As we move into March, our team is very excited about the progress we have made so far on our project. We have faced difficulties, learned so much, and grown close as a team. It’s crazy to think about how much we have accomplished without ever actually meeting in person. Usually, this class is taught in person and holds a study abroad program during spring break. I never would have thought this program could still be effective without in-person teaching and the trip abroad, but we have truly done so much as a team. A year ago today, the country was shaken by the onslaught of the Coronavirus. I remember being completely shocked that Pitt was not allowing us to return to campus and at a loss for how we would continue classes and organizations. Looking back, I am proud of my team and I am proud of Pitt for how far we have come.
Our weekly microsoft teams meetings have been very enjoyable. We have gotten to know our program director from Amizade, Torey, very well. She is so nice and knowledgeable. I really learned a lot through the TedTalk she showed us regarding cultural humility, which has been so useful in interacting with our clients. Gail, our site liaison from Trinidad, has taught us so much about the wonderful Trini culture. Gail has taught us so much about the delicious foods and beautiful beaches in Trinidad and Tobago. She talks so highly of the country that she has certainly convinced me to visit when the world returns to normal. She also put together a great presentation that detailed the significance of Carnival in Trinidad. At the surface level, Carnival is a super long party for the whole country with incredible costumes. However, Carnival has a significant cultural meaning for the country with roots that go back to the 18th century. Today, Carnival includes music competitions and elaborate costumes and characters. Overall, Trinidad’s cultural norms are much more relaxed and carefree than the United States. I could use some of the Trini ideals of a chill lifestyle in my life!
Our team has also met with Kyle, a chairman of NatureSeekers. To summarize our meeting, NatureSeekers has been hit extremely hard by COVID. Almost all of their sources of revenue have been eliminated by COVID restrictions. The organization usually organizes nature hikes for tourists as a means to raise funds. However, Trinidad has closed access to the waterfalls that the hikes usually end at. Without access to the waterfalls, the hikes are essentially pointless with no end destination. Additionally, another source of revenue for NatureSeekers is allowing tourists to help the turtle hatchlings reach the ocean at night. However, Trinidad closed beaches after dark to the public.
During our midterm meeting this past week, we were able to meet with the chairman and accountant of Nature Seekers, Kyle and Abigail, respectively. This meeting focused on major changes or updates that have occurred in Trinidad since the last time we spoke, as well as a progress report from our end. However, during this meeting, the wifi connection from Trinidad was not good. Abigail could not hear us and we could not hear Abigail. We ended up having to cut the meeting short because we could not communicate. Navigating the new virtual environment has been our biggest challenge as a team. It is challenging to read people’s expressions and emotions over the internet. Zoom meetings are extremely difficult in the United States, and even more difficult in Trinidad. This has been especially true with DORCAS women’s group. They often do not have cell phone service as they are located in a remote area of Matelot, so we have not had any communication with them at all. Their organizational structure and goals are still very much a mystery to my group.
To this point in the semester, we have focused much of our effort on the Marketing Plan we will be supplying NatureSeekers since we haven’t yet received any financial information from DORCAS Women’s Group or NatureSeekers and haven’t gotten a chance to meet anyone from DORCAS. Additionally, we took a close look at NatureSeekers’ current online presence. In doing this, our team was able to deduce that their most influential source for social media marketing would be their FaceBook page as they have the most interactions with external users and seem to put the most effort into maintaining this account to this point.
This project has certainly changed my perspective of global business. It is hard! Before this project, I only ever really thought of the fun parts of international business, such as the opportunity to see the world. This project has forced me to come face to face with the difficulties of international business over an online platform. Wifi connectivity issues have been extremely tough for our team and probably the biggest challenge we have faced thus far. However, many of the great aspects of global business, like being exposed to new cultures and ideas, certainly still hold true online.
From the challenges my team has faced, I have definitely begun to develop important soft skills that are valuable in any workplace. First of all, I have learned to be extremely flexible throughout this project. Zoom has so many difficulties, so I have had to change plans at a moment’s notice. Additionally, I have become very patient and understanding. In this virtual setting, working internationally is very challenging. I have learned to be kind with myself and others and understand that not everything will be perfect during this time. My communication skills have certainly improved as well. I have to be extremely clear through my communication on online platforms and have even found myself using more facial expressions and hand gestures like waving to signal my emotions.
Looking forward, I am excited to finish up deliverables of our project for NatureSeekers. The organization has such a valuable cause, and I still feel honored to be able to work with them. Kyle told us NatureSeekers’ ultimate goal is to not be necessary in this world anymore as an organization, which is so impressive to me. The deadline for the presentation is quickly approaching, and I hope my team’s insights can help NatureSeekers in their ultimate goal. I have been having an incredibly valuable learning experience so far, and I look forward to learning more throughout this experience.