New Skills and New Friends

By Grace Wong, WiSci STEAM camp participant

With week one over with, I feel as if I have been here for an infinitely long time. I have learned a great deal, but more importantly, I've forged connections with girls from all over the United States and Africa.

When I first arrived in Rwanda, I was pretty homesick. The environment and lifestyle here is radically different from that of Portland and I missed my family dearly. At camp, we all sleep, eat and go to classes in groups called cohorts. I am in cohort 5, and I have been so lucky to have them as a support system.

Most of the girls in my cohort come from all over Africa, and there is one other girl from the United States as well as a counselor from the U.S. I have had the great joy of learning from them and becoming a sort of family with them.

Ari, who is from Rwanda and goes to Gashora during the year has taught me so many dances -- it's incredible. Every moment with her is a dance party, and throughout the week I have learned how to Shoky and all sorts of other dance moves that don't have names. Our whole cohort is forced to do these dances with her which causes much amusement and some annoyance.

In class I have learned alongside girls from all different cultures, and that has only enhanced my experience here. Being able to connect and learn with girls from new cultures makes coding much more interesting and I have loved being able to get to know all of them. My final project partner, Annie, is from Ghana and working with her made the whole coding experience that much richer.

While Annie and I definitely had some clashes which we sometimes took out on each other, when we were finished with our project I felt that we had accomplished something really awesome together. She and I probably won't work together for the Intel projects that start on Monday because they want to switch you around, but I learned a great deal about Ghana and Ghanian music and culture through working with her, which is something really unique to this camp. I could learn how to program a Kodu game anywhere, but the fact that I got to do it in rural Rwanda with a super sassy girl from Ghana is a truly special experience and I'm so glad that I've gotten to take part of it.

Grace Wong is a Girl Up Teen Advisor from the 2015-2016 class. She lives in Portland, Oregon and promotes empathy, equality and kindness.