Hi, I’m Karen, a member of the Rotary Club Utrecht International (RCUI) since 2017. Let me tell you something about myself and my Rotary club!
My journey so far
I’m British, 50 something, and was born and raised in landlocked Northamptonshire in the UK. Famous for shoes, Kinky Boots, Princess Diana, and the Saints Rugby club, I couldn’t wait to leave the county for the bright lights of London, which became my home from 1987 until I moved to the Netherlands some 30 years later.
My journey to the Netherlands
I met my giant Dutchie, on a sailing holiday in Greece in the summer of 2011. We had a long distance relationship for a long time! We would meet up here in the Netherlands, in the UK, and in other far flung locations for weekends and holidays (oh how I miss those days when we could travel…), until eventually I packed a bigger bag and stayed for good 🙂
My work life
My career started in retail management at a large food retailer in the UK – Sainsburys, the UK’s Albert Heijn/Jumbo – where I got the opportunity to try various different roles, including Systems Training, and then Business Analysis, where I found my happy place. Later I switched from Retail to Financial Services where I could totter around the office in high heels and then power march home in my trainers! Now, I’m a volunteer teacher, teaching English to refugees who wish to continue their education here and need English for their University course, as well as Dutch for their lives in the Netherlands.
My social life
In my life before Covid, I would go to the gym and do weight training most mornings, now I workout at home, with my very own ‘Personal Trainer’ Joe Wicks! I enjoy walking, baking and cooking, spending time with friends, and travel. I’m really looking forward to a future where we can travel again so that I can visit family and friends in the UK. With London being only 45 minutes away by plane, I usually visit multiple times per year, and I’m really missing seeing and hugging everyone I love.
This was NOT the ‘old boys club’ I’d been dreading. This was a dynamic, interesting, engaging, and fun group of individuals, brought together by the basic need to socialise (in English!) and the desire to do some good in the world
RCUI and me (pre Covid)
I think like most of our members, I love meeting and getting to know new people. I joined the RCUI because with my then (and now!) limited Dutch, I was finding it difficult to meet and engage with people, other than my Dutch partner’s friends, who were his ‘people’ and I felt I needed my own local ‘folk’ as well! I chose a Rotary club over another ‘social’ club, for example, Toastmasters, after speaking with a friend who is a member of the Rotary Club Hilversum International; she gave me a great insight in to Rotary’s ‘service above self’ motto and how her club had a number of community service projects each year. I had never considered joining a Rotary club in the UK, partly because I had lots of friends, but mostly because I thought they were like ‘Gentleman’s clubs’, or ‘old boys clubs’ and therefore I was not only the wrong gender and far too young, I didn’t have the required breeding, network, or the necessary profession to join. I specifically chose RCUI because it was my closest English-speaking club.
So, when I went along to my first RCUI meeting in the lovely Coffeemania at Overvecht, I was delighted to meet women and men of all ages, from all over the world (Kenya, Russia, Germany, India, the US to name a few). I hadn’t even realised how I’d also been missing the global connections I’d had working in international companies in London. This was NOT the ‘old boys club’ I’d been dreading. This was a dynamic, interesting, engaging and fun group of individuals, brought together by the basic need to socialise (in English!) and the desire to do some good in the world at the same time.
We meet fortnightly, enjoy each other’s company, eat a nice dinner and then listen to and comment on interesting talks from members and external speakers about a diverse range of topics, such as human trafficking, land grabbing and nanotechnology.
I had been missing the connection I get from RCUI, that had been so good for me. I therefore rejoined and now enjoy our fortnightly meetings at ‘The Zoom Cloud’. Connection doesn’t need to be over a table when there’s a glass of wine in my hand!
RCUI and me (during Covid)
Then Covid-19 struck, bringing with it ‘social distancing’ rules and restrictions, making our usual dinner meetings difficult to start with, and then impossible. Like many other Rotary clubs around the world, we moved our meetings from our usual physical venue ‘Restaurant De Branding’ to our new virtual venue ‘The Zoom Cloud’. I was resistant to this at the start; I teach online, I meet friends and family online, I take courses online, the last thing I wanted was another Zoom meeting at the end of a day already filled with too much ‘screen time’. I also didn’t find the whole ‘only one person can speak at a time and to everyone’ very ‘social’ at all. Therefore, I didn’t attend the initial lockdown meetings.
I was relieved when the restrictions were lifted somewhat, and I joined a lovely meeting at a wine bar in Leidsche Rijn (we planned to sit outside but the unpredictable Dutch summer weather put paid to that idea!) and then I organised a successful (and competitive) Jeu de Boules night in Utrecht attended by members past and present, which was wonderful. These events made me realise I had been missing the connection I get from RCUI, that had been so good for me. I therefore rejoined and now enjoy our fortnightly meetings at ‘The Zoom Cloud’. Connection doesn’t need to be over a table with a glass of wine in my hand!
I would encourage anyone with international interests to join one of our online meetings to find out what we’re all about. I think you would be pleasantly surprised. And if you think I’m old, don’t worry, so do I! Especially after discovering that 75% of our members are under 50! That, and the fact that we’re 70:30 in favour of female members, means that we are definitely NOT what many people, myself included, think of as a Rotary Club.