From Matelot, to Pitt, to Me: The Marquee Step for Global Learning

Hi everyone! My name is Donald Kerr and I am part of the group, coined the ‘Trini Six”, traveling to Trinidad over Spring Break. While I have been a tourist in 5 European countries and 1 in the Caribbean, I have never truly immersed myself into a community other than my own. By following my posts, I hope I can give you an insight into my experiences so you may be inspired to travel abroad and enjoy this new adventure in my life, along with me. As you read more about me, you will learn how my small-town world has changed since coming to Pitt Business and how working with Amizade in Matelot, Trinidad will change it even more.

I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, an area that embodied the characteristics of small and tightly-knit. I attended the same school and lived in the same bubble of a community up until I was 18. Other than Pitt, the only time I moved was to a family-sized home a quarter mile down the road. I grew up in a quaint neighborhood and attended the Tatnall School from K-12, which fittingly enough was secluded in the stretches of a private community. My entire high school had little more than 240 students and, because of this, I decided to broaden my horizons and apply to large, city-based Universities outside of my comfort zone; this is how I consequently ended up at Pitt Business, aka one of the best and most significant changes of my life.

Per academia, I am currently a Sophomore Finance major at the University of Pittsburgh, minoring in Economics and Legal Studies and pursuing a Certificate in Leadership and Ethics. Outside of the classroom, I am involved in the Pitt Business Review, the Investments Industry Professional Network, the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity, and the Orcas, a franchise of intramurals: Soccer, Volleyball, and Basketball. Besides extracurricular activities affiliated with Pitt, I love the outdoors. In order to pursue these activities, I have ventured with my scouting troop and on my own efforts from living on a boat and scuba diving to hiking infamous landscapes.

As for a career, I am torn between investments and law. This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern at the New Castle County Courthouse and view legal cases in the Family Court, Superior Court, Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware, and the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware. I want to combine my interests in law and business to either start my own law firm with a background in corporate litigation or take my legal background into the investments world. While I am still a Sophomore, I have already begun to structure my future by join Phi Alpha Delta and attending Pitt Business along with many other supplemental organizations and interests. Traveling to Trinidad allows me to further develop and actively participate in a life changing experience.

Following my small-town background, I always seek out opportunities to form new experiences and bonds. Back in the premier course of the Certificate Program of Leadership and Ethics, such an opportunity arose, Trinidad. Initially, I had no idea what I was delving into. However, with a simple dose of research, I soon realized the many benefits of service learning that will affect both me and the community of Matelot; it was an opportunity I simply could not pass up.

Our partner, Amizade, is a leader in Global Service-Learning. They partner with various communities throughout the world, utilizing fair trade learning to share the importance of stewardship, professional development, and the impact of service-based learning. In Trinidad, we will be working with the DORCAS Women’s Group and the Matelot community through the Amizade program. The community has a desire to use their resources and enter the ecotourism industry at no expense to the authenticity and the environment of the area. As of last year, Pitt Business began its long-term tenure with Amizade, creating an initial feasibility report that showed the vast opportunity Matelot had for successful and sustainable ecotourism. This year, we will return to further connect with the residents, grow and develop as individuals and as a group, and, along with them, start the next step towards their dream of sustainable ecotourism. With a stunning landscape. untapped potential of the ecosystem, and the attractiveness of the Trini way of life, who wouldn’t want to experience at least a week in Matelot?

Aforementioned, Matelot will be the catalyst to our professional and personal growth. I am in love with learning about new cultures. However, I have only learned about how life goes on in those 5 European and 1 Caribbean countries, I have yet to immerse myself and truly experience them. For that reason, none of those cultures have truly impacted my life, Matelot will change that. I want to try the bake shark and other local specialties, immersing myself alongside the locals, and stepping outside of my comfort zone by living without the comforts of life I take for granted everyday.

Service learning provides a reflexive pedagogy that develops my skills and abilities, which cannot be learned in the classroom, and thus positively affect the community at hand. Our emotions and efforts are intertwined into our work; we are working with real individuals, a real ecosystem, and a community with an expansive history. I just hope I can take the Trinidadian culture along with me back to Pittsburgh and wherever I go in the future.

I no longer live in that small-town environment where I grew up, but instead I have begun to make strides towards a global perspective. I am following suit with the purpose of Pitt Business by: taking what I learn in the classroom, utilizing it in my local city of Pittsburgh and my hometown, and providing my developed efforts to Amizade and the community of Matelot. Conversely, Matelot will reflect Pitt Business’s purpose as well. With what I learn from Amizade and Matelot, I will bring back to Pittsburgh and ultimately change my classmates and way of learning, no matter the magnitude of change. That is the beauty of service learning and that is what I hope to get out of this life changing experience.

I cannot wait to be in Matelot come March!