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Visiting Clubs in Other Countries

Toastmaster Travels

When Kim Allen took a vacation to China earlier this year, one of the things on her “to do” list was visiting a Toastmasters club. She found one in Beijing – and wasn’t disappointed. Allen, a Toastmaster from San Diego, California, was surprised and delighted by many things at the club meeting; for one, all of the 20-plus members delivered their speeches in English – and delivered them beautifully. A few were novice English speakers who struggled at times, but they stayed positive and persevered, she says.

Allen was not only impressed with the quality of the presentations but was touched by the warm and enthusiastic welcome given her by Angela Han, president of the club – which is called, appropriately enough, the Global Communicators.

“It was a wonderful experience!” says Allen, who was also very excited to tell her hometown club – the Great Communicators in San Diego -- about the meeting.

Her cross-cultural connection is typical of the bonds forged when members visit clubs in other countries. And the great thing about Toastmasters is its global reach: Pretty much wherever you travel, there’s likely to be a club somewhere in the vicinity. After all, there are now Toastmasters clubs in 126 countries.

If you make a Toastmasters stop part of your vacation itinerary, it’s bound to be a rewarding experience, say members who have done just that. In a sense, members around the world speak a universal language – the vocabulary of Toastmasters. When you visit a club abroad, you celebrate that spirit of international fellowship.

Jay Davidson knows that feeling well. The retired elementary school teacher from San Francisco, California, has done a great deal of traveling over the years, making forays to Australia, New Zealand, England, Egypt, Africa, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. And almost everywhere he goes, he seeks out local Toastmasters groups.

“It seems like a good connection for common ground,” says Davidson. “It’s a good way to meet people who have similar interests.”

Yet what’s also enriching about such excursions is observing the differences among Toastmasters. Visits to clubs in other countries, say members, allow you to learn about other cultures through the Toastmasters experience.

“Most clubs reflect whatever society they’re in,” notes Davidson, a member of the Rainbow Toastmasters in San Francisco.

A Toastmaster since 1997, Davidson has ventured to clubs in Istanbul, Cairo, Buenos Aires and Sydney, among others. On a vacation to London, he met up with a Toastmasters club called the London Athenian Speakers; the group met in a most appropriate spot – the upstairs room of a London pub. The club took full advantage of the location: During the meeting break, some headed downstairs for a pint of lager.

Taking a Sentimental Journey
Vimal Goyle grew up in India and moved to the United States with her husband in 1970. Nearly 40 years later, she had the opportunity to visit a Toastmasters club in her native land. “I was very excited,” says Goyle, who attended a meeting of the Chandigarh Toastmasters this past January.

A gynecologist in Topeka, Kansas, Goyle traveled to India to attend the Indo-U.S. Healthcare Summit in New Delhi. She was in the country for two weeks and went to three different cities, including Chandigarh, where she stayed with a nephew. The Toastmasters club there normally meets on Saturday afternoons, but when Goyle told club leaders she wouldn’t arrive in the city until Sunday afternoon, they graciously re-scheduled that particular meeting for Sunday evening so she could attend.

The club -- which was less than a year old — held an installation ceremony for their seven new officers. Taking place in a restaurant, it was an elaborate and lengthy affair — a sign of how seriously the members take their Toastmasters experience, says Goyle. The district governor drove 200 miles to attend the event, she notes, and the officers’ friends and families were present – even their children. Afterward, a lavish buffet of Indian food was served.

The club designated Goyle as its “chief guest” and presented her with a bouquet of flowers and a gift. “It was very nice,” she says. “I was treated with such hospitality.” A member of the Via Christi Toastmasters club in Topeka, Goyle says it was a moving experience to see this new, flourishing Toastmasters club in the land where she grew up.

“I was very amazed and happy to know that all these members were so excited and working very diligently to do things for the club,” she says, adding that she made several friends in the group with whom she plans to keep in touch. “I had never known how Toastmasters exists on such an international level. These club members in Chandigarh have the opportunity to learn and to improve. I’m 67 -- I wish I had that opportunity when I was growing up.”

Goyle, a Toastmaster since 1998, had taken two guests to the meeting in Chandigarh – a family member and a friend. After the meeting, she says, both said they were interested in joining the club.

Think about logistics
Those who have frequented clubs abroad also have some practical advice to share. They recommend consulting the Toastmasters International website in advance of your trip. Look up clubs located in the areas where you’re traveling. That way you can get contact information, addresses and more. Try to pre-arrange a club visit if possible.

Davidson suggests that a few days before the meeting you call the club’s contact person, so you can confirm the time and location – always a good idea when you’re in a foreign city.

Allen, the San Diego resident, checked the Toastmasters website before she went on her trip to China this past March. She found several clubs in Beijing and Shanghai, the two cities she would be visiting. As it turned out, the Global Communicators club was less than a five-minute cab ride from her hotel in Beijing. (And just to make sure she didn’t get lost, Angela Han, the club president and ever-gracious host, spoke to her guest over the phone before she rode over, describing some landmarks she could note along the way.)

An Assistant Recruitment Coordinator for the District Attorney’s Office in San Diego County, Allen still gushes with enthusiasm when she recalls her visit to the Beijing club. Making an international connection with fellow Toastmasters was a very special experience, she says.

“I’m an avid traveler,” says Allen, “and I will continue to seek out Toastmasters clubs around the world.”

Planning on traveling?
Here are some Toastmasters items that may interest you: