Blog Post 1: Trini Six Begins

I am currently a sophomore Marketing & Supply chain major pursuing a Certificate in Leadership & Ethics. In addition, I may attempt to complete the German minor in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences. My professional experiences many involve internships I have completed or am currently completing. Previously, I have been a graphic design intern for the Pittsburgh Folk Festival and MIC PGH. Through these experiences, I gained my first exposures to client work. I also learned how to operate in a professional work environment.  Now, I work as the gymnastics marketing intern for Pitt Athletics. Aside from that, I am also currently serving as the President of the university’s chapter of the professional business fraternity, Phi Gamma Nu.

In terms of the project, I am working on the CPLE Service Learning Project in Matelot, Trinidad. Our goal is to create an effective strategy for Matelot to prepare to enter the ecotourism industry. This is to be achieved through serving our clients Amizade and DORCAS Women’s Group. Currently, the community has a desire to enter the ecotourism business, but lacks the infrastructure required to do so. While this poses many different challenges, the main concern lies in creating an effective structure that would allow ecotourism to occur without disrupting the culture or environment. Sustainability serves as a key importance when approaching this project. We have mapped out this plan out through various objectives. First, we are to determine what exactly ecotourism means for Matelot, Trinidad because ecotourism is different depending on the environment. For example, what may be successful already in Tobago may not be transferable to Matelot. Following that, our goal is to determine what proper steps need to be taken in order to prepare Matelot for tourism. From our understanding by referencing the last year’s group results, Matelot does not currently have the infrastructure to support an ecotourism industry. Lastly, once these aspects are determined, we are going to make recommendations on how social media can be utilized to increase awareness of our main client Amizade in this specific location which consequently also promotes DORCAS Women’s Group and Matelot.

I decided to take this course because I believe it provides a unique opportunity to achieve massive personal growth while also getting to help others. I have always been interested in consulting and I believe this experience provided the perfect opportunity to get consulting experience. In addition, study abroad is an expensive endeavor but I realized this study abroad was truly possible through the generous scholarship. Also, the fact the program had a scholarship attached to it meant that the program was truly special and that I had to try to take advantage of the opportunity.

Working on this project will allow me to implement many of the concepts spoken about in class. This especially includes learning how to work with clients in a different cultural environment. I have had experience managing projects and client relationships domestically but I have never had to deal with the challenges that come with a different cultural setting. This requires one to really familiarize themselves with and understand the client’s cultural background in order to work effectively. Through familiarizing myself with the Culture Smart book and having the chance to speak with Danielle, who is from Trinidad, I think I have been able to familiarize myself with some main, common cultural differences. Of course, this is not going to fully prepare me for what I may experience, but I am confident in the fact that I will be able to adapt because I am not naïve to the fact that differences will be present.

Also since this project involves real clients that are investing their time and energy in us, clearly the stakes are high. This then means that it is vital for my team members and I to practice effective project management as outlined in the course. For example, if our communication falters, we risk failing to supply the client with the deliverables. I think our ability of satisfying the client really depends on how well our team is able to balance and utilize the ten characteristics of an effective project team that we extensively discussed in class. While all the characteristics are important, I think the idea of all the team members being motivational will be a big player in this experience. I’m sure at many points during this journey our team will be lost, but I think that really presents an opportunity for us to step up and learn how to persevere.

The cultural aspect of the trip I think will also have a profound effect on my personal growth. I hope to also, as they say, “expand my horizons” and allow myself to be open to different ways of life and ideas. Even though I have been abroad before, I have never been to a place quite like Matelot. The infrastructure will be greatly different from what I am accustomed to and this will, of course, create a challenge. It will force me to learn how to adapt to a new environment and not have the environment interfere with my work.  I think I also have the opportunity to become a better, more accepting person. To me personally, these things are very important to build upon.

Academically, as shown through study in the course, service learning is highly correlated with strong academic performance. From the case studies, it has been shown that participating in service learning can improve one’s GPA and likelihood of degree completion while also increasing the chances of pursuing a career in serving. To be honest, coming into this course, I was quite surprised by these benefits but am nonetheless grateful for them. Overall, this course and trip combined truly create a once in a lifetime experience. There are most definitely many benefits I am forgetting to list here right now. However, at the same time, I am sure there are many things I will grow from but will only realize once I return and complete the experience in its entirety.