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Embarking on a two-week study trip to Korea, our group of Aalto University students anticipated a deep dive into the entrepreneurial landscape of a vibrant and dynamic country. What we encountered was not only a stark contrast to our Nordic upbringing but also a profound revelation: the entrepreneurial mindset is not a fixed trait one is born with but rather a skill that can be cultivated and honed over time.

Embracing Risk: Contrasting Perspectives

One of the most noticeable differences we encountered between Korea and the Nordics was the approach toward risk-taking. In Nordic countries, there’s often a safety net provided by robust social welfare systems, fostering a culture where risk aversion is prevalent. Conversely, Korea’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is marked by a willingness to embrace risk as an inherent part of the entrepreneurial journey.

The entrepreneurial mindset is not a fixed trait, but rather a skill that can be honed over time.

Contrary to our expectations, we found that many Koreans, particularly the younger generation, exhibited a notable reluctance towards risk-taking. Our conversations with students and young professionals revealed a prevailing mindset focused on pursuing stable careers in established corporations rather than venturing into the uncertain world of entrepreneurship.

For many young Koreans, the path to success is often defined by years of dedication to climbing the corporate ladder. It’s a journey marked by hard work, long hours, and unwavering commitment to building a successful career. Only after years of experience and financial stability do some individuals feel comfortable taking the leap into entrepreneurship, viewing it as a natural progression rather than an inherent inclination.

Cultivating the Entrepreneurial Mindset

Our experiences in Korea underscored the importance of cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset, regardless of one’s background or upbringing. Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurship is not solely reserved for a select few but is rather a mindset characterized by traits such as resilience, adaptability, and a willingness to take calculated risks.

Throughout our journey, we had the opportunity to engage in workshops and discussions aimed at fostering an entrepreneurial mindset and multidisciplinarity. From design thinking sessions to immersive experiences with local startups, we learned that entrepreneurship is not just about starting a business but is rather a way of thinking and approaching challenges creatively.

Embracing Diversity: Multinational and Multidisciplinary Collaboration

In the bustling streets of Seoul, known for its intense work culture, there’s a striking balance between hard work and community engagement. Despite the long hours and late-night work sessions, Koreans make time for activities that strengthen community bonds, such as traditional Korean drinking games or shared cooking experiences centered around dishes like tteokbokki and kimchi jjim.

In the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship, diversity fosters innovation and creative problem-solving. Just as Koreans meticulously care for their skin, they approach collaboration with a profound respect for each team member’s unique strengths. During our time in Seoul, we witnessed the importance of multidisciplinary teamwork and the growing emphasis on embracing diversity. Engaging in socio-political discussions and exploring cultural traditions highlighted the enriching influence of diversity in every aspect of life. We were struck by the pride Koreans took in using their own platforms and solutions, indicative of their innovative spirit and dedication to excellence.

We witnessed the importance of multidisciplinary teamwork and embracing diversity.

Additionally, we noted the proactive support from the Korean government to startups, reflecting a commitment to fostering innovation through financial assistance, infrastructure development, and networking opportunities.

Personal Reflections

As we reflect on our two-week study trip to Korea, we’re reminded of the transformative power of experiential learning. Beyond the lectures and textbooks, our interactions with Korean entrepreneurs provided invaluable insights into the entrepreneurial journey. We’ve come to realize that the entrepreneurial mindset is not something you’re born with but rather something that can be built through exposure, experience, and continuous learning. As we continue on our entrepreneurial journeys, we’re grateful for having had the opportunity to explore the rich and dynamic landscape of Korean entrepreneurship.

In conclusion, our time in Seoul was not merely about businesses and entrepreneurship but about forging connections, embracing new experiences, and learning from each other’s cultures. From late-night work sessions to leisurely board game nights, every moment was an opportunity to collaborate, grow, and build lifelong memories together.

This post was written by two of our Aurora students who visited Seoul as a part of their program:

Sneha Saj is a cricket enthusiast and board game lover with a knack for solving puzzles who’s diving into the world of computer science. Currently exploring the startup scene through her studies and work, she dreams of flying or swimming with sea creatures with a superpower. Always ready for a game or a new challenge, she is navigating life’s adventures with a smile.

Saara Abdi is the CEO of Dash, a dynamic student-driven organization fostering collaboration and innovation across diverse academic domains. Passionate about merging design and entrepreneurship, she believes in using entrepreneurship as a catalyst for transformative change. Saara’s guiding principle is sustainability, driving decisions towards a brighter future for our planet and society.