1. Welcome to the world of multicultural student housing!
1.1. Multicultural student housing - say what?
Multicultural student housing means that students representing different cultures share the same dormitory flat or building. This guide tells about matters which has to do with multicultural student housing and also gives practical hints to people living under such circumstances. This guide does not give complete answers to all questions, but may ease understanding of the characteristics of multicultural living.
The basic starting-point for organising student housing is that the students can get a roof over their heads and living conditions of quality. This foundation has been well established in Finland. Foreign exchange students and post-gradual students are helped with flat hunting, since arranging for student housing from abroad is difficult. Finding apartments is often quite a jigsaw-puzzle, since exchange students in particular come to Finland for a short time and their residence may start and end at times differing from the normal rhythm based on the academic terms.
Since student life is a powerful uniting factor, living together might not necessarily mean a problem, although the flat would have tenants from several countries. This kind of living might in fact turn out to be a great enjoyment. The students get to know people from various parts of the world and their interesting customs. International friendships are formed, language profiencies are improved and multiculturality becomes an everyday thing.
1.2. Student housing in Finland
There are student housing communities in 19 different localities. They are of a various distance from the city centres and the teaching establishments.
The student flat is usually a so-called cell apartment, a flat shared between 2-3 students. Each has a room of his/her own with a lockable door and a shared kitchen and toilet/washing facilities. Some cities also have apartments where each tenant has a room of his/her own with personal toilet/washing facilities, but where the kitchen is shared among the tenants in an entire corridor or floor.
Especially during the beginning of the autumn term there is a shortage of student housing in Finland. At some localities exchange students have specific quotas for alotted housing rented by the teaching establishments from the student housing communities. In other localities exchange students take precedence over free apartments.
The neighbours in a dormitory can be either Finnish or foreign students. The majority of exchange students wish to live with Finnish students. Unfortunately this does not always happen, since exchange students may fill nearly all free furnished cell apartments in some localities. In these cases there is naturally no matter of choice if one truly is in the need of housing.
The neighbours in a cell can also be of rather different ages, as anyone studying at a teaching establishment following the ninth school year can live in student dormitories.
1.2.2. Lease contract, deposit, the equipment of the flat
The Act on Residental Leases governs flat renting in Finland. It binds both the landlord and the tenant. The lease contracts, deposits and regulations are based on the Act on Residental Leases, which can be viewed at http://www.finlex.fi/pdf/saadkaan/E9950481.PDF.
Tenancy begins on the first weekday of the month (although never on a Saturday) at 12:00. It would be good to notice this already upon arrival, as well as the opening hours of the student housing community. If you arrive outside business hours, during the evening or night-time, or before the first weekday of the month, you have to provide for the housing of that time yourself.
The lease contract is drafted for a calendar month; it is not possible to begin or to terminate in the middle of a month. It is worthwhile to draft the lease contract for a fixed-period if the termination date of the studies is known. Otherwise the lease has to be terminated in writing one calendar month prior to the last day of tenancy; in other words if you move out at the end of May, the lease has to be terminated during April..
The deposit is not intended as a payment for the last month´s rent, but is returned after the tenancy has ended, provided that the tenant has met with all his/her obligations towards the student housing community. The apartment has to be left well cleaned at the end of the lease. If it is unclean, the student housing community cleans it and the cleaning will be paid for from the deposit.
Apartments intended for foreign students generally have furniture and also often a mattress. The student has to get the linen and other textiles him/herself, as well as cooking and eating utensils. One cannot just loan the other tenants´ dishes either, at least not without their permission. In many localities, for instance the student unions deal out so-called starting packages for foreign exchange students in return to a slight compensation. It contains linen, drapes, cooking and eating utensils which already have often been recycled through a few exchange students. It is worthwhile to be active and find out beforehand how the apartment is furnished and to think about how to get the missing equipment.
Many student housing communities have direct internet connections installed in their apartments. You can bring your own computer, but it pays off to beforehand ask from the student housing community if it is possible to rent an apartment with internet access, as well as what it would cost.
Many student housing communities do not allow a move to another aparment if you only live for one term in a student apartment. The queues, especially during autumns, are usually fairly long for internal moves generally in all student housing communities, thus the move is unlikely to happen if the expected tenancy is shorter than one year.