Tunisia: Young Tunisian Finds Friends in Techgirls Program


As a young child, Nada Lakhal first learned to use a computer so she could email her parents whenever they left town on various trips. Since then, the 16-year-old Tunisian's technological capacities have widened considerably as she has passionately pursued the study of robotics, engineering, computer science, programming and math in school and through clubs.

But after a three-week stay in the United States with other teenage girls passionate about technology, Lakhal has added to her knowledge of applied technology and made many lasting friendships with both her fellow participants and American students. "I see that I already gained lots of friendships, lots of knowledge, life skills," Lakhal said. "It's an experience, after all, and I'll never forget it."

Lakhal was one of 25 teenage girls from North Africa and the Middle East brought to the United States to take part in the State Department's three-week TechGirls technological education program. As part of TechGirls, Lakhal and her peers took intensive technology courses at American University in Washington, met with business and government leaders, and experienced American culture through tours of the capital and meetings with American teenagers.

With a passion for all things technological, Lakhal hopes to choose a profession that requires the use of technology and will give her the chance to create new devices and services. "I really want to continue working in this field. I want to invent things, make new things," she said. She dreams of one day winning the Nobel Prize.

Aside from advancing the field of technology, Lakhal said, new inventions can also spark great social change. One only needs to look at the role Facebook played in the recent Tunisian revolution to see the power of social media, she said.

Through TechGirls, Lakhal was introduced to app creation (the development of computer applications), the Java language and other technologies that will broaden the skill base that may someday earn her a Nobel Prize, but she also met many girls her age with whom she has developed lasting friendships.

"I'm so glad I'm here, and I think it will be a very good experience for all the other girls," she said, reflecting on her experience with participants from North Africa, the Middle East and the United States in the course of the TechGirls program. "All the other girls from the next generation, hopefully, will [come] here and have so much fun."