Exploring San Francisco through a different perspective

Part 2: This is the second part of a series about our recent journey to San Francisco for the Technovation World Pitch Summit. The previous and first part was shared earlier this week. Now we’ll get into details of exploring San Francisco through the perspective of the Moldovan girls during their free time before and after the Summit.

Since the girls had a little free time they got to meet some returned Peace Corps volunteers who had previously served in Moldova. They graciously took them around the city for a tour and had them try some different foods than they’re used to.

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Dinner with some returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) from Moldova. Which kind of pizza did the girls like better, NY Style pizza or Chicago Style Pizza?

A ride through San Francisco on the cable car was a must-do and fun highlight thanks to the wonderful RPCV guides…

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Photo from the cable car of another cable car and the Bay. Photo by Ana Efros

The girls visited the beach, which for some of them it was the very first time seeing the ocean (!)…

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Technovation Moldova goes to the beach along the Pacific ocean. Photo by Ana Efros

It was a beautiful day to explore the beautiful parks that San Francisco has to offer…

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The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Photo by Ana Efros

There was a lot of walking throughout the city as the fog rolled in at various points of the day and evening…

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The view from one of the hills in the city with the fog rolling in. Photo by Ana Efros

On our departure day we had some time before needing to go to the airport to start our return trip home to Moldova, so we visited the California Academy of Sciences. The girls were amazed as it was their first time seeing such a place. It included a planetarium, aquarium, rain forest, and interactive exhibits which they thoroughly enjoyed. It was a great way to end the journey as they explored the exhibits.

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Being awed by the aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences.

They even had an opportunity to meet a Moldovan woman who lives near San Francisco who heard they were visiting and connected with them right before leaving for the airport.

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Connecting in San Francisco and being able to speak Romanian.

It was an amazingly incredible experience to see so many things through the girls’ perspectives – many firsts, thoughtful insights, and shifts in understanding. They saw new things, tasted new foods, experienced new ways of transport, and met new people.

This would not have been possible without the many partners, organizations, businesses, individuals, and RPCVs who made this happen especially Girls Go IT, Sun Communications, Tekwill and the Technovation organizing core team from Moldova. Also, of course thanks to the Technovation team for coordinating all the details and making the World Pitch Summit an amazing educational and inspirational event for all!

In the next post we will share more about the fascinating things and opportunities the girls had the chance to participate in and experience at the Technovation World Pitch Summit. It’s pretty interesting, so don’t miss it!

 

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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! 

Impressions from my short visit to the US after 2 years

I have SO much to share from my latest journey to the US. I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco for about a week to participate in a new educator program with Technovation. I also had a number of young Moldovan girls traveling with me as well since they were there for similar events but for different trainings.

I will be sharing much more about these various aspects of the trip soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share some of my first impressions after not being in the US for 2 years. I’m currently back in Moldova now, but am writing this at a crazy hour since I’m not tired thanks to the 10 hour time change and jet-lag.

Here’s some of my impressions of changes and things that really stood out to me upon my short return to US soil (in no particular order):

 1. I heard English everywhere! I often found myself startled as I could understand pretty much all conversations around me EVERYWHERE. On the street, in public transport, and on the TV and radio. It was refreshing, but also a noticeable abrupt change for me.

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I liked the little specialized shops at the Ferry Building Marketplace.

2. The US flag was everywhere! I don’t know if this is something that was like this before or if it’s a recent change (or just me), but it seemed like the US flag was every where I turned. The times I just caught myself staring was when I would see a number of them clustered together in a parking lot of a business. It may have been a bit of shock of not actually realizing where I really was until I saw the flags waving in the wind. Who knows… but this one caught me by surprise.

3. Uber is amazing! When I had left for Moldova, Uber was something that was just starting to take off in big cities. I used it for the first time in San Francisco and found it to be my preferred way to travel when it was difficult to connect between the places I needed to get to and from. It was easy, didn’t take long for a car to show up and sometimes was cheaper and quicker to transport a group of us from location to another. Every time I used it I wanted to hug each driver (but I didn’t), they were so helpful and nice and plus I didn’t have to deal with cash. Thanks, Uber.

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I was able to save even more by taking an UberPool, which means you share the car with someone else who is going to the same area. This had to have been one of the cleanest and best smelling cars I have been in a long time, or ever.

4. Pokemon Go? The news seemed to hit about this new phenomenon the same week we were in San Francisco. I saw A LOT of people using it while walking along the sidewalks. I still don’t know what I think about it, but it was really strange for me to see so many people using their phones as guides along the streets of San Francisco. Pikachu, I see you?

5. The Peace Corps volunteer network is amazing! This was a constant theme through our whole trip. From a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) from Moldova taking the girls on a tour throughout the city on their free day; being able to stay and visit with former RPCV site mates from Moldova; to meeting up for dinner with a few other RPCVs from Moldova along with a RPCV friend I went to University with; to connecting with a Moldovan woman who had married an RPCV who heard the girls would be in town… and then running into currently serving volunteers from Moldova at the airport! It’s a small world after all. 🙂  [not all RPCVs are pictured below]

I’m grateful we made it back to Moldova with smooth travels and am glad to be back to wrap up a few things before heading home to Pennsylvania for home leave soon. I still have yet to find a place to live in my new site, in addition to doing a few more trainings with the new volunteers, and one last visit to my host family’s village house before summer ends. I’ll be back on a plane in less than two weeks experiencing jet-lag once again, but it will be worth it all.

More to come soon!

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

TC Campaign

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!