A Foreign Student’s Toastmasters Experience

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I was 12 years old when I was first introduced to her.  At the time, I didn’t know much about her.  I had only heard of how special she was. However, I didn’t care about her.

At the end of my high school, I regretted not having at least tried to get familiar with her.  I should have taken more chances with her – I told myself. Sadly, I had to join a new school where had I known her, I would have been happier. I was greatly saddened by this reality. I was an image of despair. When I joined Strathmore University, I realised that I could not survive without her. I needed her close to me. Survival was going to be impossible without her.

Fellow ‘stratizens’, allow me to introduce you to the love of my life – ENGLISH.

I was born in a Francophone country, a world where English was so special that if you uttered simple greetings such as ‘Good morning’ ‘What are you up to’ the children looked up to you. The women gazed at you in awe while the men simply admired you. Even then, English remained an adversary to me. This is why you could see my high school English teacher, Mr Charlie, trying his level best to get English and I on friendly terms. But, unlike French, the language of love, which allows one to at a pace that is as slow as a roumba dance, English to me seemed to be a language of either shouting or murmuring. I was impatient, I didn’t care about her.

Coming to Kenya, an English-speaking country around the year 2016, I realised that she was worth more than gold.  Having joined Strathmore law school, she was to me like water to my thirst and everything was centred around her: class presentations, debates and all assessments. What would you have done in such a situation? I had to seduce her. To do this, many were the nights I spent hours looking up the meaning of almost each word on a 70-page document to prepare for a class presentation. I was constantly tired. I felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I was convinced I would never surmount this mystery that was the English language. I stuttered and stammered during well-prepared presentations. On many occasions, I missed the main point while trying to drive an argument home.

It did not help that I was the only one in a class of 84 students to whom English was either shouting or murmuring. English played with my self-esteem, my self-confidence and caused me great pain and anguish! I constantly felt like I was constantly being run over by a bus.

This situation lasted until a dear friend came to my rescue.  Her name is Strathmore Toastmasters Club. The club’s motto: Participate, Practice and Perform sums it all. And so, I have participated in many of the Club’s activities as a speaker, hark master, toastmaster, evaluator among others. I have spent hours preparing for my roles and the results speak for themselves today.

Strathmore Toastmasters Club has taught me to listen. I have come to realise that English was never murmuring or shouting at me. I was just not listening. Today, my stuttering and stammering have faded away. I have learnt to express my points in a clear and concise manner. And today, English and I can gladly hold hands.

Strathmore Toastmasters Club and I have been like Siamese twins. As I grew in confidence so did the club. I thank the members and officials of Strathmore Toastmasters Club as well as our sister Toastmasters clubs in the city who have supported particularly through mentorship and evaluations. We remain indebted to our club counsellor Angela Rarieya who laid the foundations of the club with us. Like a brave and loving mother, she spent days and sleepless nights to get us chartered as a club and to prove to the world that we are too are legitimate children of the Toastmasters family.

Strathmore Toastmasters Club was chartered on 1 December 2016 and has within its ranks 43 members who are developing into confident speakers and effective leaders driven by a lead-by-example philosophy not only in our club but in our personal lives as well.

Has it been smooth sailing throughout? Absolutely not! We have had our fair share of challenges involving getting members to honour their commitments to the club. We have had exceptional high-quality meetings and we have had meetings with low member turnouts. Through the highs and the lows of our journey as Toastmasters, we have learnt what Aristotle the great philosopher beautifully articulated: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

To my fellow Club members, I urge you to embrace your toastmasters journey fully and share it with others generously. And to the Stratizen reading this, many of us dream of becoming leaders who will make a difference in this world. Why look any further? Join the Strathmore Toastmasters Club today – it is where Leaders are made.

By Arnold Nciko.

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