Four Days Away

We are only four days away from traveling to Bolivia and I could not be more excited! With all the study abroad programs Pitt business offers, I never thought I would find myself going to Bolivia for Spring Break. This is such an amazing opportunity for me, and I am really glad I took it. I feel like it was just yesterday that we had our first service learning class. Throughout the semester our team has worked hard to determine a solid scope of work and I am excited to see it in action. I am looking forward to meeting with everyone in CEOLI and doing research and analysis about their revenue streams. I feel like engaging with CEOLI first hand is something we have all been waiting for, and I know once we meet the children we will know our hard work was worth it.

In regards to conducting business, Bolivia differs from America in some ways. With the material we have read and discussed from the Culture Smart Book,  I now know that in professional settings business is conducted differently in Bolivia than America. We spent a lot of time in class discussing global competency and how this ties into our in country work. We need to go to Cochabamba with open minds about the differences we will face. Our time is very limited in Bolivia, so it’s important that we get all the information we need within the week that we are there with CEOLI. We will most probably face obstacles when we try to get all the information we need when speaking with the members of CEOLI. I have never conducted business before in a different country so this will be a new experience for me. The Bolivian culture places a strong emphasis on personal relationships. They spend a lot of time getting to know other people and asking about families during business meetings. Business meals are also very common as it provides a more personal setting while also discussing important matters. However in this setting it is important to not bring up business talk unless the person who invited you has already brought it up. It would be considered rude otherwise. I am sure we will have many conversations about our families and where we are from and other things about ourselves. I really would like to get to know the members of CEOLI on a more personal level however this could be of conflict to our team since we are there for such a limited time. We obviously cannot rush through our meetings or only ask for business information such as financial data because this would be very rude. We need to develop rapport so future teams can also continue to foster our relationship with CEOLI. Figuring out when the appropriate time to ask business related questions would be an obstacle for us. These customs are different than what we do in business meetings in America. I feel like everyone is in a hurry in America to get things done, so personal talk is kept to a minimum in business meetings.

Besides this, we don’t really know how to approach asking about financial details. We do however have a liaison to help us out with all the confidential information. This is a sensitive topic in any country, and asking any organization to show us their financial documents would be kind of awkward. I think another huge challenge to navigate around would be their outlook on time. Bolivians do not abide by strict schedules like we do in America. They have a more relaxed culture and emphasize time being spent with their families and friends. A typical work schedule would include a long lunch break with time for nap. Of course, we will not have any time to nap.  At CEOLI the hours are that of a school day, with the children and adults making cards and doing other activities like swimming therapy.  I don’t think we would run into much trouble with punctuality since they have dedicated staff, but because of the more relaxed way of handling business, our time spent there each day might differ. Since Americans run on routine schedules I think this might come as a surprise to many of us and even a bit of frustration. Regardless, this is something that can be overcome especially when we know our work has a bigger impact. All these challenges we will face regarding business can be overcome and will teach us how to handle situations like these in the future. Due to the challenges we face, I think we will become better business leaders for the future. Being in a new country such as Bolivia will be very exciting for me since I  have never been to South America. I know that it will have a lot to offer.

Service learning programs provide an array of benefits to its participants, as I have learned in class. Our transferrable skills are more highly developed due to our engagement with the project, which is highly demanded in the work force. In class, we have had many discussions about how this will help us grow and improve. However, I think the real learning will be when we are in country. I believe there are many personal learning experiences that I will benefit from while I work with CEOLI with my team.

One personal learning experience would be that my  adaptability skills will surely improve. This is because there are so many things we must adapt to; food, different cultural norms, the climate etc. Having to adapt to such a new environment will help me realize that it is definitely possible to do so and also make me more willing to do so. Because of globalization, many of us will have to travel for work. I think traveling now will make me less reluctant to experience something new in the future. Alongside this, communication is a huge part of business, regardless of where you go. Even though the members of CEOLI know English, I think its still possible that we might have some communication barriers due to language. I took French in high school so I do not know any Spanish, which is the main language in Bolivia. Learning how to communicate effectively with language barriers is something that is definitely important especially with the increasing globalization of businesses. Building rapport with people who are different than you is also something that ties into communication. Besides this, teamwork is another facet of personal learning while in Bolivia. Our team is group of eleven students so communication between every member is vital. When we are in country our team will be divided into separate groups to do research on specific revenue streams. With this, each smaller group will need to efficiently communicate our findings to each other so we can prepare our final report for future teams. It will be crucial that every member understands each part of our individual work so that we can aid future teams that are involved with this program. Humility is something that we have discussed in our service learning class that I know is a big aspect when it comes to projects like these. It is easy to get caught up with our work and with ourselves but staying humble when we are in country is something that is very important. I think with a lot of service projects people sometimes see themselves as being the solution to the problem. However we need to remember we are there to give our personal recommendations and continue research and analysis. Since it is an ongoing project, we are there to continue what last years team was researching, which means that our ideas may not be completely executed. Especially since we developed our scope of work before meeting with the client, we do not have the necessary information to make solutions. Since Pitt has a seven year commitment with Amizade, we need to ensure that we do our best work so that future teams can also continue to put in hard work. We need to be mindful that CEOLI does not have to accept anything that we recommend. Overall, my consulting skills will improve.

These past few months have really flown by and it is thrilling to see how our work and knowledge can be applied in Cochabamba. With learning about global competency and Bolivia beforehand, I feel prepared to face the challenges that may arise. With my vaccinations complete and my passport ready, I still have to figure out what to pack. I can not wait to encounter Bolivia’s beauty firsthand, since pictures online just does not compare and I know souvenirs and many photos will also come out of my trip.