The Ministry for Foreign Affairs FCP training programme for young journalists is in full swing, and will run through to the end of August. For the past week or so the programme participants have been getting to know not only Helsinki, but also Finnish society, culture and people. The Foreign Correspondents’ Programme has been organised annually since 1990.
The visiting journalists have an intense and diverse programme. They have already had a tour of the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE and the Ateneum Art Museum, and they have attended lectures on the ethics of journalism, Finnish history and customs. It has not gone unnoticed to the programme participants that, as is customary in the country, the timetables are accurate virtually to the minute.
“In my country, we don’t follow timetables as closely as you do here. When you get to visit other countries you soon learn how things are done differently from what you’re used to at home,” says Egyptian Hend Kortam.
More than 700 young journalists applied to the programme. Nineteen were selected to take part, each of them coming from a different country.
One of the 19 FCP participants is Spaniard Cristina Gallardo, for whom one of the main motives for applying was the chance to learn about a new culture. She also says it’s been a wonderful experience to see how well the diverse mix of journalists get along with one another.
“If you consider that we come from 19 different cultures, we’re obviously different in many ways, but at the same time we have a lot in common. It’s been very instructive,” she says.
Cristina was also keen to learn more about the Nordic countries, and the training programme provided an excellent opportunity to do just that.
“We do not know enough about the Nordic countries in Spain, yet there’s much in these societies that we could learn from,” she adds.
“One day I’d like to work as a foreign correspondent. After this programme I’ll know much more about Finland and I’ll also have contacts and networks I can use in my job. I could well come to Finland one day and work here as a correspondent.”
Hend Kortam says her experiences of the FCP programme and Finland have far exceeded his expectations. She’s also learned many things he could not even have imagined at the outset.
“One day we were given a tour of Marimekko. At first I didn’t quite understand the point of going to a design company, but looking back this visit really gave a lot of food for thought,” she says.
“It was fascinating to hear what kinds of stories lie behind such simple things as coffee mugs or napkins. I think Finnish people pay much attention to small details,” she continues.
Hend Kortam has also been impressed by the proximity of nature in Finland, both in the cityscape and in people’s everyday lives.
“There are so many lakes and forests here. I myself have lived in Cairo for five years and to me it’s wonderful to see that so many people live out in the countryside, surrounded by nature.”
“Wooden houses also offer an interesting insight into the way that people interpret nature in their everyday life,” she explains.
Turkish journalist Naim Yildiz is visiting Finland for the second time. These visits have left him with a very positive impression of the country.
“I’ve travelled quite a lot, so I’m not saying this just to be polite, but I really feel that I could stay on and live in Finland for some time. This is not something I have felt with other countries,” Naim explains.
In Helsinki, he says, both the present day and history are present at one and the same time:
“There is a lot of very traditional architecture, but at the same time modern shopping centres, for example, are an integral part of the city.”
Naim Yildiz says he has already learned and benefited a lot from the training programme, both in a professional and cultural sense.
“On Facebook I’ve been reporting back to family and friends in Turkey and told them about all the things I’ve seen and been doing here. I’m convinced that these experiences and all the things I’ve learned about Finland will stay with me and help me in my future job,” Naim says.
For the Ministry for Foreign Affairs the Foreign Correspondents’ Programme is above all an investment in Finland’s future media relations. If these young people who are now embarking on a career in journalism gain a positive experience and learn interesting things about Finland, this is certain to impact the way they view and portray our country over the next decades as professional correspondents.
“The costs of the whole training programme come to less than 3,000 euros per participant. That includes flights, accommodation, at least one meal a day as well as all costs associated with the actual programme,” says FCP coordinator, First Secretary Anna Yletyinen.
Part of this is explained by the fact that Ministry for Foreign Affairs partners sponsor the programme in many ways.
“For instance, Helsinki Region Transport has offered the participants free bus travel throughout Helsinki for the whole month, Finnair gave us a discount on the return flight tickets to Rovaniemi, and all the cities involved are also contributing to support the programme. We’ve also received generous support from many other partners,” Yletyinen says.
During their stay in Finland the FCP participants will receive introductions to Finnish journalism, the country’s political system, business and industry, high technology, cleantech knowhow, training and education, medicine, design and the arts.
Furthermore they will be making visits to Turku and Rovaniemi. They will also meet President Tarja Halonen, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja and Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb.
The programme also includes a one-day training work placement in the media sector and a weekend as a guest of a Finnish family.
It is obviously in the interest of society as a whole for people in other countries to have a positive impression of Finland and Finnish people.