T minus 25 days!

Yinzer, sister, penny-pincher, and artist are just a few of the titles I have collected

throughout my life. My last name, Talvola, roughly translates to “table” in Italian but the truth is that I’m only one quarter Italian, and that’s from my mother’s side. My dad was adopted when he was a baby and was raised in a Finnish home – so I guess that makes me part Finnish too. I grew up just 40 minutes away from Pittsburgh in Beaver County, PA with my parents, two brothers, sister, dog, two cats, and guinea pig. I love drawing and painting and as of recent, I have been trying to improve my digital art skills by teaching myself Adobe Illustrator.

I figured the best way to put my art skills to practical use was in advertising so I decided to major in Marketing. I always knew that I wanted to use my love for art in my career but couldn’t quite commit to becoming an art major – so I went for the minor. While I knew I wanted to minor in art, I never anticipated my second minor – Japanese. Last summer I studied abroad in Japan and in preparation, I took a year of Japanese language classes. I had always been interested in Japanese art, architecture, and fashion, and I’m not a picky eater, so I made the choice to leave the country for the first time to study in Japan for the summer. Since studying abroad, I have fallen in love with Japanese culture, food, and fashion and decided to further my Japanese studies at Pitt. I have officially caught the travel bug and have plans to study in Bolivia during spring break, Ireland during the summer, and maybe even Italy in the fall!

Not unlike most college students, my journey to finding “my perfect career path” has been a little rocky. Originally I wanted to work in advertising in the creative department, but because Pitt does not offer any digital art classes (like using the Adobe suite), I got discouraged and started to explore other industries. That’s how I arrived at my first internship with Smallman Galley, a restaurant group based in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. I was attracted to the dynamism and creativity in the restaurant industry but ultimately felt that there wasn’t enough room for the type of hands on, creative marketing that I wanted to do. Now, I’ve come full circle and am considering pursuing a career in the advertising industry due to my current internship with Deeplocal, an advertising agency meets innovation studio meets robot-creating lab. I am absolutely in love with the freedom, flexibility, and creativity that their environment fosters. Though I had to do some bumping around, I think I’ve found a career path that suits my skills perfectly.

My interest in Bolivia is also another surprise to me. I first became interested in the program when I served as the community service chair for Pitt’s Society for International Business – I will be the first member of SIB to participate in this program! This is when my interest in service learning and international business really flourished. Through the Services Learning program, my team of roughly 10 students and myself will have the opportunity to work with a non-profit organization based in Cochabamba, Bolivia called CEOLI. As the older sister to my three siblings, I’ve always had a soft-spot for children. CEOLI is a program that tugs on my heart strings; they provide educational and physical care for children with physical and intellectual disabilities. Through art therapy and other programs, they are equipping these children and young adults with the skills to thrive in Bolivian society.

However, CEOLI’s mission has not been easy; this is where we are stepping in. We will be using our developing business skills to act as consultants to CEOLI to help them in creating a more stable and reliable business plan so that they may continue to provide the care and love that their students need. As part of their art therapy, CEOLI’s students have created thousands of hand-made greeting cards for every occasion and holiday. These cards serve as a creative outlet for the children to express their feelings and likes. Their numerous highly skilled adult artists who are “graduates” of the program also create beautiful, hand-painted cards. CEOLI has a powerful story and a powerful team of artists. Our goal is to provide them with a steady method of selling these cards to help them increase their revenues and overcome all of the barriers around them.

I feel very lucky to be one of the early groups to work with CEOLI as part of Pitt’s ten year commitment with them. Right now, we have the bare bones of a marketing plan together and a drive to learn from the staff around us and the children in Bolivia. I’m not sure what to expect of our time in Cochabamba but based off of last year’s group’s reactions, I’m sure there will be tears! In school, it’s easy to get swept up in the “simulation” mode – knowing that the projects we work on probably won’t make an impact outside of the school. That’s why I am excited about this program. Not only are we working with a real partner, we will get to meet them first hand, see the needs they have now, and the impact we can make in the future. I think that this program will not only make me a better, more thorough and adaptable marketer, but it will also make me more confident and realize the importance of my job. I think this class is interesting in that, at least in my opinion, this will be the first time in any of my college courses that someone else’s needs will be placed above my own. This is no longer a test to get a 4.0 but a chance to make an impact in someone else’s life. I’m excited to see the progress we make throughout the semester and I can’t wait to be in Bolivia! T minus 25 days!