The FCP Alumni Edition 2019 was a blast!

We have had some time to recover from this year’s Foreign Correspondents’ Programme by now and it’s time to take a look at the eventful week we had with such a great group of journalists. We’re already missing them!

In this blog post, we are summing up the eventful week with summary from each day of the programme. After that we’ll reflect how well we tackled some of the week’s themes. Enjoy!

Start of the FCP in Ministry for Foreign Affairs and City of Espoo

FCP participant Fabienne conducting an interview with Ville Cantell, the Head of Unit for Europe and Neighbouring Areas Communications.

We started the week with introductions to some of the themes; we had in the programme this year, including Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU and Finland as the happiest country in the world. We spent the morning in Ministry for Foreign Affairs with our experts giving briefing about the before mentioned themes. At noon we had a lunch and a tour in TRE Salon where we learned about Finnish design and the upcoming Helsinki Design Week.

Then we headed to the Aalto University where we learned about City of Espoo and how sustainability is taken into account in the city’s and university’s strategies. The programme in Espoo was coordinated by Espoo’s Office for International Affairs. A visit to St1 DeepHeat was also included to the programme at the campus area, where we heard insight on the pioneering energy project where the company is drilling approximately 6.5 kilometers underground to produce energy with geothermal heat.

In the evening, we took a boat and headed to Espoo archipelago to beautiful Island of Pentala, which has an archipelago museum. After a tour, we concluded the evening with a dinner in the Restaurant Paven. A great start for a great week!

The FCP 2019 group at the Pentala Island.

A day with University of Helsinki

On Tuesday, we had programme coordinated by University of Helsinki and we started the day from City Centre Campus’ Think Corner where we further discussed about Finnish happiness and Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU with university’s top researchers. We also received insight on populist movements in Finland and their shift towards open racism. Therefore, the happiest country in the world isn’t without its own political issues.

On the rooftop of Kumpula Campus. On the left, their weather radar.

In the afternoon, we headed to the Kumpula Campus where we learned about atmospheric research in relation to clean air, climate change and sustainability. We also heard interesting stories from scientists who conducted atmospheric research on Antarctica!

Helsinki Day

“Mr. President, welcome to the land of free press”, Editor-in-chief of Helsingin Sanomat, Kaius Niemi giving insight on the media freedom issues and campaigns surrounding them.

We started the day from Helsingin Sanomat, which is the biggest daily newspaper in Finland. We had discussions on future of news and media freedom with Editor-in-chief Kaius Niemi and managing editor Esa Mäkinen. It seemed that for many participants the insight from Helsingin Sanomat was valuable and they had lot of questions to ask.

After the morning, we had the rest of the day’s programme coordinated by Helsinki Marketing. First, we had a tour in Oodi Library, which is the new central library of Helsinki. Oodi is an architectural marvel and it’s reinventing the idea of library, as we know it. Instead of just borrowing books, you can practice your cooking skills or you can train with your band in studio there. The aim is to be the living room of the people, totally free of charge.

The stunning staircase of Oodi. Photo: Veronika Malá

We then continued the day to seaside district of Jätkäsaari where we were introduced to a new primary school, which is being built following the newest national curriculum. The school is following latest trends, as there is only limited amount of typical classrooms since most of the rooms are multipurpose spaces that can be adjusted to fit the ever-changing needs of teaching.

 

The school building was still under construction, hence the safety clothing.

After the school, we visited the New Children’s Hospital of Helsinki, which is designed, from children’s perspective. For example, there is no counters since children can’t usually see over them. In addition, every patient room has a bed if parents need to stay with their children. The main idea is to make the hospital visit as pleasant as possible for the children.

The New Children’s Hospital doesn’t have counters but service screens instead, that print out an avatar, which the medical personnel use to identify the patient based on the character of the avatar. Children get to choose their own avatar characters.

We spent the evening enjoying some of the programme of Helsinki Day and we had dinner in Ateljé Finne. Really eventful day with much focus on Finnish design and its utilization to make people’s life better. Happier.

Hybrid threats and free afternoon

On Thursday, we had lighter programme since our alumni needed time for conducting interviews during the FCP. However, we visited the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats during the morning. We learned about the practical work behind countering hybrid threats and we were able to get a clearer picture of the field. The centre isn’t full of secret agents but instead ordinary people who work with challenging topics in cooperation with EU and NATO.

During the afternoon, our alumni did interviews, toured the city, and gathered energy for the hectic programme of Friday that was yet to come!

Åland Islands and the last day of the programme

This was the beginning of the finale of the programme! We travelled to Mariehamn, which is the capital of the neutral and demilitarized Åland Islands situated in middle of Finland and Sweden. We had the day’s programme coordinated by Åland’s Office of Helsinki. We first visited the Åland’s self-government’s building where we learned about the historical background of the island’s status as autonomous province of Finland. We were also briefed about Åland’s strategies on taking sustainability in account.

In the session hall of Åland’s parliament.

We then proceeded to have lunch at restaurant Nautical with the representatives of the Åland government including their premier Katrin Sjögren. After insightful conversations and delicious lunch, we headed to the Åland Maritime Museum where one of the most iconic landmark of Åland the four masted barque named Pommern is located. We heard about the rich history of maritime lifestyle in Åland and toured the museum and Pommern.

Entering the landmark of Mariehamn, the Pommern.

After that we headed to the Åland Islands Peace Institute where we discussed about the possibilities and challenges Åland’s rare situation as neutral and demilitarized zone brings to regional politics. Interesting to learn that the institute can work on an international level to promote the Åland’s model as an option to other regional actors that are trying to solve issues concerning autonomy.

After the visit, we had time to be settled to our hotel and to explore the city of Marienham for a while until we had to leave to the island of Klobben for evening programme. The island is breathtakingly beautiful place with small fisherman’s houses and rocky nature. We enjoyed our last evening there together eating dinner and reminiscing the past week. After the dinner, we had time to enjoy the island’s sauna as well with refreshing swims in the sea between steams.

Island exploration.
Photo: Veronika Malá

Even the good things, like FCP 2019, will end at some point

On Saturday morning, we travelled back to Helsinki and the programme was coming to an end. Some participants stayed at the airport since they had flights departing back home after just few hours. Most of the participants still stayed for a night and enjoyed Finland just a bit longer.

The week we had was hectic but we had so much fun too. The programme was comprehensive package including phenomenons that are relevant in Finnish society now. Our themes circled around happiness, sustainability and Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. We learned a lot about each theme and hopefully our participants have now a better grasp of the upcoming presidency and Finnish solutions to issues of sustainability.

We took a closer look at the reasons for Finland’s happiness and we found out multiple factors behind it. Ideally, the society tries to function so that people feel that they are a part of it, they feel valuable, and they have several possibilities in life. One way for everyone to feel valuable is to have a beautiful public building like Oodi built right into the center of Helsinki in the opposite of our parliament building. From the balcony of Oodi you’re at the same level as the parliament building.

Another way to bring happiness to people and to children, more specifically, is to build a children’s hospital with design philosophy of making, the often unpleasant, hospital trip more comfortable for children. Happy children will grow up as happy adults.

The Finnish happiness consists of many small pieces that complement the big puzzle together. Or maybe there is a more simple answer like us liking to go to sauna often or maybe the practice of everyman’s rights is the key? One can’t be certain but maybe our participants have made theories about Finnish happiness!

Our participants were an awesome bunch of people from ten different countries with ten different backgrounds. Their interest and affection towards Finland was clear to see and they were interested and well prepared for each place we visited. They also asked lot of precise questions, which only demonstrates their professionality!

The group dynamics worked smoothly and each of us learned a lot about different practices and cultural differences European countries have but also about the things that bring us closer together, like respect for media freedom, rule of law and democracy. It was truly a wonderful privilege to get know our fantastic FCP 2019 group!

Now it’s almost time to say goodbye and start the countdown for next year’s FCP 2020, but before that, we’ll be publishing blog posts from our participants where they reflect their experiences on the programme and perhaps share what they learned and which parts of the programme were especially memorable. So stay tuned until August!

Thank you for all the fantastic participants and all the programme organizers. You made the FCP Alumni Edition 2019 possible!

Kiitos FCP 2019!

 

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