Irina Subulica, at your service.  

The largest Finnish student paper Ylioppilaslehti has a columnist who does not write in Finnish but has a lot to say. The column, named “Subulica” after its writer, aims to bring together Finnish and international students.

Irina Subulica, 23, defines herself as a “Romanian degree student who loves reading politics as much as she loves reading Harry Potter.” An undergraduate student of political history at the University of Helsinki, Irina started writing her column in January 2009, after several years of lobbying for a column in English by the international student organisation Tsemppi.

Before coming to Finland three years ago, Irina studied politics in Romania. She ended up in “the promised land of free, high standard, tertiary education” for the most prosaic reasons. “I was dating a Finn at the time, so that got me looking into the University of Helsinki.”

Bridging a gap

Her experience of studying in Helsinki as an international student has been a constant oscillation between satisfaction and exasperation. As a columnist for the only English-language column in Ylioppilaslehti, Irina wants to show readers “how un-exotic the international student community actually is and how similar the things we expect from the University, the Union and student life in general are.”

In her first column Irina discussed how the international student community is very contained and segregated from its Finnish counterpart – a gap she wants to bridge in her column. “To me, this has always been primarily a column for international students. The Finnish students have the rest of the magazine to themselves. I do want the two groups to be able to see through the differences and relate more to one another.”

“Sneak peak” for Finnish students “


“There was one angry gentleman
with whom I had an exchange on
the website comment section on
whether international students
should be here or not.”

When they arrive, international students tend to stick together. The tutoring groups are separate for international and Finnish students. You will make your first friends in that group and then you will join groups and societies together. I joined the debating society as soon as I arrived, found a Russian friend from my tutoring group and then became really involved in that activity and social circle. It became harder for me to meet people outside of that group because I had already built a social base I was very happy and comfortable with.”

Though heavily involved in the university’s two biggest international student organisations – the Helsinki Debating Society and Tsemppi – Irina is aware that the column represents her views and is therefore not reflective of the international student community as a whole. The column was to be a “voice for international students and also offer a ‘sneak peak’ for Finnish students of how some view Finland.”

 Free and spontaneous

Veera Luoma-aho, editor-inchief of Ylioppilaslehti, has given Irina complete freedom including the content of the column. The content incorporates the interests of international and Finnish students alike.

Most of the feedback Irina received has been encouraging. “There was one angry gentleman with whom I had an exchange on the website comment section on whether international students should be here or not,” she says. “I do really love Finland, but I realise sometimes I can be quite critical. I never do it in a harsh or malicious manner and I just hope people understand that.”

Irina Subulica left Finland and Ylioppilaslehti in early June. She will now pursue postgraduate studies in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Oxford.


Ksenia Glebova