Around six hundred international exchange students arrived in Turku for the autumn term. The Turku Student Village Foundation didn’t have enough apartments for everyone, but thankfully local accommodation businesses came to the rescue. Now, around 26 exchange students are staying at Hotel Forum in Länsikeskus. There are also some international students at the Omena Hotel and Bore Hostel.
Jose Kanan from Mexico is one of the students staying in Hotel Forum. He is very pleased with his accommodation.
‘When I first arrived, there was just me and a couple of other exchange students here, so I thought that there would not be many of us. Since then, however, additional exchange students have been arriving every day, and now there are more than 20 of us,’ Jose says.
Forest trips and football
Austrian student Tobias Schramek is also enjoying his stay at Hotel Forum. He especially likes having the opportunity to take a sauna twice a week.
‘I was a little nervous at first; I thought I'd miss out on all the student activities because I don't live in a TYS apartment. But I'm surprised how many of us ended up staying here. So now I'm really happy.’
Belgian student Eskil Casteley takes the same view. He thinks that having his accommodation located a bit further from the centre of Turku offers many opportunities for leisure time activities.
‘Yesterday, we headed out into the forest – that wouldn't have been as easy if we lived close to the city centre. It's great to be close to nature. And there is also a football field here,’ he says with a smile.
‘We have bus cards, so it's easy to come and go. And there are supermarkets right nearby,’ Jose Kanan adds.
Plenty of space and even their own floor
The exchange students have the use of the whole third floor of the hotel. The students have their own rooms, then there is also a shared kitchen and lounge area. In addition, some exchange students have been accommodated on the second floor.
‘We have plenty of room here. People we know from the student apartments said that our kitchen is larger than their rooms,’ Eskil Casteley says with a laugh.
The students also have words of thanks for the hotel manager, Marko Virtanen, who they say has been very helpful.
‘He's very understanding. It’s not a problem if you want to change your room or change your departure date,’ the students say.
Exchange students are filling the coronavirus gap
According to Managing Director Marko Virtanen, most of the exchange students staying at the hotel have reserved accommodation for the whole autumn term. These long-term reservations have helped to fill the gap left by coronavirus.
‘We started in this building in February last year. We had just a month to calmly plan for the future, then came coronavirus and everything came to a halt. We started up our operations again in July this year, so the students arrived at a good time. They are staying at a lower price, but for a long time,’ Virtanen muses.
Working with international students is familiar to Virtanen from his own study days, when he was a tutor for international students at the Turku School of Economics and also the international rep for the student union.
‘Working with exchange students has not changed much in the last couple of decades. I like the way they bring more life to this place,’ Virtanen says with a smile.
Being understanding and setting rules
Life with the students has mostly gone smoothly. Their initial passion for partying has now somewhat subdued, and it’s possible to agree together on the rules.
‘It's important to be understanding about their situation, but I do intervene if things get too loud at night. Partying is part of student life, but the other customers must not be disturbed, of course,’ Virtanen summarises.
As a solution to this, Virtanen decided to create a lounge area for the students on the fourth floor of the building, where there are no other guests either directly above or below them.
‘This provides a space to hang out for students arriving back late and wanting to still stay up a bit longer,’ he explains.
Revisiting his youth
There have already been some amusing incidents. One student managed to forget to take their key with them to the sauna and so had to come down to the hotel reception in a towel and ask for help.
‘Thankfully, I was there at the time,’ Virtanen says with a laugh.
He hopes that new exchange students will stay at the hotel during the spring semester, after the current students have returned home.
‘It has been fun to get to know them. In a way, it has taken me back to my youth and my study years.