The year was 2013.
It was not that long ago. The word millennial was already a thing and we spent a lot of our time in Finland checking for the wi-fi password to post something on Facebook.
It was not that long ago. Someone in our group had a Furla bag and we shopped at H&M on Aleksanterinkatu.
It was not that long ago. We talked about startups, we went to Flow Festival and brought home Angry Birds stuffed animals. The English news service of YLE was already a thing, by the way.
“It was not that long ago”, I keep thinking; specially when I notice how most of my FCP fellow participants have visited Finland way back in time than I have.
And yet, I can’t shake the feeling that even though only six years have passed since I was an FCP participant, so much has changed. In my life, to start with. My short-spanned journalism career got a boost after the program. Thanks to Finland, I am no longer an ill-fitted Sports writer. After I got home, I pitched an article to the Portuguese most respected newspaper, Expresso, on Finland and the European elections of 2014. That was the start of a new time writing about international news that led me to that newspaper full time and then to another one, more online-focused. Since then, I got to report from Greece, the UK, Thailand, Sweden, Abu Dhabi. Would I ever imagine that when I first landed in Helsinki back on that sunny August day in 2013? Never in a million times.
And that was not the only thing that changed. I look back and think about the friends I made during that summer. Their personal lives and their professional careers have also taken a turn, mostly for the best. And that is not the only thing: their countries have changed, deeply. I remember a series of dinners back at our student residence: the spicy rice, the borscht, the scotch. I think back on those who brought that food and drinks along and where they came from: Hend’s Egypt was in turmoil on that same summer; Anastasiya could not imagine how her Ukraine would change so dramatically, so soon; and Mark’s Britain had still three full years to go until Brexit.
It was not that long ago, but so much has changed in the meantime. So I can not wait to see and hear and feel what has changed in Finland in the meantime. The country to whom I have so much to be thankful for, as the Helsinki map on my living room wall attests to. I just hope the cloud berries are still as sweet as they tasted back on that magical summer of 2013.