In the first leg of UC2016, Urban challengers had to conquer perhaps the most dynamic and competitive city in the world, New York. Prior to the trip, the program was not revealed to us so we had to expect the unexpected. This was quickly realised as our first official task was to test our limits on the trapeze! As we pushed our limits flying in the air, it became clear that your true boundaries lie much further than you might think. Great things can be achieved when you are willing to leave your comfort zone.
While we had fun on the trapeze, our main goal in the Big Apple was to (1) experience the city as an urban environment and (2) learn what it takes to succeed in a tough market.
Urban exploration allowed us to see both the negative and positive aspects of urbanization. On the negative side, cars and asphalt roads have replaced traditional buildings and filled the city with noise while making it harder to relax and be in touch with nature. However, urbanization has also paved the way for something truly unique. For example, former elevated railway High line has been turned into a modern park where you can get away from the traffic and seize the day with your friends and family. Interestingly, High line has also sparked billion dollar investments to the area.
In addition to exploring the city by foot, we also learned important lessons during our company and consulate visits. Highlights included visiting the Brooklyn brewery, Facebook and Reaktor’s office along with an evening with the Consular General of Finland Manu Virtamo at his Manhattan home. One key takeaway from our visits was that the Finnish community in the US is there to provide support and networks for you and your business. You do not have start from scratch.
Our time in New York taught us that we are capable of much more than we thought, and that we need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Your 2016 Aalto Fellows
Alan, Antti, Eero, Mikko, Phuong, Samuli, Ville and Igor