Licorice and lessons from Finland

Finland seems a lot like the salty black licorice it’s known for. A sweet candy at an initial glance. More complex and extreme once you look closely.

On one hand, Finland is known for its robust social welfare programs. On the other, it has a history of struggling to combat long-term homelessness. There’s the world’s top education system by certain measures, but also a history of recessions, economic turmoil and young professionals leaving.

There’s Finland’s role as arbitrator for world powers on the global stage, but then its compulsory army service for its own military protection. There was the bright promise of Nokia and then the reality of technology rapidly evolving. Even Finnish music swings along a spectrum of extremes – known both for folk music and heavy metal. Plus, of course, the weather and daylight.

Within these extremes are lessons to be learned. They provide a setting to explore what works and what doesn’t – and why. Plus, they can shed light on what others need to know if they attempt to replicate elsewhere. I hope to set myself up to dive into stories at the intersection of technology, business and inequality. And look at both issues and potential solutions.

I applied for this fellowship because it offers something special. Of course, there’s the obvious – the trip to a foreign country, the opportunity to experience a new culture, the chance to meet new people. But this fellowship also looks like it offers participants something truly unique: time. This isn’t a parachute-in and parachute-out operation. I hope to use this almost-monthlong fellowship as a chance to do more than just learn about a foreign place. I hope to live in, explore and question it. And do so alongside likeminded inquisitive journalists from across the world (who I’m very excited to meet!).

I’m a journalist living in Brooklyn, NY with experience covering business and education. My work has been published on-air and online for outlets including Marketplace, NPR, WBUR and Indiana Public Broadcasting. I’ve reported and produced work across the U.S., using storytelling to explore the human side of complex issues. I’m excited to translate this to an international stage.

When I was 13, I was lucky enough to visit Finland. My dad was a professor at the time. He’d often speak at conferences and visit universities. On this trip, our family travelled too. Here’s what I remember jumping out to my teen eyes: how every park or green space in Helsinki seemed to be covered by groups of punks (I think there was a festival happening…), how daylight lasted deep into the summer nights and how long the Finnish words were. Finnish sentences were three times longer than their English translations. And the words, full of symbols I never used, sounded like nothing I’d heard before.

Since then, I’ve been fascinated by Finland’s educational outcomes, their social welfare programs and Finnish punk and metal bands. Today, I’m thrilled at the chance to return for an in-depth exploration of Finnish society.

Peter - USA

Author: Peter - USA

Peter Balonon-Rosen is an accomplished early career journalist from New York, who has won national awards for his reporting. Peter’s an Associate Producer at Marketplace, a leading business news radio program by American Public Media. His work has been heard on National Public Radio stations (NPR), Marketplace, WBUR and Indiana Public Broadcasting. Besides identifying as an “audio guy”, Peter has experience with various media platforms: web writing, television work, photography and social media, in addition to podcasting and audio production. Twitter: @pbalonon_rosen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *