When traveling to any new location, there will always be differences in lifestyle and culture that are tough to overcome. However, in my opinion, the most important thing that you can do when faced with a challenge is to remain calm and relaxed, and always be willing to work positively through whatever challenge you are facing. The focus should always remain on the amazing experience you are gaining and the new and fun things that you can learn from the people and places around you.
With that being said, the first major challenge I believe that we will face is the loose schedule that keep in Trinidad. Trinidadians have a very relaxed interpretation of time and scheduling. As Americans, when a meeting time is set, we are expected to be there and ready to work at that specific time. Often times, we will even arrive and begin work early to make sure that we finish our work and make it to our next tightly scheduled event. In Trinidad, they are relaxed with their schedules and can sometimes arrive as much as thirty minutes late for a meeting. Although we have been warned and are well-aware of this, I can still see it causing some frustration just because of how we are used to conducting our lives. On the other side of that, if someone shows up late to a meeting and we have somewhere to be shortly after, I can envision this causing us embarrassment, stress, or frustration about being late for the second meeting even though the person we are meeting with will most likely not be upset about our tardiness at all.
Another challenge I am certain we will encounter often is communication differences. While English is widely spoken in Trinidad, we speak in two very different styles and dialects. Trinidadians speak very quickly and can often leave out syllables of the words to speed up what they are saying. For example, my group and I met with Professor Danielle Andrews-Brown here at Pitt to gain some insight into the Trinidadian culture. Even though she has lived in the United States for many years, she still has the Trinidadian accent and some of the dialect that they use. While we call the country “Trinidad”, she refers to it as “Trindad”, skipping over the second syllable and thus speeding up the pronunciation of the word. While that is a pretty easy difference to catch and follow what she is saying, there are going to be many other instances where that happens with words that are more difficult to decipher. Also, that is a difference that I noted from someone who has not lived in Trinidad for several years, so I am expecting a much larger difference from the people who have lived there their entire lives. Another communication principle that may cause some issues would be the use of slang words from either group. Personally, I know that I use slang words every single day and I do not even realize it most of the time. That is something that will be tough for me to adjust to and to make sure that I am not using made up words that they have never heard before. I am also sure that we will experience the same thing with their slang words. We have been introduced to some of them through the Culture Smart book and the Global Service Learning class, but I am expecting much more to come our way that we will not know.
Another potential major challenge I believe we will face when we are in Trinidad is the difference in technology. In a typical day, I constantly check my phone, use the internet, text my friends and family, watch Netflix, and many other technology-related activities. While we are there, we will have to adjust to not having the internet speeds that we are used to for streaming shows on Netflix and other things like that. As much as I would like to believe that I have not become dependent on technology and high-speed internet, that is to some extent the truth of how I live. I know that I would find myself to be extremely bored on a daily basis if I could not watch Netflix or use apps like Snapchat or Bleacher Report. I know that I will not be bored at all while we are in Trinidad, but I also know that not having these things that I use very often will require some level on adjustment for me.
One final challenge that may arise for my group and I is the change in time zone. While it is only a one-hour difference, there is still an adjustment that has to be made with the change in time. The largest time change I have ever experienced was one hour, and while it may not seem like much to deal with, it actually did have an impact on my daily routine. It was as if I was losing an hour of sleep every night because my body was not used to the time zone that I was in. It also posed a challenge when we had to catch a bus that was across the time change line because we had to plan according to the time change in order to make sure we did not miss our ride back home.
Although my group and I will face those challenges and probably a few other unexpected ones, I am also expecting to experience a lot of personal learning throughout the trip. I am expecting to gain a lot of knowledge regarding the culture of Trinidadians. We have done a lot of reading about their culture through the Culture Smart book and meeting with Professor Danielle Andrews-Brown in order to gain insight into their everyday life prior to our visit. However, no amount of reading can replace the learning that actually takes place when you immerse yourselves in the lives of the people native to the country. Also, I have never traveled outside of the United States, so this is going to be an amazing new experience for me. I am not entirely sure what to expect experiencing a new culture, but I am very excited and eager to gain as much from the Trinidadians as I possibly can.
Another thing that I really hope that I am able to learn while we are there is how to adapt and overcome the challenges that I mentioned previously. As a whole, I need to be able to adapt to these challenges in order to effectively conduct business along with my team while we are in Trinidad. I believe the easiest of these challenges to overcome is going to be the relaxed interpretation of the schedule. While we are used to a different schedule, I expect to have a very relaxed mentality and be willing to adapt to any differences that we encounter while we are there. For the communication differences, we were told that if we ask, they can slow down the speed they are talking at to help us understand them a little bit better. This, combined with the fact that they speak English, will help me to adapt to this challenge also. The final challenge that I mentioned was the difference in technology. This will also hopefully be easy to adapt to just by relaxing and engrossing myself in the culture and the experience rather than worrying about my phone. Although my phone and other technology is something I use often when I am at home, I fully intend to just enjoy everything that is happening around me and more or less forget about technology for the whole week that we are there.
A third thing that I am expecting to gain from this experience is personal growth. Like I mentioned earlier, I have never had the privilege of traveling outside of the United States and seeing how people live in other places. My family and I are fortunate enough to commonly go on vacation down the east coast, and even though that is always a fun experience, traveling to a different country with the specific intention to connect with the people and learn about their home is going to be a phenomenal experience for me. I am extremely excited to learn from the Trinidadians and grow as a person just through meeting and interacting with them. As a marketing major, I absolutely love to get out and meet new people and learn about them. Getting to go out to a different country to do something that I enjoy is going to be an experience that I remember and treasure for the rest of my life. Not only do I hope that I can learn from them while we are there, but I hope that I create some relationships and have a positive impact on their lives also.
Overall, through the challenges and the learning, I mostly hope to have a safe, successful and fun trip with my team, the Trini Six, to Matelot, Trinidad.