STEP Reflection Prompts

Name: Olivia Brownfield

Type of Project: Internship

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. 

My signature project was traveling to São Paulo, Brazil through the Fisher Global Projects Program. I worked with five other Fisher students on a month-long consulting project for Greif, Inc. revolving around a SKU rationalization.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? 

Over the month I spent living in Brazil, I experienced a number of different changes and shifts in my perception of the world. Before this trip, I thought I had been plenty exposed to diversity, but I didn’t realize how big of a difference there is between in-country diversity and intra-country diversity. Through the people I met, I learned about the Brazilian economy, politics, and what daily life looks like for Brazilian natives. Their lives seemed comfortable and appealing to me, and it helped get rid of an intrinsic American superiority complex I had. American is not necessarily a better place than Brazil, and there are certain aspects of Brazilian life that I identified with more than American culture, which I certainly wasn’t expecting. Brazilian culture is so welcoming, open, and relaxed. Because of how much it meant to me to be welcomed by this culture, I am going to put more of a focus on being a welcome and open person in my daily life. This trip also changed my view of myself, and I left Brazil feeling more confident in myself and my work.

3.  What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature   Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in#2, and how did those affect you? 

During our stay in Brazil, we lived and worked in São Paulo during the weeks, and traveled on the weekends. The first weekend we travelled to Paraty, a small coastal town in the state of São Paulo; the second weekend we traveled to Salvador, a colonial city with its roots deep in African culture; the final weekend, we traveled to Rio de Janeiro, the first place people think of when they picture Brazil. The traveling we did allowed us to see all different areas of Brazil and experience different cultures along the way; the travel helped me realize that Brazil is not one big homogenous country but a country as big as the continental United States with just as much diversity, and was one of the major events that led to the breakdown of my previous opinions about America v. other countries.

One thing I was hoping for but not really expecting out of our trip was the make friends with Brazilians. We definitely accomplished this, and everyone we interacted with was immediately open and warm with us, which in turn allowed me to really open up to the country. Campus Brazil (the student tourism agency that Fisher partnered with for the on-ground logistics of our trip) was not only a resource to us, but also a source of friendship. The people we worked with at Greif were so friendly towards us; on the first day of work a group of employees invited us to sit with them at lunch, and from then on they made a point to include us whenever they hung out. Through them, we learned about the language, the current state of Brazilian politics and pop culture, and about what the daily life of an average Brazilian might look like. The open and welcome relationships we developed helped me realize how much of a difference being welcoming to new people can make. Because of this, I’m going to make more of a conscious effort in my own life to be welcoming and open to new people.

The work experience itself was also transformational. In Brazil we were living on our own, cooking all of our own meals, and working jobs with regular hours; we were living adult lives, and I left feeling more mature than when I came because of it. I became more confident in my work, I learned how to effectively work in a team to accomplish a huge task, and I learned how to better manage my time. One specific experience that was very transformational was our final presentation. Our final presentation was to a room full of executives, which I found to be incredibly nerve-wracking. This was the most important presentation of my life, because we spent so long on the work and didn’t have a clue how these important people would react. Going into that situation, I had to force myself to be confident under pressure, and take comfort in my team members and the work we had done. This taught me a lot about teamwork and having confidence in myself.

4.  Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? 

Personally, I became a more open-minded person. I had always considered myself to be open-minded, but learning about a different culture and coming to understand that cultures aren’t better than one another, just different, was really important for me. Being open-minded is in general important for your personal life, as you can appreciate different types of people and continue to grow as a person. You can’t have growth without being open to changing your mind, so I definitely benefitted from the trip in that way. I also never thought that I would want to end up outside of the United States before this trip, but after being so comfortable living in a foreign country for a month, my views have definitely changed. I could now see myself spending the rest of my life living in a country like Brazil, with a more relationship-focused and relaxed atmosphere, which is a major shift from my previous future plans.

Professionally, my internship was very helpful- it was a hands-on education in business compared to the one I received in college. I got to learn about plant operations, product lines, and how to research data in an effective in efficient manner, all of which could be useful bits of knowledge for a future career. We did not receive a lot of direction on our project, which forced me to seek out solutions for myself and be confident in my work without needing the assurance of others, which I think will overall make me better at any job. Our final presentation was the most official/important presentation of my life, and preparing and executing that helped me become a better presenter for life, which is a very important skill to have in the business world. Lastly, it reaffirmed for me that consulting is a field I’m very interested in. Before this trip I thought that in theory it might be something I’d enjoy, but actually working on a consulting project was an enjoyable experience and reassures me that I am on the right career path.