture of technology students or Teekkaris, and to share what I have been really impressed and excited about.

We had some success, for example, during the orientation week, when the fuksis had a campus tour with their own fuksi group. According to the feedback, it was a nice week and the fuksis found new friends to study with. Last autumn we also organised sitsit parties for small groups in various places connected by a live stream.

It is difficult to make new friends through remote connections, but we have succeeded in creating concepts that are pleasant to follow remotely. Examples of these include events similar to escape room games, and so-called proffa lunches organised in cooperation with the university, where the students have a chance to chat with the professors.

I was able to celebrate my first Wappu as a student in the traditional way, and now our second remote Wappu is approaching. People are getting a bit tired of the battle against coronavirus, but, on the other hand, I am involved in organising Wappu and really excited about what we have planned and done. Wappu is, however, a great community celebration in Otaniemi.

We will have various events throughout Wappu in order to get the fuksis to do things together and to create a sense of community. For example, in the Fuksipeijaiset competition, fuksis compete against other guilds and subject organisations. Of course, we will also have the Wappu magazines, the Jäynä Gala, a Wappu stream, the declaration of Wappu rowdiness and other events in the Wappu studio. Several events will also be organised at the Guild of Physics to brighten up our everyday life, such as a workshop for making Finnish mead or sima, and a remote Wappu dinner. However, Wappu is, first and foremost, a state of mind.

What has helped you cope in daily life during the times of Covid-19?

I have had a lot of spare time and I have slept well, but other significant changes in everyday life have been surprisingly tough. Social situations used to help me cope, and, for example, we used to go for walks during the lecture breaks. At the moment, there are not as many breaks to recharge my batteries during studying. My routines have changed and everyday life has become more burdensome, and it has been challenging for me to get things done. For example, I have not managed to complete courses in the same way as I did before Covid-19. The most challenging thing has been to tolerate spending all the time in the same room.

I have relied heavily on my closest friends and family during the times of coronavirus, and their importance has been emphasised. My roommate has become a very close friend. We have been in quarantine at home during each cold or flu, and it has been a very memorable time: together, things are less gloomy than when you are alone. I have also spent time with my boyfriend and his roommates.

The fact that I have now completed the most laborious course in the bachelor’s degree programme has also helped me cope. I am about to take some time off and focus on volunteer work and Wappu preparations. All this has inspired me and counterbalanced everything else. In addition, the increasing light has made things easier.

The year of coronavirus has been a year of growth for me. In the past, I have always just been moving forward. Now I have been forced to take a look at myself in the mirror and actively reflect on what helps me cope and what boosts my well-being.

WappuApu
Photo: Sara Salminen.

Our community has surprised me also during the times of Covid-19. As I was already a member of the board of the Guild of Physics, we naturally continued to work together. A thing that has helped me cope is that we have tried to manage the situation together as well as possible. This year has also been a time for learning. We have also managed to come up with new things; something that could not have been thought of if we did things in the traditional way. If you are forced to make changes, you may also end up carrying out worthwhile reforms.

Although, in principle, the situation with Covid-19 is challenging for everyone, it still manifests itself in different ways to different people. Some people may have a much tougher time than others. I have been concerned about the fact that everyone should have someone even in times of Covid-19. The Fuksi Committee wanted to do something concrete, and together with HelsinkiMissio we launched the WappuApu fundraising campaign to prevent loneliness amongst students. At first, we had a fundraising target of EUR 10 000, but after hundreds of donations, we have now raised the target to EUR 20 000. The fundraising campaign crystallises the idea that, although we are not physically together, we are in this situation together.

What do you expect from the future?

After Covid-19, I look forward to being able to spend time with people in a spontaneous manner. I can bump into acquaintances and hang out in the Guild room. On the other hand, I hope that when we return back to normal, everyone will get some attention. It is important that absolutely everyone can get their daily life back.

I am about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and hopefully head over to Munich, Germany, for an exchange year in the autumn. I am sure I will be back in Otaniemi for Wappu, though, because it is such an important celebration.

After my year as an exchange student, I will continue my master’s studies. I am particularly interested in renewable energy and the related solutions. I want to do something good in concrete terms, whether for the community or the world.

Further information:

Students’ WappuApu project fights loneliness among young people

Take part in the fundraising campaign at www.wappu.fi/apu

Wappustudio

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