안녕하세요, my name is Patricia and I am a Master student of International Business program at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. Frankfurt School and its partner university Hanyang University, gave me the opportunity to explore the beauty of one the most innovative countries in the world; South Korea.
“Why South Korea?”, has been a question that I was asked very frequently. I have always been a fan of Asia; its cultural delights, the tasty food and its economic development, astonishes me every time again. After the MIB’s Asia specialization my little love and huge interest for Asia only grew more. I can imagine, for my future career, to work closely with the Asian continent. However, I figured, if I really want to understand the “Asian way of doing business”, I need to “live” in Asia. After studying a semester about Chinese and Japanese culture and economic developments and exploring China during the MIB study trip, I decided to enrich my knowledge by spending a semester in another relatively unknown Asian country.
All packed and excited for what yet to come; I started my adventure in the end of February to my new home for four months, Seoul. Seoul is a ‘megacity’, with more than 10.5 Million inhabitants, a city that never sleeps, hence very harmonized and particularly safe (despite the 50 km distance to the North Korean boarder). Often has been said that Seoul is the city with the two extremes: ancient traditions and cultural heritage embedded between the most modern buildings and the most modern techniques (yes, free WiFi throughout the whole city) and a very modern subway system that brings you from the vibrant city-center within 20 minutes to the foot of a hill to enjoy the peace of nature.
Hanyang University, located in the center of Seoul, is in comparison to Frankfurt School a massive university. The size of its modern campuses is in no way inferior to what we know from the States, embedded in green lawns, flowerbeds and sport fields. With its 34.000 students and 23 faculties, Hanyang University received a well established reputation. The courses at the business school where taught in English by Korean professors with international backgrounds. The classes were mixed with international and Korean students which gave a lot of opportunities to learn about new cultures and working together in international project groups.
Throughout the semester I have learned that Korea knows many contradictions; I experienced a very cold winter and an extreme hot summer, it has the largest modern shopping malls but also picturesque markets where locals prefer to shop. And the Korean food is spicy but so delicious (and cheap), though Koreans would never say no to sweet pastries and Patbingsu (shaved ice). The people are extremely hardworking but whenever they have the opportunity they`re in for Noreabang (Karaoke).
Koreans are the most friendliest and warmest people I have ever met. Curious but respectful and reserved in the beginning. Once they found out that I was not a tall blonde monster, but just a student interested in Korea, you will gain friendships for the rest of your life. However, it is important to understand the concepts of community based cultures and the concept of losing face for a successful living in Asia. Therefore, the MIB Asia specialization was a good preparation for my time in Korea. It is advisable to dig into to Korean culture and is to learn some basic Korean especially since the older generation, the ones running local stores, don’t speak English.
Korea is amazing, its food, the people and its traditions are just beautiful. I am thankful for the opportunity to enrich my knowledge by experiencing new traditions and cultures, learn more about the “Asian way of living and doing business”, and meet new people. I can recommend a semester in Korea to everybody who is interested to learn another side of Asia.
Patricia Valstar – MIB class of 2015