Guest Post by Lexi Curtice
So far, the TechWomen delegation trip to Morocco is every bit as enriching and physically draining as the 5-week TechWomen program; that said, enriching is quite an understatement. For me, travel is synonymous with growth. Working at IIE (Institute of International Education) has been an invaluable learning experience. I am extremely fortunate to have had the chance to get to know 37 unique, intelligent, and generous TechWomen Mentees from the Middle East and North Africa over the period of their 5 week mentorship and to have traveled to Washington, DC with the group in July. I have learned more professionally and personally in the last 9 months than I ever thought possible. That being said, it has been an absolute honor to meet the Moroccan and Algerian Mentees in Morocco this week.
Marrakesh has provided the delegation with unparalleled opportunities for cultural exchange and citizen diplomacy. This exchange of ideas will foster future collaborations between Morocco and the U.S. on many different levels. From political leaders to social entrepreneurs, the meetings arranged have touched upon a broad base of social, political, and economic issues. We have met with the Mayor of Marrakech, been educated on the use of our iPhones by young boys at the Dar Tifl orphanage, talked to aspiring technical women at a local university, and visited a boarding house that provides educational assistance to girls from rural villages, among other meetings. Gifts have been given and received and kisses have been exchanged. Upon arrival to the orphanage, each boy and girl gave each delegation member a kiss on both cheeks. They sang welcome and departure songs to the group. Surely they are used to visitors, yet the effect was as if they were singing for the first time. Each member of the delegation was undeniably touched in a different way. I could write pages on the hospitable nature of the region.
In addition to the Mentees, Heather Ramsey (Director, Strategic Partnerships, IIE) and I are being accompanied by six amazing TechWomen Mentors, a representative of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural affairs, U.S. Department of State, and two representatives from our partners at the Anita Borg Institute. Mentors represent Yahoo, Research in Motion, Huawei, Internet Systems Consortium, Symantec, and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. It has been a pleasure getting to know these inspiring and influential technical women. Their kindness and patience has been a welcome respite during a busy week of trip arrangements. More updates from Casablanca to come!
Please continue to stay in touch via Twitter: @lexikcurtice.