Google Code-in 2018 Grand Prize Winners Trip — June 2019

I worked so hard to get here but I’ve never thought that I’ll be able to achieve my dream of going to the USA. I am so thankful for all of the great Google Code-in 2018 mentors from Fedora Project who did their job the best and for Google and its GCI team because they were able to offer one of the biggest opportunities of my life.

Make sure to check out my experience during the GCI 2018 contest before reading this article.

The day started at 1 AM (GMT+2) for me. My flight was leaving at 6 AM. I had a 5-hour layover in Munich, Germany and I arrived at San Francisco International Airport at 2:30 PM.

Flight from Cluj Napoca — Munich

I took the BART from SFO to Powell Street subway station, then took a 10-minute walk and I arrived at Marriott Union Square Hotel at 4 PM

Marriott San Francisco Union Square hotel at night

When we got to the hotel we needed to get ready fast because everyone was supposed to be in the hotel lobby by 5 PM. We went downstairs using the fast elevator from Marriott going 17 floors in about 10 seconds.

The Google Code-in — Google open source team gave us the badges that we needed to take everywhere and they informed us about our day and time spent in the US.

We took a shuttle bus to the Google — San Francisco office and the GCI team informed us about different places, attractions and fun activities we can do while we were on our way there.

The first thing we did at Google SF was eating and that was really exciting if you ask me. They arranged a big buffet that addressed even dietary needs for the people who needed that. The buffet included tasty foods such as coconut shrimp, spring rolls, and most importantly a candy bar with a bunch of fruits, cookies, brownies and chocolate fountains (which people were most excited about)

After we ate we went into a room where they introduced the Google team who was responsible for Google Code-in and the Grand Prize Trip. They gave us all a lot of Google swag(t-shirts, pens, stickers, backpacks, etc.) and a Google Pixel 3XL 128 GB phone with an original Google Fabric case which was awesome. We got to meet each other by playing a scavenger hunt game and the winner received a prize. I made some great friends who I still communicate with from countries like North Macedonia, Spain, India, Ukraine, USA, etc. After that, we played a raffle game where every participant was able to get different GCI, GSoC or Google Open Source merchandise.

Some of the Google SWAG

That night some of us met in the hotel lobby and decided to go through Chinatown by ourselves because it was so close to our hotel. That was a funfilled moment because we laughed and made lasting friendships.

Chinatown at night

The second day started with visiting the Google Merchandise Store where we were able to buy merchandise using the 150$ gift card we received and the Android Statues Park from the Google Mountain View HQ.

Google Android Statues Park — Mountain View, CA

After we took some pics in front of the Android figurines we headed to the Sunnyvale Google Campus where 5 googlers held presentations on recruitment, Google Assistant, Android platform, ChromeOS and TensorFlow. The presentations and the speakers were amazing because we were able to ask any kind of questions, they respected each of them and didn’t consider any of the questions “stupid” as it often happens in my country. I personally gained knowledge, developed new ideas and got encouraged to pursue my dreams because of the events that happened at Google. Some students were able to answer Android related questions so they received Android figurines. Between the presentations, we were taking small breaks when we could enjoy ice cream, different sweets and snacks they prepared for us such as (Android shaped cookies were such a nice addition).

Snack bar at Google Cloud Sunnyvale, CA

After the talks, each student got to eat lunch with a Googler from their own country, so I met a Googler from Romania. I got to talk to her about my experience with Google Code-in and I asked her about working at Google and about her life in the US and how she got there. She was so positive and encouraging, I’m really happy that I met her.

Before arriving in the US we had to choose between a Cable Car tour of San Francisco and a Segway ride through Fisherman’s Wharf. I chose the Cable Car ride although Segway sounded more fun I never regret not choosing it because we get the BEST tour of San Francisco gaining knowledge about the city and it’s history and visited places that Segway riders didn’t have the opportunity to see such as Ocean Beach, the Presidio, Golden Gate Park, Billionaires’ Row and many more. My favorite spot we visited was Twin Peaks where we got terrific views of the city.

View of San Francisco from Twin Peaks

After that, we went to Ghirardelli Pub in Fisherman’s Wharf where we were able to choose from different tasty dishes like Macaroni and cheese, fish and chips, etc. Then we took short walks around Fisherman’s Wharf.

Fisherman’s Wharf sign

At 1:30 PM we took shuttle buses to Golden Gate Bridge where some of us including me walked the whole bridge and back and it was so joyful.

At 3:30 PM we went to Pier 40 where we boarded on a Cruise. We passed Alcatraz island and we went under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Views of the Financial District

The last day ended with even more prizes and the Award Ceremony. Each of us got a trophy with our name on and our organization on it. Some of us were selected to be in one of the two videos Google planned to present for the announcement of the next Google Code-in (which are up right now and can be found at https://developers.google.com/open-source/gci/videos).

GCI Students on cruise

This was the greatest experience of my life and I am so thankful for it. Visiting the US made me achieve one of my biggest dreams and I was the happiest being there because I met a lot of nice people and I got to experience some part of an American lifestyle. Google treated us perfectly and they arranged such a great trip from the tastiest and healthiest food and snacks to funfilled trips, talks and activities.

The 5th day was supposed to be the last day there but when we were booking the tickets we had the opportunity to choose when to depart, and so we chose to stay 3 more days so we left on July 1st. On the 5th day, we visited more of San Francisco on our own, we saw Chinatown, The Coit Tower, Lombard Street and of course we had to eat burgers at In-N-Out Burger from Fisherman’s Wharf.

Facebook HQ at 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park, CA

Before the trip, I was trying to get a tour of the Facebook Headquarters from Menlo Park, CA by contacting a lot of people, this took me months to arrange but in the end, a Facebook recruiter was able to help me with this and so on the 6th day me and my dad picked up our rental car and we drove to Facebook HQ. There I met a great Facebook engineer who was also Romanian, talked to him about working at Facebook and he toured us around the beautiful Facebook campus (both the old 1 Hacker Way campus and the new buildings).

Views of Apple Park from Apple Visitor Center

After leaving Facebook we headed to the Apple Park Visitor Center. The architectural design was stunning and there was a vibe only Apple can create, it was the same thing as the quality of an Apple product but for a place, everything was crystal clear and perfectly designed.

Panoramic view of the Apple Store

I took a lot of pictures while being there but I couldn’t include them all in this post. If you would like to see more pictures contact me and I’ll send you some.

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I’m a Romanian🇷🇴 Computer Science student who likes programming and design. Here you can read about either my life experiences or different tutorials.