From Cyprus to Finland: a one-week Erasmus+ staff exchange experience at AYY

The Coordinator of the Environmental Policy office of Cyprus University of Technology spent an Erasmus+ staff exchange week at AYY. What were the key learning points?
A sunny street view and one of the buildings of Cyprus University of Technology
One of the buildings of Cyprus University of Technology. Image credits: CUT.

Cyprus University of Technology is located in the heart of Limassol in Cyprus, an island where sunshine exists 300 days per year, placed in the southeast Mediterranean region. It is a publicly sponsored university launched in 2004, and currently has around 2 500 students, 420 staff members, 6 faculties, 13 departments and 7 administrative services. The six faculties consist of Engineering, Geotechnical, Environmental, Health, Arts, Media and Economic schools.

After a long period of failed motivation projects and opportunities in order to promote the engagement of Cyprus’s University of Technology students for the fight against climate change, I decided to use the Erasmus+ staff exchange program and visit a university whose students are already doing a lot regarding the climate emergency.

I used my contacts from International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) in order to find that university. Meri Löyttyniemi, Aalto University’s Senior Advisor in Sustainability, replied positively accepting this challenge. I met Meri at the 2014 ISCN conference, a very important milestone, which made my decision of going to Aalto easier. Meri introduced me to Rosa Väisänen, the International Affairs & Sustainability Specialist of Aalto University Student Union (AYY). I got confused. Why working with the student union? What is this? But of course, as always, I kept an open mind since in sustainability you need to.

And so this fantastic experience begun. AYY has a very long experience in student services from its founding, a decade ago. Its board consists of 10 student members who work for a year at the student union. These students are being elected by the 45 representatives (like the House of Representatives) that the 14 000 students of Aalto University get to elect. Members of the board are working along with the staff members and specialists of AYY in order to implement the current year’s goals. Students and staff are working together for the students’ wellbeing, the students’ gain of future skills and making sure that the university is keeping its promises! All these and much more, are written down as AYY’s policy which is annually revised.

Bike touring on the Otaniemi campus in autumn
A bike tour on the Otaniemi campus.

I arrived in Aalto to observe how climate change is being fought from student’s perspective. It didn’t need a lot to understand that by having the AYY on your side, everything is possible. Sustainability is a crucial subject for the students and whatever the students need, AYY is there to support. AYY is considering climate change mitigation a very important issue and that’s why a positive environmental impact is a major strategic goal. But it’s not only that that the student union is working on – among other things, AYY is also making sure that it can bring out the reflections and thoughts from students through tutoring. Yes, tutors are doing an amazing job in order to familiarise the first-year students with the campus and make sure that every concern or idea that the students might have, can be shared, promoted or even implemented around campus.

My time at AYY was one of my most productive experiences as a sustainability professional even though I needed a couple of days to wake myself up from that dream. I collected a lot of information and experiences to take back to Cyprus and try and implement just a couple of them. And I’ll use the rest as an inspiration!

Thank you AYY. Thank you Rosa. Thank you Meri. See you soon.

Andreas Dionyssiou

Coordinator, Environmental Policy Office, Cyprus University of Technology

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