An Experience Like No Other

I will be talking about this Service Learning Trip to Bolivia for many years to come. This was an experience like no other. I have said many time this was my first time outside the country and I took a big chance. Unlike most people who travel to connecting countries like Canada or Mexico for their first international experience, I decided I wanted to travel to South America. I could not be more grateful of this opportunity given to me from Pitt Business and Amizade.

One key lesson I learned from this experience is the importance of fully understanding the current situation of a company before beginning to develop plans to help them. There are many options that our consultant team could have recommended to CEOLI, but they just do not have the resources available to make major changes. The main goal of our team was to try to increase revenue for CEOLI in the most effective way. Our plans to sell cards were placed on the back burner for now since Amizade has such a heavy back stock that selling a few cards is not going to make the impact we are reaching for. We are now looking towards donors to help by contributing money to CEOLI and as a thank you for their kindness we could give them a bulk amount of cards to send out to family or employees.

I also learned how hard it to navigate and communicate in a country where you do not speak the same language. I knew the language barrier was going to be challenging, but I did not understand the extent. Luckily for us, we had Naty and Adri with us along the way. Through them I was able to learn new phrases and remember a lot of the Spanish I learned in high school. I was always really excited when I could order food, buy something from the market, or tell a taxi where we needed to go in Spanish without Naty and Adri or Jean Carla doing it for me. It really made me want to learn more Spanish and visit other Spanish speaking country. Even though it was a great challenge, it was exciting to learn and I felt a sense of pride when I could understand others.

Through this project I gained a lot of experience and knowledge in a service aspect. I am currently running for Vice President of Community Service for my business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi. I have never thought of myself fitting in this role prior to this semester, but after participating in this project, I have become incredibly passionate about keeping this opportunity a standard in Delta Sigma Pi. I know how much it has impacted me and I want to help give that same opportunity to those younger than me in the fraternity. I want to help be the liaison between the group that wants to apply and the study aboard office because of the change in applications. I also think I would be a great connection between Delta Sigma Pi and Phi Beta Lambda. With Alex Bloom being next year’s President and how close we became while in country, we would easily be able to partner up to select amazing candidates to move forward with this project.

In regards to my upcoming summer internship, I stressed an interest in the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility. I had interviewed back in November, before the start of this class, but I was still interested in service and giving back to the community. They had posters hung up all around the room that was interviewing in stressing their Corporate Social Responsibility and it really stood out to me. I am excited to go to work with the possibility using the skills I developed in both consulting and service through this project to help increase the amount my company, Covestro, could give back to the community. They already are a company that focuses a lot on green energy and products, trying to make a cleaner environment, so with my new, unique set of experience I am excited to see where Covestro will take me.

In my first blog post, I said I wanted to gain experience to help me in my future career, increase the involvement of Delta Sigma Pi brothers in community service, and travel and learn as much as I possibly can. I believe through the research prior to traveling to Cochabamba and the meetings we had while in country, I have gained many skills I will take with me into the professional world. The first being working with clients. The real world is nothing like class work or case studies. You do not get to decide everything based on what you want or what you think is best. You have to follow what your client is trying to accomplish. There can be many difficulties associated with that. You could have an idea you are really passionate about and the client could throw you a curve ball and have you change up the direction you were planning on going. When this happens, you cannot allow your work to become subpar because you are not as passionate about the topic. You need to find where you strengths can take you to be able to produce the best possible outcomes for all parties, never letting a change of assignment affect how you work professionally.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to play our video of our trip to Cochabamba for my chapter at one of our Delta Sigma Pi meetings. I was so happy to hear that from seeing that video, it inspired brothers to come out to the CEOLI fundraiser Phi Beta Lambda held and made brothers more interested to learn more about the program to possibly go for themselves in the upcoming years. Hearing people tell me that they wanted to learn more and help out in future fundraising event made me feel like I actually made a difference in my fraternity and brought new opportunities to my brothers. I know how much this experience changed me and if I can get more people excited about it then I will feel like I have done a great service to my organization.

Finally, I said I wanted to learn and travel as much as I possibly can. As for the learning aspect, I truly believe I have learned more about the day to day operations and challenges of a Non-Governmental Organization more than I ever would in a class or researching online. Actually being there and talking to the kids and playing games and seeing who these people really are gave such an amazing perspective when moving forward with the project. We learned what CEOLI is capable of doing and how we can bring our resources in to make them better off. I have been stuck recently on how to prepare future students in Pitt Business to take over this project. I feel like we were not given as much advice from the last years group as we probably could have. That is why as my part of the deliverables and final project I am focusing on the continuation plan with Nicole. Since this project is still in the early developmental years, I want to focus on prepping the upcoming students with our basic research so they can maximize their productivity and continue on right where we left off.

I also mentioned in the last sentence of my first blog post I wanted to travel as much as possible. Not only to I still want to do that, but my desire to travel has grown stronger. I definitely plan to go to the big tourists locations such as England, Spain, and Italy, but this experience has also made me what to travel to less frequented places around the world. I loved coming back from Bolivia and having people ask me what it was like and hearing people say things like “Bolivia? I would never think to visit there.” I wish more people traveled to South America because it is such an amazing and beautiful part of the world. I expected to love it and enjoy my time there, but I never expected to gain such a deep connection to a place and miss it so terribly now that I am back in the States. I truly felt so welcomed and honestly would have stayed a whole month like Jean Carla and Naty kept telling us to do. I am so grateful for the friendships I made. I knew I would have a better relationship with my Delta Sigma Pi brothers, but I was not prepared for how close I would become with the members of Phi Beta Lambda. They are now some of my close friends and I could not imagine them not being in my life. Another surprise was how close we all became with Naty and Adri. I still keep up with them both on social media and talk to them whenever I can. Adri and I got to record a cover of Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Justin Beiber after our farewell dinner on our last night. That was something I never thought would happen on this trip and now Adri and I are planning to sing more together next time we are in the same continent.

This was a truly unforgettable experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. I am definitely planning on returning to Bolivia one day, hopefully one day soon.