Traveling to Trinidad

Hi everyone! My name is Myles Cooper and I am a sophomore in the College of Business Administration. I’m from West Chester, Pennsylvania which is about four and a half hours east of Pittsburgh. I’m a huge sports fan and Philadelphia sports are my favorite. The sport I like to watch the most is basketball, but I also watch soccer and football. As for my family, I have two younger brothers and both of them are in high school, one is currently a junior and the other is a freshman. In my free time here at the University of Pittsburgh I participate in three different clubs: Enactus, Sports Business Association, and the Club Men’s Ultimate Frisbee team.

Academically, I plan on double majoring in Finance and Supply Chain Management, while supplementing this focus with a minor in Economics and a two certificates: one in Leadership and Ethics (CPLE) and the other in Business Analytics. Being a sophomore my career plans are still a little hazy. However, I’ve found an interest in consulting through Enactus. Since joining the club in the fall of my freshman year, I’ve had the opportunity of consulting four different businesses in the Pittsburgh area that were a combination of start-ups and nonprofits. In addition, during the spring of 2018, two of my roommates and I participated in a consulting case competition run by Enactus and placed third. Also, because of my love for sports, I would also like work for Dick’s Sporting Goods whose corporate headquarters are located in Pittsburgh.

During spring break this semester, seven of my peers and I will be traveling to Matelot, Trinidad to collaborate with the DORCAS Women’s Group and Amizade for the third phase in a ten year partnership with Pitt Business. Amizade is a global service-learning non-profit organization that facilitates volunteer and study abroad opportunities for students. In other words, Amizade is acting as the middleman in the interaction between the CPLE students and the DORCAS Women’s Group. Based in Matelot, Trinidad, the DORCAS Women’s Group is one of the largest and most influential civic organizations in Matelot. This organization is committed to the development of the Matelot community and they see the need for community enhancement to improve the lives of individuals. The current issue in this community is that younger people are leaving to find jobs in the city which is hurting the Matelot economy and the ten year plan I mentioned earlier is addressing that issue. The focus for this portion of the ten year plan is to interact with the DORCAS Women’s Group to develop networking and customer service skills so they can build connections and relationships with organizations in their community. Accomplishing this goal will help the DORCAS Women’s Group, Amizade, and the University of Pittsburgh take a step toward the long term goal of building capacity for ecotourism in Matelot to boost the economy.

One of the main reasons I chose to take this course on global service-learning is because I enjoy experiencing and learning about different cultures. It is interesting to examine the similarities and differences between American and Trini culture. During my research on Trinidad, one aspect of the culture that caught my attention instantly was the amount of diversity both ethnically and religiously. Initially, I thought the Trinidad population consisted mostly of people of African descent. However, I soon learned that this country, in addition to African, contains people of East Indian, European, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Portuguese descent. With fourteen national holidays in Trinidad, this variety in ethnicities allows for a welcoming environment for all religions. It is actually common for a Trini to attend a religious service or celebration even though they might not practice that specific religion. For example, followers of all faiths are welcome to join in the events of the Hindu festival of Diwali. Information such as this is not common knowledge. It is interesting to learn about different cultures that I otherwise would not know much about because I have only experienced American culture in my lifetime. A second reason why I chose this course is because of the consulting aspect that is tied to the project. Thanks to Enactus, I was able to find my passion for consulting, and was excited to use my consulting experience to tackle this project in Trinidad. However, I soon realized that this global service-learning program wasn’t strictly consulting. A critical aspect of this project consists of the collaboration with the DORCAS Women’s Group. The team of students traveling to Trinidad want to be conscious of where we will be and our role in this partnership. We want to avoid going to Matelot and telling the DORCAS Women’s Group how they should network or what customer service should look like. The reality is, customer service and networking could look vastly different in Trinidad compared to the United States. That being said, my classmates and I want to make sure that we don’t act like we are experts on these topics when interacting with the DORCAS Women’s Group. This presents a challenge for my peers and I because we’ve never worked on a consulting project like this before. We will have to navigate the interactions with our Trini partners with caution as to not give the impression that we know everything about networking and customer service.

Personally, what I hope to get out of this global service-learning experience is a better informed view of the world. I’ve never been to a third world country before so I’m looking forward to seeing first hand what life is like in Trinidad compared to the United States. For example, in Matelot, there is limited access to computers and internet service. When the DORCAS Women’s Group have meetings, they write notes about what takes place during the meetings on pen and paper, not laptops. This is one aspect of Matelot that is uncommon in the United States. Developing a mindset that is more worldly will also help me academically and professionally. The College of Business Administration is very diverse; students from different backgrounds and countries interact with each other everyday. Possessing a strong cultural awareness allows one to see the world from different perspectives. The same applies to business in the real world. Due to increasing globalization and a push for more diversity in the workplace, being more aware of different cultures will help me when interacting with my colleagues or employees from different companies. I’m excited to travel to Trinidad next month with my classmates, and confident that the team I’m apart of will be able to react and adapt to the challenges that lie ahead of us!