{Photo Friday}: Golden Fall

I had the great opportunity to get out with a friend one weekend to visit one of the many parks located in the capital city. It was an incredible fall day, complete with an idyllic setting and fall weather. I’m glad we stayed long enough to explore and adventure through the park to catch the best sunset I’ve ever experienced in Moldova.

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Among the many visitors at this particular park, we had the chance to run into some random goats enjoying the fall day as well. It was such a great afternoon that I cannot help but to share more photos.

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Inspirational Experiences from the Technovation World Pitch Summit

Part 3: This is the third part of a series about our recent journey to San Francisco for the 2016 Technovation World Pitch Summit. The first and second parts of this series were shared earlier this week.

From Moldova we had 3 different programs going on during the Technovation World Pitch Summit. I was attending training for the new Master Educator program while another girl was attending a similar and new training but for Student Ambassadors. We met with others from around the globe and discussed how we can grow the programs in our respective countries and learn from one another. In addition, we had a group of girls from Moldova attending as a visiting team, they had won the regional pitch event and as the grand prize they advanced to the semi-final round and had the opportunity to attend the Technovation World Pitch event along with their mentor. All of this was possible thanks to local generous sponsors Girls Go IT, Sun Communications, Tekwill and the many individuals who supported the Indiegogo campaign. You can read more about their app idea here from a previous post. We’ll be sharing more in detail about all the “cool” things the girls from the visiting team had the opportunity to see and experience.

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All of us sporting the new Technovation Moldova t-shirts before departing for San Francisco.

The first part of the World Pitch Summit started with a tour of the city for the girls from the visiting team. They visited the Golden Gate Bridge, the De Young Museum, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Crookedest street. Time during which the girls had the chance to interact with all the other visiting teams and the Technovation staff.

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All of the girls and mentors between the visiting teams and finalist teams from all over the world.

The first day ended with a panel discussion at Twitter where 6 successful women from project managers to programmers and engineers shared their professional paths that got them to Twitter. Most importantly, they advised the girls on future steps to take in order to build stronger CVs.

The second day of the Conference was all about Silicon Valley and inspiration. The girls started with a trip to Intuitive Surgical, a company that designs and produces surgical robots. They got to try using a robot and to see how it is produced giving them more insights into operation processes.

The day continued with a programming workshop at Intel.

Next in line were a couple of workshops at Yahoo, where the girls got useful insights about their app’s design and accessibility.

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The girls are having their app tested and were given feedback on ways to improve it for useability

In the evening, the girls attended the World Pitch Conference where they met the finalists and had the chance to talk with them about their apps and business ideas they developed.

But the learning didn’t stop here. The following day, the girls attended 2 workshops of their own preference. They had a list of choices including a Women in Tech Panel; Enabling Voice Driven Smart Home Experiences with Amazon Alexa; How to Tell a Visual Story; Imagination in Virtual Reality; Technovation Alumni Panel; Data Science: Finding Hidden Treasures in Piles of Messy, Chaotic Data; Python and the Twitter API; and Meaningful User Journeys.

One of the girls, Sanda shared with us about one of the workshops she attended; the panel of Women in Tech. During this panel she met some amazing women whose careers were connected to technology or entrepreneurship and they gave advice and shared their stories. Some of the things she had learned and taken from this unique panel of women included “Life is a journey and every moment in life is teachable.” Also that “Failure is a part of success.”

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The conference ended with leading to the evening of the World Pitch Event that was open to the public. The girls from the visiting teams along with the finalists teams had the chance to showcase their app ideas during a table-top exhibit. The girls did an amazing job with their table-top presentation and interacting with all the people that came by to learn more about their idea.

The World Pitch Summit ended with an extraordinary breakfast at Autodesk, where besides saying goodbye to all the participants the girls had the opportunity to discover more technologies and innovations in different industries, sports, medicine, constructions, cars, physics and many more.

On the last day before leaving for Moldova the girls were able to make a quick visit to the California Academy of Sciences. The girls saw a planetarium and an aquarium for the first time. They found the experience to be very enlightening.

The girls are grateful for the opportunity to have been able to meet others in the tech industry and see places and experience things they dreamed of. They are eager to continue to learn and further develop the Technovation community in Moldova. We look forward to the year ahead as they inspire others to continue to learn and grow and look at things in a new way.

Coming up over the next couple of weeks – interviews from the girls and their mentor!

Special thanks to Ana Efros, the girls’ mentor for helping to write this post.

A Whirlwind Visit to San Francisco with Moldovan Girls

I recently returned from a week-long trip in San Francisco along with 4 Moldovan girls and their amazing mentor. This is will be the first part of a series about our recent journey to San Francisco from Moldova. There is so much to share and it would have been a really long blog post, so I’ll be sharing it in a few parts along with some follow-up interviews with some of the girls later.

For some of them this was their first time flying on an airplane, as well as their first time being in the US. So I had the opportunity to see so many things through their eyes for the first time.

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First time flying on an airplane…

Although we were all there for Technovation, it was a bit different schedule for all of us throughout the week.

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All of us at the final pitch event at Intuit in Mountain View, CA.

Moldova had a visiting team attending the Technovation World Pitch Summit they got to connect with the competition finalist teams as well as 5 other visiting teams from around the globe. The finalist teams were from USA, Canada, Mexico, Kenya, India, Kazakhstan, and Cameroon while the visiting teams included Uganda, Australia, Tunisia, and of course Moldova. The girls made new friends and learned a lot of new things about the cultural differences and similarities between them.

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Diana with some of the girls from Tunisia. (photo from Diana Marusic)

There was also an 18 year old student ambassador representing Moldova who was able to connect with 14 other student ambassadors from around the world. Their goal is to continue to develop and promote the Technovation program in their communities and gather more girls interest.

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First time flying on an airplane…

As for me, I was attending as part of the new Technovation Master Educator program along with 30 other educators from around the world. We went through a great collaborative training that helped set us up for the next 2 years of expanding Technovation within our communities. I enjoyed getting to know the other educators representing various parts of the world including Uganda, Bolivia, Mexico, Palestine, Turkey, Peru, Canada, Tunisia, Cameroon, Australia, Nigeria, Spain, India, South Africa, Rwanda, UK, Vanuatu, Cambodia, Morocco, Rep. of Georgia, Moldova and USA. I wish we would have had more time to spend together in person as it was a valuable resource to discuss similarities and differences of working with teams in our communities.

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All of the Master Educators (promoting Morocco’s eSTEM program) [photo from Ayoub Rahmouni]
It was an incredible experience. Visiting San Francisco and even California was a first for me and I LOVED it. It was an amazing opportunity as it opened the girls’ minds even further into the field of technology. They got to meet women working in Silicon Valley who shared their stories about their journey within the tech industry. They had the chance to attend hands-on workshops and to discuss their app idea with other teams and professionals in the industry.

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The girls at Yahoo discussing their app with other girls. (photo from Ana Efros)

These impressions will last a lifetime and I can see first-hand the impact it has had on them and how they will be able to take this and share it with so many other girls and their peers to inspire them in their futures as well.

I will be sharing more details over the next couple of days/weeks about this experience and the insights shared by the girls about their experience. Stay tuned, more to come soon!

A huge THANK YOU to the Technovation and Iridescent staff and all the sponsors who made this all possible in addition to the local partners Girls Go IT, Tekwill, and Sun Communications along with all the Indiegogo campaign funders who made it possible for the girls from Moldova to attend! 

Encourage Girls from Technovation!

Technovation Challenge is the largest and longest-running tech competition for girls. It entails a 12-week curriculum that girls ages 10-18 go through with a mentor or coach. They learn how to identify a problem in their community and figure out a solution by creating a business plan and mobile app. Plus, all of this is done in English! An incredible challenge since for many of them this is an introduction to new things like writing a business plan, critical thinking through developing a mobile app in AppInventor, and utilizing English (often times their 2nd or 3rd language)!

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Girls from one of the participating teams that I had the opportunity to work with this year.

I had shared a few weeks ago about the Regional Event we hosted in Moldova where a local Moldovan team had advanced to the semi-final round. Thanks to local community support and through a crowdfunding campaign we’re making it possible to send the girls to participate as a visiting team during the World Pitch Event in July in San Francisco.

The girls will have the opportunity to attend the World Pitch Event and participate in learning from workshops, tours of tech companies, and network with other girls from around the world who are problem-solvers from their communities and future women in tech! We still need help in this crowdfunding campaign with about one week left! Give, share, and be part of encouraging girls in developing IT solutions!

Thanks to these awesome local partnering sponsors: Tekwill, Sun Communications, and Girls Go IT all funds will be doubled! So if you give $25… it turns into $50! Viola! >> https://igg.me/at/tech-moldova

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This year has been an incredible year, from the all-star organizing core team, to the mentors/coaches who rose up to the challenge, and all the girls who worked long hours on turning their ideas into reality. By the semi-final round Moldova ended up having 3 teams in the semi-finals! Three! A great accomplishment that all 3 teams should be proud of!

Although the 2016 season for Technovation Challenge Moldova has come to an end for all the teams in this year’s competition, it appears that some teams are still planning on continuing to develop their ideas and mobile apps. We look forward to seeing these girls continue to learn and make their ideas happen!

Photo Friday: A Simple Crane

I’m beginning a new series of posts on Fridays as I share an image from my experience in Moldova as a Peace Corps Volunteer. (although, I am starting out the first post with a photo from my latest vacation) 

Found hanging in a handmade paper store when visiting a small historic village town in France near Lyon. This makes me think of the beauty that simple things can bring in life -- transforming a simple piece of paper into a folded origami crane
I found this hanging in a handmade paper store when visiting a small historic village town in France near Lyon. This made me think of the beauty that simple things can bring in life — transforming a simple piece of white paper into an origami crane which also holds several meanings in the Japanese culture including peace, honor, and loyalty.

“I am Moldovan but a piece of my personality is American…” – Meet Nadia

Meet Nadia, one of my wonderful language tutors. I usually see Nadia’s smiling face about once a week where I practice my Romanian and get help with any questions and the grammar issues I have. Nadia is 34 and lives here in Balti, she is originally from Soroca. She studied English Philology from the State University of Moldova, Chisinau.  Currently, she is an English teacher, and also helps students such as myself with Romanian as well. I have enjoyed getting to know Nadia over the past couple of months so I hope you enjoy getting to know her a bit and her experience with volunteers…

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Tell us a bit about yourself and your family:
My family is not big. We live in Balti. My husband’s name is Radu. He is a graphic designer. I have a son, Vladut. He is 6 years old. I have also a sister, Victoria. She lives in Chisinau, she plays the violin, and is very successful in this. I am proud about my family.

What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
I like dancing zumba, reading books, and of course spending time with my family.

Tell us about the first time you met a Peace Corps volunteer…
It was in 2008 when I became a language instructor at Peace Corps. I remember how nervous I was, struggling to understand what Americans say. Fortunately I felt comfortable very soon listening and speaking to them because they all were very nice and patient with me.

Has your perspective on Volunteering changed?
Yes it has. I began to appreciate a lot the people who decided to be volunteers, understand their values and try to introduce them into my own values, to do something good and valuable for somebody and enjoy their happiness.

Has your perspective about Americans changed?
I didn’t have anything to change, just strengthened my good opinion about them.

How have Peace Corps volunteers impacted your life?
The experience I had getting to know them is very precious for me. They taught me about their way of life, culture, values. I am Moldovan but a piece of my personality is American, because I tried to learn from them good things, what our people need to improve, I mean way of life or mentality, and I am glad that I began to think differently the things that helped my life be better.

If you could say one thing to all Peace Corps volunteers what would it be?
You do a great job, guys. Thank you all!

If you could say one thing to all Moldovans about volunteering what would it be?
Being a volunteer is important. It helps you get new experiences and make the lives of people better.

What are some of your hopes for Moldova’s future?
I hope one day it would be a country with much more opportunities for people to study, work, and have fun, so that nobody will have to work abroad and be away from his/her family.

“My perspective on Volunteering has changed…” – Meet Igor

This guy has me laughing pretty much every time I see him. Meet Igor, a smart and dedicated 19 year old who grew up in Balti, Moldova. He is currently in his first year of college studying marketing at a ASEM (Academy of Economics studies of Moldova) located in Chisinau. He’ll come and visit his family on the weekends so we get to see him sometimes when he is in town. I appreciate Igor’s willingness to learn new things and hearing his perspective on life. I have learned a lot from him and believe he has a bright future ahead…

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Paden, a Peace Corps volunteer with Igor at a fundraising event this past year.

What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
Being a college student and working doesn’t really give me much free time, but when I do have it, I use to catch up on my reading, spending time with friends, and volunteering when I get a chance.

Tell us about the first time you met a Peace Corps volunteer…
I first met a Peace Corp Volunteer in August 2013. A friend of mine was planning an event with a volunteer and asked me if I wanted to help. I agreed and we went for a meeting, and that’s the first time I ever met a PCV.

Has your perspective on Volunteering changed?
My perspective on Volunteering has changed, because before I thought that volunteering is just something you do once a week for couple hours, after working with Peace Corps Volunteers I realized that it’s an entire process, where you need to dedicate your time, energy and basically yourself to the cause.

How have Peace Corps volunteers impacted your life?
Where do I start? In the last couple years PCVs have completely changed my life. They made me aware of who I am, what I am capable of and more importantly, what my country is capable of.  They taught a lot of useful skills, convinced me to stay and help my country instead of moving away as I initially planned.  And thanks to them I have found my first job. The truth is that only couple years ago, I was just going through life without a purpose, of a plan, but now it’s different. I am not the person I was three years ago, and I am glad.

If you could say one thing to all Peace Corps volunteers what would it be?
What you’re doing is important, even if it doesn’t seem like that. Just keep in mind that you are making the world a better place.

Also… If someone gives you a choice: rachiu or wine, always go for the wine.

If you could say one thing to all Moldovans about volunteering what would it be?
Keep volunteering, because not only you are helping those in need, you are also helping yourself, by acquiring important life skills, and meeting a lot of new and interesting people.

What are some of your hopes for Moldova’s future?
My hopes for Moldova’s future? My only hope is that it reaches its potential, and becomes the country it could be, instead of the country it is right now.