Make me feel like I am home again: a qualitative study of student housing in the Greater Helsinki

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Product and Spatial Design
Student housing projects are of rising attention by scholars and designers alike; they seek to explore the considerable and strategic approaches to creating a home-like living environment for the university students. Similarly, this research focuses on the feeling of home under the headline of international university students’ living experiences in student housing in the Metropolitan area of Helsinki. “Home” is not necessarily a place; it can be synonymous with the feeling of rootedness, belonging, and integration. To the foreign residents, it may also be related to a variety of meanings because of their adaptivity to a new living environment. Through observations and interviews, the researcher explores the spatial, social, cultural, and organizational variables to understand whether, why, when, and how the feeling of home is achieved. This research engaged over sixty respondents by applying the methods of urban hitchhiking, semi-structured interview, graffiti wall, and behavioral mapping. Themes coded from relevant literature and design practices are the guidance of data collecting and qualitative analysis. The spatial design of the student housing is examined from the perspectives of facades, six types of floor plans, vertical circulations, rooms, and public facilities, which indicates less institutional characteristic but more open concepts is required. The narrative of international students’ life includes the length of residence, the establishment of friendship, the connection with communities in the neighborhood, and the process of studentification, which are analyzed in different geometric scale. The outcome of is presented with texts and illustrations to demonstrate how international students perceive the space in student housing and their attitudes on the non-spatial settings. Finally, four design implications are suggested for future practices to best meet the unique needs of international students making their home in a place that is not their home.
Kareoja, Pentti
Thesis advisor
Wu, Yiying
Kholina, Anna
student housing, the feeling of home, spatial design, international students' living experience