My name is Randy Sirota and I am a junior in the Pitt Business School majoring in Marketing and Human Resources with Certificates in Leadership and Ethics and Sports Management. Growing up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey (located about twenty minutes outside Philadelphia), I never really had the chance to leave the East Coast of the United States before coming to Pitt. The only times I had been ever been out of the country were to visit Canadian family in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. I have always wanted to travel all over the world and my goal coming into college was to take any opportunity I could to travel. The summer after my freshman year, I took the first opportunity given to me and participated in the Plus3 Vietnam program. I chose the Vietnam trip because, out of the five different countries that I could choose from (Vietnam, Italy, Germany, Costa Rica, and China), Vietnam was the country that I was least likely to travel to in the future. It’s not often you hear someone say they got to spend a few weeks traveling in Vietnam. All four of the other countries are fairly common travel destinations while Vietnam is a very unique travel spot. Spending two weeks in Ho Chi Minh City gave me an experience I will never forget and really opened my eyes to the different cultures in the world around us. During the two weeks there, we went on site visits to multiple companies and learned about how they contribute to the rapid development of the country. Additionally, we took classes learning about different aspects of their culture including their language (although I remember very little from the language classes other than xin chào which means hello).
After my sophomore year, I knew I wanted to study abroad again but I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I also wasn’t sure if I wanted to participate in a full semester program. For that reason, I began looking at spring break programs. That is when I found Global Service Learning: Trinidad, which I knew would be the perfect program. Similarly to Vietnam, Trinidad and Tobago is not a common travel destination. They are one of the least commonly known countries in the Caribbean, having to compete with much more commonly known islands such as the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. Being just off the coast of Venezuela, they are south of most of the islands in the area. Additionally, Trinidad is even less traveled to than Tobago, which is much more known for its resorts and vacation spots.
Another part of the program that I found to be intriguing was that we would be doing consulting for companies in Trinidad. While in-country we will be working with two organizations: Nature Seekers, located in Matura, and DORCAS Women’s Group, located in Matelot. Both of these organizations are located off of the main road in Trinidad which leads to Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. Nature Seekers, the company we will be working with for a lot of the time that is spent in-country, participates in the ecotourism industry. Along with their volunteering programs, they also offer tours such as turtle watching and kayaking. In addition to these services, they also sell jewelry under the “Turtle Warrior” brand, all of which are handmade and assembled using recycled material from the ocean. What makes me most excited to work with Nature Seekers is knowing that what they do is something that not only helps the country but is one small and innovative step to help clean out the oceans. Pollution in the oceans is one of the biggest problems the Earth faces currently, killing off a lot of the wildlife in the oceans including the sea turtles that Nature Seekers works to protect, as well as ruining the limited amount of clean water left on the planet.
By participating in this project, I hope to gain a lot of experience working with real clients. Any opportunity I get to gain experience is always beneficial because it allows me to apply what I learn in the classroom to the real-world. The slogan for Pitt Business is “From the classroom. To the city. To the world” and it really relates here because what we learn in the classroom is very important to personal development, but without applying it to real-world situations, both at home and abroad, these concepts will only go so far.
Along with gaining experience, I hope to learn more about Trinidad’s culture and how it differs from here in the United States. As mentioned above, I like to travel when given the opportunity, and one of the main reasons for this is to learn about the different cultures around the world. I have always been interested in learning about the different areas of the world and how they differ from home in terms of climate, cuisine, traditions, etc. There are so many different experiences that I will get abroad in Trinidad that I wouldn’t ever get the chance to have at home in Cherry Hill or in Pittsburgh. For example, the tropical wildlife in Trinidad is so much different than home. There are many different animal species that are native to climates like Trinidad. For example, the male turtles can grow to be over 8 feet and 2000 pounds according to Nature Seekers website, which is crazy just to think about. The fruit is another thing I am eager to experience since the tropical fruit there will be fresh, something that I won’t ever get at home in the Northeast US.
Overall, I am extremely excited to be participating in this program and can’t wait to travel over Spring Break. The experience I hope to gain will be invaluable and the memories that I create from the trip are ones that I hope to never forget. Additionally, I hope that you enjoy reading through my blogs as I take you along with me through the progression of the project.