Now Where? (Bolivia)

Spring break is often filled with trips to Florida or other tropical destination, but my spring break I will be traveling to Cochabamba, Bolivia, to participate in a Global Service Learning project. My name is Justin Torhan, and I am a sophomore in Pitt’s College of Business Administration. I am majoring in both Marketing and Supply Chain Management with a minor in Economics and a certificate in Sports Management.  Outside of the classroom, I hold two jobs: in the winter, I work as an Aircraft Deicer at the Pittsburgh International Airport, and I also work as a Supervisor for American Pool throughout the year. I am also a member of the professional business organization Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) that I recently joined this past fall, and it has helped me develop my professional brand in many ways.

Personally, my hobbies include volunteering, watching sports, and seeing new places. I participate in numerous service events through PBL, such as being on a committee to host a 5K Charity Walk/Run fundraiser to benefit the March of Dimes foundation. I am also a Pittsburgh native, so I bleed black and gold and love to watch Pittsburgh sports. Hockey is my favorite (Go Pens!), and Steelers football is always on the TV on Sundays as well. Seeing new places and traveling is also something that I enjoy, and it has led me to many different areas of the country (and now world) over the past few years.

Last summer, I participated in PittBusiness’s Global Business Institute. During this seven-week program, I travelled to London and took part in two academic classes as well as completed a part-time, unpaid internship with the Royal Aeronautical Society. One of the classes was an international marketing course; it was a unique course that exposed us to many of the differences between how the USA conducts business and how other areas of the world conduct business. While it was challenging in many ways, it has become one of my absolutely favorite classes that I have taken thus far at Pitt. The other class that I took in London was paired with my internship; it was about facilitating learning by taking time to reflect on the work that I had done in my internship as well as encouraging us to have a global awareness throughout our time in London. In my internship, I worked as a Marketing & Events Intern; it was an experience that allowed me to not only learn, but work, in London. I was exposed to various departments as well as saw and practiced the differences in the way we conduct business. It was an experience that cannot be duplicated.

I originally found out about this trip to Bolivia through PBL; as the founding organization, there is a lot of pride that goes into this trip and many of the participants are PBL members. However, as I learned more about the program, I knew it was a right fit for me for two reasons: travel and service. The study abroad office always says that once you travel abroad once, you’re going to want to keep going. It is true. I have wanted to go abroad again even before I landed on the ground in Pittsburgh as I returned home from London. However, I did not want to go for an entire semester. This one -week in-country program is a fantastic way for me to be engaged in a global environment without having to commit to spend an entire summer abroad. Additionally, the service aspect also really drew me in. I have done a lot of community service in the past, and I was really excited to add the academic portion to participate in a service-learning trip that has real world impacts.

Our service-learning project is consulting-oriented, and it is part of a semester long course at Pitt that benefits CEOLI, a non-profit organization created to help children with disabilities in the city of Cochabamba. Through CEOLI, the organization is able help teach these kids meaningful life skills to promote their education and success in society. I will be working on this project with 7 other CBA students, and our primary goal is to continue the work done by prior groups to ensure continuity. The long-term, ten-year goal of this program is to help CEOLI obtain financial independence. Within this specific program year, the deliverables of this project will be two part; part one is to promote the development of CEOLI cards sales in both online and retail channels. The second part is to conduct preliminary research on a potential juice stand outside of the CEOLI organization in Bolivia. This is a potential additional source of revenue for the organization as well as providing their students real world opportunities. This project is facilitated through the Pittsburgh-based firm Amizade, a non-profit service-learning company that plays a large role in the program’s logistics.

I hope to develop through this program my professionally through the project with CEOLI.  By contributing to the research and development of a business plan for the proposed Juice Stand, I will be gaining technical skills through a project that has impact. This is also true with getting the cards into retail channels; I will be gaining skills that are transferable by communicating with retailers on getting the CEOLI cards on the shelves of local stores. I also hope to continue to gain a deeper understanding of other cultures. I did this a lot in London, but the culture in Bolivia is very different from that of western Europe. The concept of time will be much more polychronic than I’m used to, and the context in which we communicate in will be high. These are areas that I did not experience fully in London (although, I did get a taste of polychronic time from my International Marketing convener Professor Willie!).

I am super excited to travel abroad again and apply what I have learned both in the service-learning class as well as the experiences from my time in London. Next time I write, I will be hours away from leaving for Cochabamba. I cannot wait!