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May 2024
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Finding Camaraderie in a New Country

How I took the plunge and moved from New Zealand to Germany during a pandemic.

By Alexander Kuch

“ManWith suitcase in hand at the Auckland International Airport, Alexander is ready to start his new adventure.

After taking a crazy opportunity to move for a new job, then traveling for over 36 hours from New Zealand to Germany, I arrived safely in the frigid Frankfurt winter. A new adventure awaited me—and Toastmasters would be a big part of the experience.

I had been a member for five years with the Hibiscus Coast Club in Auckland, New Zealand. The support from my mentor, Bjørn W. Simonsen, DTM, a Toastmaster of 25 years, along with that of the club, has really helped me grow as a speaker, both personally and professionally. A bit about my background: At 2 years old I was adopted in Romania by a German family, and after living in Germany for nine years, we immigrated to New Zealand. I’ve used my personal story and adoption experience to share my message through various platforms, including the nonprofit I’m Adopted, as well as through a TEDx Talk.

While I was quite familiar with Germany, I still faced a number of challenges during my move. First, it was hard to deal with the constantly changing health guidelines in Germany because of COVID-19. But then I realized I should focus on what I can control instead and enjoy the transition process. The move had happened very suddenly; however, my new colleagues went above and beyond to help me find a place to live in Heilbronn, where I work.

It was also very helpful that I had lived in Germany as a child and still have some relatives there. When I arrived, I spent three days with my family in a town called Dagersheim. What also made my arrival in the country easier is that I am fluent in German.

Being a member of Toastmasters International has been an enormous help, made my job transition a lot smoother, and provided me with the chance to connect with like-minded people.

My advice for anyone moving to another country is to take the time to look for and reach out to Toastmasters clubs well in advance, so when you arrive in a new place you will already have a community to connect with straight away. For me, this was very helpful to my well-being, as being in a lockdown in a new environment can be quite challenging. After connecting with the Rhetorik-Club Heilbronn Toastmasters—a club I found by doing an online search—I was invited to take part in Christmas festivities. I was first attracted to the club because of their openness, and my initial impression was confirmed at their Zoom Christmas party. While I wasn’t able to join in with the mulled wine at 7 a.m. New Zealand time, I still had a great time celebrating with the group. They were so welcoming, and it was immensely helpful to have a club I already felt comfortable with by the time I actually arrived in Germany.

I have since become an official member. I am lucky to have found a mentor, Alex Kufner, DTM, who is a member of my new club as well as an author, educator, and adventurer with extensive global Toastmasters experience. He even visited many clubs in Auckland, New Zealand. I can’t wait to meet all the members in person once we are out of lockdown in Germany. It’s been interesting getting to know the different personalities, and the club support has been amazing—from introducing me to their meeting format to providing critical feedback. Although my public speaking abilities are stronger in English, practicing in German proves very valuable for my work, where I have already had to make a few online presentations.

I am now in a traineeship with the International Business Development team at Theo FÖRCH GmbH & Co. KG, a German product supplier for the automotive and construction industry. I’m involved in helping to structure pricing and commission models for Switzerland, conduct preliminary market research in Australia, and provide a holistic sustainability evaluation and key recommendations. I aspire to use the experience I gain in international business development to make a positive impact on the holistic well-being of children and communities. My managers have been supportive and shared the following words of encouragement.

"Alexander is a very diligent person and at such a young age he has gathered very interesting impressions and experiences during his student and work activities,” says Elida Bocaj, Project Assistant in Business Development International. “We are open to any sustainability and innovative ideas, that impact the future of our company longevity’s success in a positive manner.” 

Jonathan Grochla, Manager in Business Development, also provided some thoughts: "Alex came to us as a Trainee from the other side of the world, even though no corona was spreading around in New Zealand and is considered the safest place now in the world. This shows how highly motivated he is to learn about economics and digital projects. He is directly involved in projects for E-Commerce and Price Management. In his work he demonstrates our core values, especially team collaboration, finding innovative solutions, and high engagement in his work.”

Being a member of Toastmasters International has been an enormous help, made my job transition a lot smoother, and provided me with the chance to connect with like-minded people. If you have an opportunity, even under the circumstances of a pandemic, take the plunge, enjoy the adventure, and use Toastmasters to support yourself in the process.

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