The 2023 TechGirls program was nothing short of memorable! 125 TechGirls from all over the world participated in the 2023 TechGirls program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State (DOS). After diligently completing their applications in December 2022 and waiting for submission updates, finalists finally received notifications and preparations began for their arrival in March 2023.
Over two days, participants arrived in Washington, D.C., in July 2023 with cohort mates from more than 35 countries. Once all the TechGirls had landed, they participated in an orientation with remarks from Legacy International’s Vice President Mary Helmig and DOS representatives. That same day, all TechGirls moved to Virginia Tech, their new home, for two weeks. During this time, Resident Assistants assisted TechGirls and helped them adjust to a new environment. Participants were split into “pod” groups based on their Virginia Tech course. These pod groups allowed participants a chance to form connections within a smaller group.
TechGirls develop friendship at Virginia Tech
A core component of the program is to provide TechGirls with coursework to achieve subject mastery and engage with skills they can later implement into their Community Action Projects (CAPs). Virginia Tech offers college-level coursework for TechGirls to advance their skills in STEM. Some core courses included “Learning Programming via Algorithmic Music Making and Beyond” and “Automating Systems Using Microprocessors.” These courses allow TechGirls to engage in societal issues and prepare them for a future career in STEM. They also participated in leadership courses provided by the TechGirls program to equip them with the skills to lead out their CAPs. These projects enable TechGirls to use their experience to make a difference in their community with the knowledge they have gained. On the last day at Virginia Tech, all TechGirls presented their project ideas and received peer feedback.
TechGirls participating in courses led by Virginia Tech
Although learning is a huge part of the TechGirls program, participants were also encouraged to engage in various recreational activities and team-building exercises. One way TechGirls expanded their skills was through VentureOut, in which participants worked together in a group to expand their team-building and soft skills. Whether participating in a sport or developing self-care strategies, downtime is built into the program to cultivate long-lasting memories and friendships. The “TechGirls Barbecue” is an example of the power of cross-cultural connections. The barbecue is a cultural enrichment component of the program that encourages girls to share knowledge about their culture and country/territory. During this event, participants highlight their culture by wearing traditional clothing, sharing souvenirs, and celebrating with song and dance in a warm, welcoming, diverse environment.
After their time at Virginia Tech, the TechGirls embarked on the following program segment: “Community Immersion and STEM Exploration.” TechGirls stayed with host families in cities around the United States, including Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Denver, CO; Detroit, MI; and Seattle, WA. Once TechGirls made their way to their assigned cities, they had the opportunity to shadow professionals working in different STEM careers and meet with inspiring women in the STEM field. Participants also had a chance to explore and learn about their host city’s history. In some cities, participants gave back to the community through service projects. They were able to volunteer at places like the Freestone Foodbank in Cincinnati, OH, and the Boys and Girls Club in Denver, CO. These engagements exemplified the importance of service to the community.
TechGirls participating in a community service project
During the program’s final segment, TechGirls visited several places in the Washington, D.C., area. While visiting Capitol Hill, TechGirls engaged with the Women’s High Tech Coalition, which included a panel of policymakers and women in STEM who answered questions and gave them an insight into the significance of pursuing a STEM career. Participants also had a chance to visit NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to listen to expert’s advice on working in aeronautics, engineering, and other STEM-related careers.
Close to the end of the program, TechGirls finished making their way through Washington D.C. by shopping for last-minute souvenirs, visiting the Smithsonian museums like the National Museum of Natural History, and taking in the views of the historical monuments. The program culminated with a visit to the U.S. Department of State for a closing Capstone event. The U.S. Secretary of State offered congratulatory and inspiring remarks to the TechGirls 2023 cohort. During the event, participants reflected on their overall program experience and engaged with public servants.
As TechGirls began to depart home, many emotional goodbyes were exchanged. Participants who were once strangers shared hugs, gratitude, and memories to commemorate the short yet eventful time. Throughout the 24-days, participants were able to connect and make new friends because the TechGirls program provided them with an opportunity to advance their skills in STEM and meet girls like-minded peers who are passionate about STEM. This empowered them to harness their potential and prepared them to take on the world’s challenges. Here’s a glimpse of the TechGirls’ experiences in their own words:
- “I loved the classes! Our professor and TAs were entertaining and inspired me to learn more of the course with a passion!” TechGirl from the USA
- “My favorite memories were singing with my roommate, watching movies with all the girls, having our meal times together, and preparing for our projects. On the barbecue day, I learned so much about everyone’s culture, which was a wholesome experience.” TechGirl from Algeria
- “I loved spending time with my pod. I’ve grown to love everyone, the RAs and the girls just made my whole experience worthwhile. I wish this for every other girl.” TechGirl from Fiji
- “One of the best parts of each day were the huddles. We had the chance to share our thoughts and to get to know each other better. Additionally, I loved the conversations I had with the special friends I made…and of course, the Community Barbecue was amazing.” TechGirl from Cyprus
- “My favorite memories are when we went to the duck pond, the BBQ, Target shopping, laughing and making bracelets in the common room, and talking with my RAs.” TechGirl from Honduras
TechGirls pose for a group photo
About the Author: Kristianna Eaton is a fall 2023 Communications Intern for the TechGirls program, a U.S. Department of State initiative administered by Legacy International.