Tri Delta first expanded abroad in 1930 when it opened its first collegiate chapter in Canada. Since then, Tri Delta has grown to 141 collegiate chapters across North America and more than 250 alumnae chapters in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Today, Tri Delta members are living and traveling across the world — whether for school, work, family or fun. And there are innumerable benefits for Tri Deltas to be able to connect with sisters while overseas.
Simi Wilhelm Shah, Ottawa, found that connection when she relocated to London in 2006 with her fiancé (now husband). She was able to get in touch with the founder of the UK Alumnae Chapter, Lisa Hughes Gylsen, Georgia, who was preparing to move to Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa. When Simi discovered that fellow Canada Delta member Catherine Mongrain would be moving to London as part of an internal transfer with her company, Simi reached out to her via Facebook to get involved in the chapter.
Today, the UK Alumnae Chapter has about a dozen members. “Our chapter is probably half Canadian, half American with the majority residing in the Greater London area and a handful in other parts of the United Kingdom,” explains Simi. “As we are the only alumnae chapter outside of Canada and the U.S. we have in the past had members from France, Italy and Germany…We also had one amazing member who was Australian, living in London and she had pledged Tri Delta as a junior when studying abroad in the U.S. (Minnesota). She has since moved back to Australia, but I think it’s a great example of spreading Tri Delta’s influence abroad.”
In addition to providing support for alumnae in the area, the chapter also makes a point to reach out to collegiate chapters to find out if any collegiate members are studying abroad in England. The chapter and its members offer support to their collegiate sisters while they’re away from home, and each fall they invite the women to their Founders’ Day event.
“One year we had our Founders’ Day at the Benjamin Franklin Museum (a great space to check out if anyone is ever in London! The museum documents both his life and the history of U.K./U.S. relationship) where nine Centre College undergraduates came,” Simi recalls. “It was terrific, and we still talk about it! We also have a steady stream of graduate students who may be studying here for just a year and meeting them and hearing about their studies is always a highlight.”
While there are many great social benefits to being able to connect with other Tri Deltas in a new country, Simi says, “The bonus is a connection with home, however defined, and with someone who shares your values.”
Nan Marcotte, Cal State/Long Beach, is another member who is an advocate for Tri Deltas making connections abroad. Nan spent a total of 21 years overseas, living everywhere from Borneo to the Netherlands, Thailand and Indonesia, meeting a few Tri Deltas along the way.
Nan’s life overseas began in 1980, when her husband’s company gave him an assignment in Borneo. Their son was two when the family first moved, with their daughter being born a few years later while the family lived in the Netherlands.
As an expatriate, Nan was heavily involved in her local communities, serving on school boards, helping build churches and even setting up a scouting program.
It was during her stay in Thailand that she met three fellow Tri Deltas. One — Alair Brown, Baylor — she met while on a trip to Japan with fellow expatriates. The other two — Helen Siedell, Mississippi State, and Debbie Reinsch, Southern California — she met in Thailand through her involvement in the schools.
“It was just by happenstance that we discovered we were Tri Deltas,” Nan says. “Tri Deltas have a good values system and a good sense of who they are. It’s why we were able to connect, why we got along so well and why we’re still good friends.”
Nan and Debbie’s families would have Thanksgiving every year because, as Nan explains, “When you’re traveling abroad, your overseas friends are your family.” She adds that for Tri Deltas traveling abroad, “It would be good to know other Tri Deltas because they’re family already — you already have something in place that connects you.”
Although Debbie still lives in Thailand, she and Nan are still very much in touch. They get together whenever Debbie visits the United States, and Nan even stayed with her during a more recent trip back to Thailand.
Nan is a big believer in the benefits of building Tri Delta connections with sisters globally. Tri Delta sisters can provide a much-needed support basis and sense of community for fellow members who may find themselves in an unfamiliar country far from any friends or family.
“We had a lot of support from my husband’s company,” Nan says, “But many people may go overseas as the only representative of their company, and those women don’t have a support system.”
Being able to tap into a Tri Delta network could also benefit the communities where these women are living. Similar to how Nan met other Tri Deltas while volunteering for her children’s school in Thailand, Tri Deltas can tackle service projects and other volunteer opportunities together while abroad.
The Tri Delta support system can even extend to repatriating. As Nan explains, sometimes it’s difficult for those who don’t have the experience of living abroad to understand the challenges of re-settling in one’s home country. “If Tri Deltas can access other Tri Deltas who have repatriated, that’s another shared experience.”
It was Sarah Ida Shaw’s intention for Tri Delta’s members to “spread her influence abroad.” In today’s increasingly connected and global community, Tri Deltas have even more opportunities to live, work and travel abroad — and connect with sisters worldwide.
Are you a Tri Delta who’s currently living abroad? Now you can connect with sisters around the world in our Tri Deltas Abroad Facebook Group!