Pitt Today, Bolivia Next Month!

Hello everyone! My name is Holly Linder, and I finally am one of the students taking part in Pitt’s Global Service Learning class to Cochabamba, Bolivia! It’s hard to believe that after hearing about my friend’s amazing experiences I finally get to go myself and be a part of something so meaningful. I first heard about this course by my friends and classmates in Phi Beta Lambda. When I first got into the organization, many students told me about their experiences both in the classroom and outside once they got to Bolivia. Every student had endless amounts of positive things to say. They stressed that it is a challenging and rewarding experience academically, personally, and professionally. After hearing what they had to say and discovering CEOLI’s cause, I fell in love with their purpose and the class. CEOLI is a nonprofit located in Cochabamba, Bolivia that helps young people with physical and intellectual disabilities. We are currently in the third of a ten year agreement with CEOLI to help them with entrepreneurial business efforts. Currently, CEOLI sells hand painted cards as a way to make money. This year we will be working on implementing the current marketing calendar for their card sales and increasing awareness of their cause in America. We are also working with the company Amizade who helps students through the logistical process of global service learning while forming lasting partnerships with nonprofits.

As a sophomore, now is the time for me to be gaining experience and building my skills as a business professional. On campus, I am a member of Phi Beta Lambda, a professional business organization at Pitt. In PBL, I was able to use my marketing skills as recruitment chair this past spring. I am also involved with Society for International Business where I currently serve as the Vice President, where I aid the president in her weekly responsibilities and arrange for professional guest speakers to present to our organization. I am currently a marketing major with a minor in international relations. I love communicating, planning, and creating, so I knew marketing would be a great career. My minor helped foster my desire to be more aware of the world around me, politically and culturally. Seeing how my interests have progressed so far in my life regarding my want to be more culturally knowledgeable has been amazing to reflect on. After I gained a passion for traveling from a brief trip to Europe (this picture is me at the Royal Palace in Madrid!), it led me to pursue my minor in international relations, further pushing me to take this class in global service learning.

Through this unique experience, I have already learned so much about what it means to be a business leader in a team, the benefits of service learning, and the importance of critical reflection. Personally, I hope this course further teaches me what it means to be engaged abroad and culturally aware. I want this to be a continuation of the efforts I have made with my political science minor. I don’t want to only learn about the political conditions in Bolivia, I want to learn what the people there are like. I also want to continue learning more about global service learning. Reflecting on this type of experiential learning leads to growth and continued benefits. In one article we discussed, it was found that those who take a service learning course have higher degree completion rates than those who don’t, among other benefits like engagement and civic awareness. Additionally, I’ve seen that service learning is more than just community service. It is a way for students to develop lifelong habits of engagement. While community service is good, service learning is a way to make a more meaningful impact. In community service, sometimes those volunteering get more of a benefit than those they are helping. Service learning lets both parties benefit as the students are learning and growing, and the client is being served and aided.

Professionally, I am excited to be challenged by working on my first consulting project. Each year spent working with CEOLI is an important one since each class gets a chance to make a difference, educate themselves on the cause, and produce deliverables. Not only are we as students working with Pitt business to help CEOLI, but we are also working with Amizade, a company aiding with many of the logistics involved in getting students to go on global service learning trips. With so many different parties involved, I will be honing different professional skills like communicating, time management, leadership, and teamwork.

In this class, I am working with five other Sophomores, as well as multiple Pitt faculty, members of Amizade, and members of CEOLI. Especially when working closely with my student peers, I have learned the importance of taking on multiple roles and considerations during a project. Professionally, having the ability to work efficiently in a group setting is a valuable asset. I’ve learned that all members should be motivated, influential, committed and skilled. We also should be aware of ethical principles in project management like being honest, including stakeholder, caring about those involved, and helping other group members. These are essential skills in making a project flow properly and successfully that I have learned so far. Through all that I have learned and am going to learn during the duration of this class, critical reflection on what I have experienced is also a huge focus of mine. It is important to retain information learned so it is applicable in the real world. In a service learning class where I get to travel across the world to meet a client, it is even more important to truly reflect and think about the experiences I will have. By describing one’s experiences, examining personal growth, civic learning, and academic enhancement, it leads to articulate learning in all those areas. Reflecting on what you learned, when you learned it and why that mattered leads to a more meaningful and worthwhile experience than an ordinary class or trip.

Global service learning is a unique experience that benefits not only the client of a project but also those doing the consulting and working in my case. Global service is much more than pulling weeds like community service. It requires engagement, passion, and awareness. I hope to continue to be academically challenged and to gain more transferable skills like self efficacy, self awareness, engagement, and discipline. I have learned all of this and so much more during my time in classes this semester, and I know that I will continue to learn more in the coming weeks.

See you soon, Bolivia!