Moving to the Bay Area one and a half years ago was a bold decision I had to make. I have spent eight years in Singapore and built my career as an educator in one of the best education systems in the world and I had to leave it; not to mention the friendship and network that come along with it.
After bidding farewell to Singapore, I was determined to make Bay Area my next home. It wasn’t easy, as any other trailing spouses had found. Finding new friendship is one thing, but moving here also means finding a new routine. I was struggling with my shift from a working mom to a full-time one. Staying full time with a toddler is a wonderful experience, for I could witness his development and strengthen the bond between mother and son. It is an honor and I am very grateful of that. Yet, there is a part of me that longs for an interaction that could challenge me in an intellectual level, one that I could never have with a toddler.
Until one day, my friend was talking about Toastmasters and I decided to give it a try. I googled Toastmasters club directory and tried several meetings with different clubs to see how it’s going. I was totally hooked. Toastmasters gave me exactly what I need. It made me realize how I miss being in a learning community. John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars, mentioned in his TED talk how learning communities have shaped him to become who he is. Getting himself surrounded by astonishingly well-read people encouraged him to read more, and hence write more. That, somehow, makes him crave it. I feel that I do too, and I found it in Toastmasters.
I was part of a debate club when I was still learning English as a second language back in high school. My love for Hermione Granger pushed me to learn how to speak English eloquently and I worked hard to achieve it, especially since I am not a native speaker. Getting into Toastmasters made me relive my high school memory, one where I had to prepare my speech and gather up confidence to speak before an audience. I find that Toastmasters is a learning community that is very supportive of its members’ development. Each member is encouraged to give a speech or participate in a question and answer session (or what they call table topics), as well as trained in giving evaluations of other’s speech. There are tremendous skills that I learn here that I think will be very valuable, not only in a work setting, but in relationships too. I learn how to effectively communicate with people and resolve dispute using the beauty of communication.
Being in Toastmasters makes me feel that I am part of something. It is a diverse group with members coming from different backgrounds, but with one similar goal. It is a learning community where everyone strives not only to grow their public speaking skills, but also their confidence. I decided to join MCA Toastmasters in Santa Clara after some club hopping. Soon enough I find myself in a circle of friends that I never thought I would have before. They are a bunch of determined people and very supportive in terms of helping each other learn. I find the chemistry of the group engaging. The people are so warm and I find our meetings very entertaining. One VP of Membership from an Advanced club mentioned, you can measure the fun of a group by how much laughter they have. We sure have a lot of that during our meetings! It had made my transition to Bay Area more colorful. If you want to join us, you are more than welcome to pay a visit! You can find more information about MCA Toastmasters here.
If you are like me and would like to give Toastmasters a try, there are several things that you should know:
- There’s a Toastmasters club for everyone
There are plenty of Toastmasters clubs in the Bay Area. Each Toastmasters club is different in terms of culture. Some Toastmasters clubs are founded as internal meetings between employees in a certain company. So find out whether there is a Toastmasters Club in your company because it would be best to be in one. Not only can you get to know your colleagues well, some clubs take it further to inform managers of their members’ achievement in Toastmasters.
Other Toastmaster clubs are open to public, so anyone can join. You can browse the Toastmasters club directory here to find one that suits you best. You can go club hopping as a guest before deciding to commit to one.
- Browse Toastmasters meetings in MeetUp
For you who are more familiar with MeetUp, you can browse Toastmasters Meeting there under “District 4 Toastmasters”. It will list all advertised Toastmasters meetings in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Benito, and Monterey Counties of California.
- Find your chemistry
There really is no pressure in joining one club. You can even join multiple clubs if that’s what you feel like doing. There are even Toastmasters in different languages such as Mandarin, Japanese, French, German, and many more. Again, you can browse that in MeetUp and find one that suits your needs.
Did I mention about club hopping? Make sure that the club you are joining fits your criteria. Some people prefer a more student-based one, a work-based one, and some others would like to have a more diverse club. And most important of all, find a club that you will find most fun in, because one will strive the most in an environment that is their most comfortable.
- Go and have fun!