Throughout my experience in Matelot, Trinidad, I have learned many key lessons. One key lesson which I can take for this trip to Matelot is the importance of adaptability. Throughout the trip, there were numerous meeting that either did not line up with the itinerary or had the format completely changed at the last moment. In these situations, it became crucial that we were able to adapt to the changing circumstances, assuring that we were still able to get the most out of the meeting, even if it was not going how it was initially planned. For example, when visiting the high school, we were expecting to meet solely with the principle of the school. Though, instead we walked into a large open area where all of the high school students were seated. This definitely took all of us by surprise, as we had prepared to have a small meeting, not a meeting with the entire student body. Though in this situation we were able to pivot, making the most of the opportunity to speak with the students, even learning about some projects and a business club that they have which could be interesting touching points for future Amizade and Pitt service learning groups. This one experience truly gave me an appreciation for and made me see how important it is to be able to adapt to changing circumstances on the fly. Without adaptability, we may not have been able to get as much information out of this meeting with the student body as we did, potentially leaving a gap from our experience, and not giving us as many building points for future deliverables. When looking back at this service learning trip to Matelot, it is definitely clear to me how the vital the skill of adaptability is to have.
A second key lesson that I am taking away from this experience is the importance of reflection. Each day in country our group all sat down and talking through the day, and all of the events and meetings that transpired. I feel as if this was one of, if not the most important activity that we did each day. These meetings allowed for everyone to express their ideas, opinions, and thoughts on the day, and really allowed for a springboard for ideas. Meeting every night assured that we were all on the same page, allowing for us to work further in depth and dive into some potential points for growth in the Matelot community. These nightly meetings allowed for me to maintain focus on the end goals of the project and assure that our group was moving in the correct direction. Even these blog posts work as an aspect of reflection, which I believe is key in being able to articulate the experience, and truly recognize the impact and needs of the project we are completing. Overall, I believe that this idea of reflection is crucial, as it allows for a better articulation and evaluation of goals, assuring that the project is on the correct path.
I believe that there are going to be many skills that I have gained on this trip that I can use and will definitely help me in my future career. Relating back to my first key lesson from the trip, the need for adaptability that I experienced on the trip will definitely become important in my future career. In business, circumstances and the players in a situation are always changing, making adaptability a key skill. It is crucial to be able to pivot when a situation changes. After graduation, I will be working as an auditor for EY, and I see adaptability being key. As different evidence becomes available that changes major aspects of the audit, or the client is less than forthcoming, it is crucial to be able to adapt and find a way to get around these problems to still meet the final goal.
A second skill that I have been able to focus on, and will be applicable in my future career, is the ability to balance the needs and wants of numerous stakeholders. During the trip it was important that we balanced the goals of Amizade, DORCAS Women’s Group, the greater Matelot community, and the class we were enrolled in. This balancing act was crucial, as if we did not try to focus on and determine all of the parties that could potentially be affected by our group and the deliverables we will produce at the end of the semester, we would run the risk of missing a vital component of the project. This skill of balancing the needs and wants of numerous stakeholders will definitely play a crucial role in my future career. Working specifically as an external auditor, I will be assigned to a client, and it is crucial that I am able to juggle the demands of the client, my team, and the company I am working for. Without his ability to balance these stakeholder needs, it can be easy to produce an incomplete product that may not fulfill the needs required.
Overall, from this trip I was able to learn so much and take away so much knowledge. I hope to now apply everything I have learned about into my future studies and career, utilizing everything I have learned to its fullest potential.
Expectations vs. Reality
Overall, during our trip to Matelot, I feel as if some of the cultural and personal expectations that I anticipated were very close to the reality. Though, some aspects of the trip varied from what I had expected. The main variance from what I was expecting, which isn’t specifically a culture specific aspect, but a personal expectation, was the disconnect and mild hostility that existed between different members and groups within the community. Going into this experience we were told that there were competing pressures and groups that did not always see eye to eye. Though, upon arrival it became clear that these competing pressures we not only present in the community, but easy to see and pick up on. I had initially expected most of the discontent to be hidden from plain sight, and not see these disagreements or discontent happen in the open. Though, on many occasions it became clear of the divide between the Amizade site leader and DORCAS Women’s Group specifically. I had anticipated this disconnect between individuals to be rather peripheral, which was not the case. The infighting within the community not only caused personal strife, which the Amizade site director, Michelle, expressed to us, but also harmed the potential for collaboration within the community, possibly hindering their development. With the site director having limited contact with DORCAS, due to these disagreements, it painted a much different picture for us in the community, altering how we looked at the project and the value we could add. Overall, the amount of discontent between some community members and groups was not what I had initially expected, and definitely changed the way I looked at the Matelot community and their potential development.
As for some of the cultural expectations, I believe that the Culture Smart book and other research we did before leaving for Trinidad, including talking with Danielle, were quite in line with the reality. One cultural expectation which I expected, and definitely was evident, was the concept of “Trini time.” On many occasions the individuals in the Matelot community showed a lax view on time. We had many meetings that were pushed back and moved around due to this. Though, this way of living had a large focus on the present, and I believe even helped our group to get a better grasp of not only the community dynamics, but the Trinidadian culture as a whole. A second aspect of the culture that I had read about and matched my expectations was the openness and hospitality which we received during our trip. Everyone, both in the Matelot community, and those we had interaction with in Port of Spain, were incredible welcoming. Especially while in Matelot, everyone was so hospitable, always making sure that we were comfortable and were always open to any questions we had about the community or the island in general. This made the trip and our project in specific much more manageable, and also showed us that the potential idea of ecotourism could fit. Even though actual ecotourism may be far down the road for the community, it is great to see how hospitable the community is and how open everyone seemed to be to having groups such as ours coming into their village.
Overall, this service learning project in Matelot, Trinidad has been an amazing experience to participate in. It was great to immerse ourselves into the local community and see how we could potentially help aid the community through our work in conjunction with Amizade. This experience has taught me a lot, much of which I will carry with me into my future studies and career. I am looking forward to seeing how this project continues over the remainder of the 10-year commitment Pitt has with Amizade, and how the Matelot community can grow in the process.