Finding Our Common Humanity: TechGirls Homestay Weekend
by Meredith Janik, host parent TechGirls 2013 and 2014
Simple exchanges can break down walls between us, for when people come together and speak to one another and share a common experience, then their common humanity is revealed.
Barack Obama, remarks at student roundtable in Istanbul, Turkey, April 7, 2009.
Upon hearing about TechGirls, Sarah, my 10-year-old daughter seemed shocked. “Do you mean there are girls like me who like science and technology and they live across the world? I have to meet them!” she said. Before we hosted TechGirls Safaa Berkani and Malaak Sowelem at our home for a weekend, Sarah barely discussed her interest in science. When asked by neighborhood girls if she had any after school activities, she would just shake her head “no.” The truth was that Sarah was in a Science club, learning about computers and building mini-robots but felt that her friends in the neighborhood never wanted to talk about her interests. She couldn’t believe, therefore, that there were teens older than her from around the world that shared her passions. When Safaa and Malaak came to our house, they stayed up late talking to Sarah about their experiences and their passion for science and technology.
As a family hosting two 16-year-old girls from Egypt and Morocco, we had many fun experiences that weekend. We went to our town’s summer parade, walked around Georgetown University and the waterfront, and we took them shopping at Pentagon City. One of the girls wanted to swim so we took them to our community pool. All of the TechGirls said the highlight of their homestay weekend was meeting and talking with an American family. Seeing the connections and differences between family life in America and their home countries was an invaluable experience for them.
One of the girls told my daughter Sarah, “Never be afraid to talk about your passion-even if it’s science and technology. The more you talk about your dreams, the more they become a reality.” Immediately, Sarah perked up and began to talk about all the things that were bottled up inside her. I notice a difference in Sarah now. She is proud of her passions. She talks about her computer interests with her friends, teachers, classmates, and us—her parents. I believe it is her experience with Safaa and Malak that made her bold and proud of who she is. It was a bit of a shock to us that girls from around the world (Morocco and Egypt, in this case) could come to our small town, to our small family for a short weekend and make such a difference in our lives.
Whether you host one or two girls, no matter what you do or where you go, the most important experiences you and they will have will be the conversations. They will enlighten and change both your perspectives and the TechGirls’ perspectives for the rest of your lives. In this digital age, it’s the face-to-face experiences that have the biggest impact. No social media tool will ever be able to replace the power of personal exchange.
If you are interested in hosting a TechGirl during homestay weekend (August 8-10th 2014), check out this page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.