Houston – Anna Zsigrai Grove, Hungary

When I realized that Anna had moved to Houston, I just had to interview her. She was friends with a former EuroCircle team member from NYC, Anu Arponen. Anu nowadays lives in St. Petersburg, FL. She used to run ballroom workshops for NYC based members in Manhattan.

1. Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about where you are from originally and who you are.

My name is Anna Orsolya Zsigrai Grove and I am from Miskolc, Hungary and currently live in Houston, Texas. I work at the Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest medical center, and am a Sponsored Programs Manager (aka Grants Manager) at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. I work closely with faculty and researchers, advising them on their grant submissions, preparing their budgets and grant applications and other things they need to help them receive funding for their research in tropical medicine, and making sure we follow federal and institutional rules and regulations regarding our spending of sponsor funds.

2. How did you choose your career?

I think the career chose me… I never would have guessed that someday I would be a Grants Manager; I didn’t even know such career existed. I was a banker back in Hungary and after moving to the U.S., started out as a real estate agent in Manhattan. A couple of years later I got a job as a Procurement Analyst at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at the City of New York. One day after work I met a friend of a friend at a Happy Hour and she mentioned they were having a hard time filling a Grants Manager position at the Hospital she worked at and the rest is history.

3. When and why did you move to the USA, where have you lived after that initial move?

I moved to the States exactly eleven years ago and was one of the lucky fifty-five thousand individuals that year to win the green card lottery. I quit my job at the second largest bank in Hungary and got on the plane with two suitcases and some money in my pocket and came to the U.S.

After 7 wonderful and exciting years in New York, I spent a year and a half working for the George Washington University in beautiful downtown Washington, DC. In August of 2010 I moved to Houston, where I have already lived in 3 different places

4. What do you do after work, what interests you?

Beside my full-time employment, I am also a photographer and enjoy taking pictures of the city I live in and the people that live here. My pictures have been used by Apple Inc., Glenn Beck, Christie’s, Bloomberg’s, etc., and can be viewed at www.annagrovephotography.com. I started with fine art back in New York City, however here in Houston I expanded my territory to include event photos (e.g. conferences, art shows), portfolio/portrait photos, and family photos due to high demand.

Collage1 collage2The best part in taking these portrait and family photos are that I do enjoy bringing the best out of each and every one of my clients. Seeing the happiness on their faces when they receive the photos is what I love the most.

I also work with glass. I have recently started selling my glass artwork including fused glass jewelry, home decor and wall art all made by using glass fusing technique. collage3

These items can be viewed at www.studio18works.etsy.com

My plan for the future is to take my photography business and fused glass studio to the next level.

5. What is your favorite food?

Well, I’m a huge “foodie”, and Houston is a great place for finding a large variety of food choices. I like all kinds of food; Thai, Greek, Indian or Middle-Eastern. One of my favorite Houston restaurants is Underbelly, where the food is local and the menu changes every day based on availability of ingredients.

However, I must say I can’t wait to go home and eat real Hungarian food—especially my mom’s home cooked meals!

6.Tell me about your family, where are they now?

Most of my relatives live in Miskolc, the second largest city in Hungary. However, my mom moved to the capital city, Budapest a few years ago. She works for Anheuser-Busch Inbev as a payroll specialist. My sister and her family live in Vienna, Austria. One of my cousins lives in Boston and her brother lived in London until about a year ago. As you can see we are pretty much all over the world.

7. Do you try to go back to Hungary every year? What do you miss the most?

Sadly, I haven’t been back to Hungary in over 5 years. I know it is way overdue so I am happy to say that I have my plane ticket for this summer. August can’t come fast enough…
What I miss the most? I’m not sure. My family and my closest friends for sure. I feel a bit detached right now since it’s been so long that I last visited my country. I feel very nostalgic and I think just walking down the old streets where I grew up and seeing my school building would bring tears to my eyes.

8. How do you see Hungarians being different from Americans?

When I look at Americans and Hungarians I see more similarities than differences. Especially among the younger generation (30 and under). They have access to most things that Americans do, they speak English well, and most of them are well traveled.

9. When you think about life in Hungary vs USA before you moved to the USA – did you have misconceptions that turned out to be wrong?

Not at all. I found it very easy to adjust and I had no surprises. I am able to adapt very easily so it might just be me, although I must say there are things here in America that do make me take a second look and say ‘only in America’.

11. How is the Hungarian community in Houston vs. USA?

Houston has a relatively large Hungarian community, centered around the Hungarian American Cultural Association, of which I am an active member. Its leader, Richard Graber, is a fantastic organizer, and keeps the organization vibrant and active. Hungarians here in Houston tend to stay for a few years and then move on or move back home after having gone to medical school here, doing residency or working for an oil company for a few years. So we always have new faces in the crowd, but it’s very diverse, too, both in terms of age and how long they have been here. We hold regular Hungarian Happy Hours every first Friday of the month at a local Greek restaurant. We also try to celebrate major Hungarian anniversaries, get together for picnics or other gatherings, and there are sometimes Hungarian folk dancing and music events—there is also an honorary Hungarian consulate in Houston, Philip Aronoff.

12. Who do you think are the Hungarians the average American may know?

The average American is probably familiar with the following people even though some may not know they are of Hungarian origin: Adrien Brody, Zsa zsa Gabor, Mariska Hargitay, Goldie Hawn, Toni Curtis, George Cukor, Gene Simmons, George Pataki, Erno Rubik, Calvin Klein, George Soros, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy just to name a few…

13. Would you ever return to live in Hungary full-time?

At this point I’m not sure. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

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