Meet our FCP 2018 participants!

August and the beginning of thisisFINLAND Foreign Correspondents’ Programme 2018 is getting closer. Now it is time to introduce our participants, who come from 16 countries all over the world, and can’t wait to explore Finland.

Thank you again to everyone who applied to the programme this year. It’s wonderful to know how many friends Finland has around the globe!

But now, take a closer look at this year’s participants. From tomorrow on we’ll publish their writings about their expectations of the forthcoming 3-week visit to Finland.

Siyu Lei – China


Siyu Lei is born and raised in Zhengzhou, China. For the past two years she has worked in the development and digital communication sectors in Yangon, Myanmar. This experience has propelled her to focus on the emerging countries and find out how they can be better off by being more informed and connected.

With an academic background in journalism and economics, she has found herself working for established media outlets like NPR and Dow Jones, with what she sees and does daily in Southeast Asia and beyond. In August 2018, she will be joining her fellow Schwarzman Scholars at Tsinghua University in Beijing to further her studies in international affairs. Any free time she has is spent on the Mandarin feminism podcast she founded, which has mounted more than 10 000 subscribers and 500 000 downloads.

Luísa Ferreira dos Santos – Brazil


Luísa Ferreira is a journalist and copywriter from Recife, a coastal city in Brazil known for its vibrant culture and for harboring an important tech hub. She currently works as a freelancer and writes for her own blog, Janelas Abertas (Open Windows), where she shares tips on travel and exchange programmes and talks about the transformative power of getting to know different cultures. Although her main focus is on travel related stories, she has covered wide variety of topics in her articles for different media. She’s planning to write a book as well.

Luísa has very energetic and lively personality and an entrepreneurial mind. She goes after what she wants and she’s not afraid of challenges. In addition to Brazil she has studied in Argentina, Spain, France and Hungary. On top of that she has visited at least 27 different countries. Luísa is passionate about human rights, innovation and education, and is eager to discover what makes Finland stand out with such great accomplishments in these fields.

María Isabel Ortiz Fonnegra – Colombia


María Isabel Ortiz Fonnegra is a 23-year-old journalist currently working at the daily newspaper El Tiempo  in Colombia. She lives in Bogotá, the capital of the country. Originally she comes from Medellín, the second most important city in Colombia.

María Isabel chose journalism as her profession because of her love for reading, writing and stories. Languages have always been one of her favourite hobbies. This has allowed her to approach and work with exciting stories that happen outside the borders of Colombia. She speaks fluent Spanish and English, and can understand and speak French a little.

Other activities that she enjoys are baking, which off course leads to the fact that she loves eating and trying new things. She also enjoys walking, sightseeing, practicing origami and dancing.

Moustafa Daly – Egypt


Moustafa Daly is a journalist pursuing his dream to give a voice to the ones who are normally left unheard. Moustafa works as an Editor and Senior Writer at an English-speaking online magazine Cairo Scene. This magazine is known for covering controversial topics which are generally kept quiet in the Egyptian society.

Moustafa is very excited about the opportunity to participate the Foreign Correspondents’ Programme and travel to to Finland. He admires the freedom and equality in Finland and is eager to learn more about the Finnish society. He is also looking forward to meet other journalists from all over the world.

Sadia Akhtar – India


Sadia Akhtar is a multimedia journalist from New Delhi. As a correspondent with Hindustan Times, Sadia reports about politics, education and heritage. She has written about issues ranging from womens’ and childrens’ rights to refugees and social justice. Having worked with different news media, she can tell stories using text, photos, video and data.

Sadia strives to practice journalism that helps to build empathy and understanding. She has also directed a documentary about Tibetan refugees in India.  A quizzer at heart, she constantly endeavours to explore new places. Sadia has previously worked with CNN News18 and India Today. She has studied at Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi and Sciences Po in Paris.

Arisa Ido – Japan

Arisa Ido writes and edits articles for Huffington Post Japan, where she has worked since 2016. She has started a project called “Ladies Be Open” where women’s health issues are openly talked about. Arisa felt that Japanese working women often feel embarrassed to discuss personal issues, such as heavy period pain, at work and are made to just hide and endure them. “Ladies Be Open” was so successful that it became the first “original category” for HuffPost Japan.

Arisa spent 9 years of her childhood in Indonesia due to her father’s work, and so speaks English like a native. She has always been immersed in diverse cultural environment, and knows by experience that “diversity makes a richer society”. She looks forward to travel to Finland in August, and to learn more about how Finns are coping with women issues and time management among other things. “Finland is seen as a ‘Dream Land’ in Japan,” Arisa says. “I would like to see beyond that, what kind of communication Finns take to make their life fruitful in their daily life.”

George Maringa – Kenya


George Maringa is a Reporter at KTN News Kenya, East Africa’s only 24 hour news channel. He is the network’s first ever reporter based in Meru County.

George believes in defending public interest at all costs. He is passionate about minorities’ rights and has reported on the Ethiopian Refugee crisis in the North Eastern border town of Kenya, Moyale. George studied at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology for his undergraduate degree. Here, he honed his bilingual (English and Swahili) reporting skills.

Apart from journalism, he is keen on his musical talent. If he is not chasing a story, you’ll find him singing in the choir. He hopes to tell African stories on a more international platform and he looks forward to being a lifelong friend of Finland!

Jeongsoo Hong – Korea


Jeongsoo Hong has been working for Donga-ilbo, one of the biggest newspaper companies in Korea, for 5 years already and at the moment she’s covering the Korean national assembly.

She has always been interested in nature, people, lifestyle and social structure of Northern European countries. Education and the increasing gap between the rich and the poor are the two biggest social problems in Korea and in these topics the Finnish way of life is considered a good model.

Jeongsoo wants to learn as much as she can from the program, but if she has to narrow it down, her main interest would be: happiness of both children and parents, ways to reduce the income gap and how to keep the environment green. She hopes that she can get some good ideas for the Korean government and society to solve these problems together.

Luna Safwan – Lebanon


Luna Safwan is a 27-year-old Lebanese Communication Specialist. She has a degree in journalism and print media and is pursuing her studies in the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik to obtain an MA degree in criminology. Her stories are featured in Syria Deeply, Vice Arabia and SMEX.

Luna has a good network in various fields, especially since she has covered human rights in the MENA region for London based Telegraph. Last year she participated an exchange program in Sweden focusing on human rights.

Luna’s dominant characteristic is her optimism. She is equipped with a highly curious and investigative mind.

Mariana Limón Rugerio- Mexico


Mariana Limón Rugerio is a Mexico City-based journalist and currently works for the Chilango, covering a wide range of topics in both print and online editions of the magazine.

Mariana graduated as journalist in 2016 from Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. She has three more years of working experience in media, including print and digital media, as well as audiovisual journalism. Before joining the Chilango magazine, Mariana worked as a content editor for Cyan Media Lab/Código Magenta, a media company specialized in audiovisual narratives, and as a freelance writer for Life & Style magazine.

Mariana’s interests cover various themes from social, political and economic affairs to lifestyle and culture. To Mariana “Finland is an inspiring country; with happy citizens and a great quality of life”.

Bilkis Olushola Lawal – Nigeria


Bilkis Olushola Lawal is a Lagos-based freelance journalist at the beginning of her career. Shola has prior experience in a variety of different media. She has published in international magazines such as Latterly Magazine and worked as a video and content producer for Zikoko online platform. She has good working skills in multimedia environment. Shola holds a Master’s degree on Mass Communication from University of Lagos.

Main interest for Shola is social justice. She believes in the power of journalism in raising up issues that would have otherwise been left unheard. During her visit to Finland she hopes to get a good understanding of the Finnish school system as well as to get a chance to meet some of the Nigerian football players in Finland.

Nicolás Monteverde – Peru


Nicolas Monteverde is a Peruvian journalist and freelance photographer. Nicolas has a personal concern and real motivation to do something for the environmental pollution. Nicolás works as a freelance photographer and journalist for the digital online travel and environment magazine Rumbos which is very well known in Peru. He has done different volunteer works related to environmental problems.

As a photographer, Nicolás has won the first prize in the International Students Photo contest “My Vison on Sustainable Development Goals”, organized by the United Nations Information Center in Tokyo, Japan Foreign ministry, University of Sophia and Getty Images Japan (2016).

As a journalist, he won in June 2018 an honorable mention in a journalistic research contest, organized by the Embassy of Belgium in Lima, with a paper about coastal pollution in Lima and Callao.

Yunita Ong – Singapore


Yunita Ong is a property reporter at The Business Times, Singapore’s only business paper which has a daily reach of 94 000 on the web and in print. She has graduated with a Masters in Business and Economics Journalism at Columbia University in the City of New York in 2017, and magna cum laude from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s in journalism and economics.

Yunita is interested in issues around social inequality and gender empowerment. In her free time she enjoys yoga and HIIT, a good skincare routine and going to museums.

Kabelo Chabalala – South Africa


Kabelo Chabalala is a columnist for The Star and Pretoria News. He is also a preacher. By profession he is a journalist, and by occupation he is a Senior Layout Sub-Editor for Independent Media Group. Prior to that, he was an Advertising Specialist and Consultant at the Pretoria News.

Kabelo is also the founder of the Young Men Movement (#YMM), which does motivational talks under the theme #VillageBoyTalks.  Kabelo has obtained a Theology certificate at Johannesburg Bible College (JBC). He also has completed undergraduate degree in Journalism at Tshwane University of Technology.

In short, he is a philanthropist, columnist, motivational speaker, MC, preacher and journalist.

Kittidit Thanaditsuwan – Thailand


Kittidit Thanaditsuwan, 27, started working as a Foreign News Reporter and News Anchor at 24-hour news channel NationTV Thailand already five years ago, right after graduating from one of the top universities in Thailand. He produces and presents news and stories for two prime time television programs and shares them actively also on his personal social media accounts. At the moment he has more than three million total views and more than twelve thousand subscribers on his Youtube channel, and over twelve thousand followers on Twitter.

By joining Foreign Correspondents’ Programme, Kittidit thinks he’s getting a chance to explore many aspects of Finland, not only the bright side but also the challenges that the country is facing. For him, the clean environment, excellent education and welfare systems, gender equality, freedom of the press, creative economy and neutral position on the world stage make Finland an ideal country to look up to.

Peter Balonon-Rosen – USA


Peter Balonon-Rosen is an accomplished early career journalist from New York, who has won national awards for his reporting. Peter’s work can be heard on National Public Radio stations (NPR). He’s also an Associate Producer at Marketplace, a leading business news radio program by American Public Media.

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. Peter has visited Finland once before as a teenager, he remembers fondly traveling with family to Joensuu and to Savonlinna’s Opera Festival. He’s also spent six months in Senegal doing anthropological research across three languages. Participating in the Foreign Correspondents’ Programme aids him to widen his global scope of affairs as a journalist.

Finland’s society fascinates Peter, more specifically the Finnish education, business, music, technology and equity aspects. He’s keen to explore how Finland has developed from one of the poorest countries in Europe to a vibrant hub for tech companies and start-ups.

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