“I used to be an ordinary girl that you would see on the street just like millions of other girls. I was just a normal pupil who attends high school and has good grades. I was a teenager with nothing special about me except for my love of science. But what else? Who am I? This question may have had a simple yes or no answer or no answer at all–but that was before the TechGirls program.” – Amina Chida, Tunisia

Amina reflecting on her TechGirls experience and offering words of thanks at the final dinner”I was selected out of hundreds of girls to participate in the three-week TechGirls program. I am still the same age and the same girl you see walking on the street but now I am not just a girl, I am now a TechGirl.

I could spend a whole day telling you how important technology is. Or how amazing Unity Script and HTML can be when creating a video game or a website, like I learned to do at iD Tech Camp. However being a TechGirl is not just about gaining technological skills; it’s about much more than that. This experience has completely changed my life and made me look at the world from a different angle. Since my return home, everyone has asked me what my favorite part in the program was but the thing is I don’t have a favorite part. Each day was special. I vividly recall all the moments of brief tears and laughter that went on forever. It seemed impossible that we could laugh so much.

I remember walking around Washington, DC and seeing buildings that looked antique from the outside and modern from within. We were lucky to have the opportunity to enter so many of those buildings. The effect of the combination of modern and old was unique and beautiful. I remember the feelings of anticipation during the waiting period before meeting a speaker. I sat in my chair wondering Who are we going to meet? What is she/he  going to say? Then my mind would switch back to thinking of questions I should ask. Before I knew it, minutes would have passed and the distinguished individual started speaking and sharing his/her experiences.

Pat Falcone (Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs) speaks to the TechGirls through an event organized by the White House Office of Digital Strategies

What we learned through these meetings was that the people we met with love their jobs not for money or business but for passion itself. This is an inspiration. I was touched by so many people: with the team at the Office of Digital Strategy, the Panel Discussion with incredible women at Microsoft, and Louise Anderson from ALIVE!.  I saw how successful she is, I listened to her talk about the path she took to the work she is doing and was very inspired. Louise Anderson was just one example. After everyone shared their accomplishments with us with such a balance of honesty and passion, I said to myself, I want to be like them, but how?

In addition I can’t forget New York City—there were lights everywhere. That city was alive. It felt like we were in a movie or perhaps even a dream come true. From Central Park to Madison Avenue and Times Square, everything was huge. The buildings were so high. I couldn’t believe it when I found myself on the 51stfloor at the Bank of America luncheon hosted by Women Innovate Mobile. The dream that ended too soon and before I knew it we were back in the United States.

J.E. Rash, President, Legacy International, conversing with TechGirls at Farewell dinner, Washington DC

The dinner with Digital Divas was also very meaningful. The hours passed like seconds as we talked with people about experiences as leaders in their fields. They all said “You can do it!” and I replied “I can’t!” They countered me by saying “Don’t give up on us!” They said it again and again, “You are ambitious and with no doubt, you will make a difference.” Perhaps the most powerful statement was from Mr. Rash, the founder of Legacy International, when he said, “We are the future. We are the leaders of today and we will change the world.”  Before then, I hadn’t given much thought to the concept of universal values but since that day my vision has changed.

Today, as a TechGirl I am aiming to reach those values I gained from participating in the program—every single day and every single minute. I really believe in myself now. I really want to pursue my dreams without hesitating. I will be the future. I will be a leader in my community.

These memories and words of encourage are the most important things I have gained during these 3 intense weeks with a lot of emotions, ups and downs…

My experience is hardly encompassed by these few paragraphs. I am not done but I will never be done! I can tell everyone on this earth that this program has made me into a TechGirl. I can walk down the street and say it all over again. I am a TechGirl! But now you know as well me that the term “TechGirls” signifies an infinite amount of memories, feelings, experiences, and words: ambition, dreams, the future, universal values…infinity!”

To read more from the TechGirls as they reflect on their experiences in the Program go to the TechGirls Blog 2013

TechGirls, a U.S. Department of State initiative,techgirls is an international exchange program, administered by Legacy International,  designed to empower young girls to pursue careers in the science and technology sectors.