Keller woman to leave for yearlong opportunity in Germany

A 2006 graduate of Keller High School will become an ambassador for the United States when she travels this week to Germany to begin a yearlong business fellowship.

Chrissy Grigalis, 21, graduated in May from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Communications and was accepted into the Congress-Bundestag Fellowship program in which she will spend a year studying and working in Germany.

She is one of 75 young Americans selected for the program, which will have 75 counterparts from Germany come to the United States, said Will Maier, program officer for the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals.

"The program was conceived and enacted in 1983 to celebrate the German-America relationship on the anniversary of 300 years of German settlers in America," Maier said.

Further, it was created as a public diplomacy initiative where participants act as ambassadors of their own country and promote a positive image for the United States and Germany, he said.

"Chrissy will participate in the 27th year," Maier said.

Chrissy, who is the daughter of Ed and Diane Grigalis of Keller, sees the fellowship as a big opportunity for her to learn about the business world and to learn more about another country and culture.

"Who knows where this will take me," Chrissy said. "It's kind of exciting."

Funded by the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag for participants in all career fields, it will be an expense-free fellowship for those in the program.

Chrissy will travel Thursday to Washington D.C., and then will depart as part of a group for Germany on Sunday, she said.

The first two months will involve an extensive language course. Chrissy said she took German in high school and four semesters in college.

"We will live with a temporary host family when we get there. And then at the end of the semester you move in with a permanent host family," Chrissy said. "We really have no idea where we will be when we get to Germany."

Participants will take audit classes at a German University "to see Germany in its natural context," Chrissy said.

"In November we will start searching for an internship," Chrissy said. "We have to put together a 'Lebenslauf'--a German resume," she said.

The hope is to get an internship somewhere around where you are living, in February, Chrissy said.

"The German transportation system is amazing-- there are trains everywhere. So you might find yourself traveling an hour away to get to where your internship is," she said. "You do that full time and they are paid internships in Germany."

Chrissy said that some program participants will be placed in rural areas and some in large cities, depending on their fields of interest.

Although Chrissy studied communications in college she said she has experience in accounting and business-related work.

Having grown up it the Dallas-Fort Worth area and having gone to college in Austin, Chrissy is hopeful she will be assigned to a similar size area in Germany.

"I am crossing my fingers that I am in a bigger town because I am not used to rural areas," she said.

Before applying for the fellowship, Chrissy was in the midst of submitting her application to graduate school at the University of Carolina for a masters of accountancy program.

Her parents think she is a perfect fit for the fellowship program, as they said her knowledge of the German language, the culture, and her desire to succeed will help her during the transition.

"While I would prefer that she be closer, I appreciate and respect her desire to 'head out on her own' as she begins to develop her career," her dad Ed said. "Her move to Austin four years ago was met with similar apprehension but it quickly dissipated when it became apparent that Chrissy's independence was one of her strong points."

The advice that Chrissy's mom will give her daughter as she heads abroad is to travel, see Europe and the wonderful Old World beauty, to be a good ambassador for the United States, and to always respect her host family's rules and traditions.

"Share your culture with others. And this may sound selfish, but after a year, come home!" mom, Diane said.

Chrissy's brother Nick, 25, also a Keller High graduate is proud of his sister and the words that he expressed during her college graduation are fitting as she prepares to leave.

"The way you set your mind to something and your determination to complete all of your goals that you have laid out for yourself. Those are just a few examples of why you inspire me," he had told her.

Her family is already making plans to stay connected with her through Skype, email, through her Facebook page and occasional phone calls.

"We'll have to set up special times and video and telephone conversations due to the time difference," Diane said.

The program will allow Chrissy to travel on weekends and she will have about two weeks off in July to travel through Europe.

"I want to learn and live a different culture. I want to see how other people interact," Chrissy said. "And having a great global outlook will help me back here in business because I will see how other cultures work in the business setting."

The family is also making plans to visit Chrissy in February when they will take Chrissy's grandmother with them and also travel to Latvia her place of birth in celebration of her 75th birthday.

Since graduating from college, Chrissy has been saying her goodbyes to family and friends by traveling to Kentucky to see her grandparents and uncles, and recently went back to Austin to see her friends.

Her parents hosted a family reunion the weekend before her departure to Germany to connect with other relatives along with a small gathering of her closest friends.

Although Chrissy is a little nervous about embarking on this adventure, she said she is "ready to get started."