Saturday, April 28, 2012

Member of the Board

Tuesday morning I found myself sitting in the bar at the Royal Thames Yacht Club -- a club which has been in existence longer than the United States of America -- discussing champagne with two members of the Functions staff. 

How did I end up there?  Well, that requires a bit of back story.  As I have mentioned before, I joined the American Women's Club of London (AWC) last summer, a few months after we moved here.  I have enjoyed participating in a variety of activities with the club -- day trips, London walking tours, theater and movie outings, learning Mah Jongg -- as well as the instant social network it provided me with, which has made a big difference in adjusting to life in another country.  Back in February, I was approached by a couple members of the nominating committee who asked if I would be interested in serving on the club's Board of Directors.

I was both honored and surprised by this, since I had only been a member of the club for about 6 months at this point, but due to the transient nature of the AWC's membership, it makes more sense to recruit relative newcomers rather than those who are likely to be moving back to the States or on to their next assignment before their term is up.   In fact, the position I was asked to take on was already vacant as the previous Board member had recently moved to Ireland.  After giving it some thought, I agreed to do it.  After all, I hadn't had much luck finding a job, and here was an opportunity to do something productive that would still allow me the flexibility to travel and make the most of my time in London -- and in fact encourage and enable me to do so.

So I was officially welcomed to the Board as the new Director of Programs in February, and gradually transitioned into the role over the past couple months.  What does the Director of Programs do?  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors, she's in charge of planning the AWC's monthly meetings, which includes booking venues, lining up interesting speakers, coordinating vendors, and making post-meeting lunch arrangements. 

The club President, who had also been Director of Programs in the past, had been filling in after my predecessor moved away, and our schedules and geographical disparity (she lives in North London, I live in SW London) kept us from finding time to meet so she could hand things over to me.  We eventually just had to do it by phone, after she forwarded on about 100 emails.  Two hours after our phone meeting, the speaker for the May meeting canceled on me.  Not the most auspicious beginning!  Fortunately, we regularly get emails from people who would like to give talks or presentations to our group -- often authors promoting a new book or a business owner with a primarily female clientele (party planner, etiquette expert, yoga instructor, cooking class instructor, breast cancer specialist, etc) -- so at least I already had a list of other options to consider.

One of the items I was tasked with at my first Board meeting was to compare room rental, equipment, and catering rates at the two venues where we normally hold our meetings: the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair, and the Royal Thames Yacht Club in Knightsbridge.  This is when I discovered that not only had our regular contact in the Functions department at the RTYC been "made redundant" (laid off), but the person I was directed to in his place was on her very first day on the job.  Strike two!   Hence the in-person meeting with the new Functions staff, which went fairly well...

This is not at all how I pictured myself here a year ago, but I am enjoying my new responsibilities and looking forward to meeting new people as a result.  One of the drawbacks of being part of an expat community is that you are always having to say goodbye to the new friends you have just made.  I can think of at least 10 people I've gotten to know over the past year who have subsequently either moved back to the States or on to a new assignment in another country.  On the other hand, I meet new club members at every monthly meeting and other AWC events, so there's always an opportunity to make more new friends -- and motivation to keep in touch with the old ones.  We may come from different backgrounds and disparate parts of the US, but we all share the common bond of being Americans in London, and it makes all the difference to have a group like that to share the highs and lows of this amazing adventure with.  My life here would be very different if I hadn't joined the AWC!


  1. Congrats, Naina! What an honour!

  2. We're very thankful to have you in this role, and look forward to the speakers you'll line up in the months to come!


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