Far from home, Cristian Chis finds his place at Roanoke

Senior Cristian Chis has embraced life in the Roanoke Valley, including visiting the Mill Mountain Star.

Senior Cristian Chis has embraced life in the Roanoke Valley, including visiting the Mill Mountain Star.

For high school seniors, choosing the right college is likely the most important decision they've ever had to make, and the prospect of leaving home for the first time can be overwhelming.

Not for senior Cristian Chis, who had already spent a year thousands of miles from home when he began his college search.

During his junior year of high school, Chis left his family and friends in Romania to study as an exchange student in Kentucky. When it came time for graduation, he knew he wanted to return to the United States to further his education.

After spending months researching colleges and universities along the East Coast, Chis came across Roanoke College. Intrigued by the intimate class setting and picturesque campus nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, he decided to apply.

"Of the many schools I looked into, Roanoke had the most friendly admissions team," said Chis. "I got the feeling that people really did care about my attending, which was a big selling point."

During his senior year, Chis took an enormous risk by planning a trip to Roanoke for the annual scholar's competition. With little idea of what to expect, he boarded a 15-hour flight across the Atlantic.

Following the competition, Chis recalls crowding around a computer screen with his family as he read an email that would change the next four years of his life.

Chis described his feelings as bittersweet after learning that he had been selected as one of two Bittle Scholarship recipients. Although grateful and excited to have been chosen, Chis had to face the reality of spending the next four years away from his family and friends.

As freshman move-in day drew closer, Chis found himself nervous, and questioning whether he had made the right decision.
Upon arrival at Roanoke, his doubts quickly subsided. "I was too consumed with school, new friends and getting involved on campus to even think about Romania," said Chis. "I quickly realized that Roanoke would become my home away from home."

Chis is an International Relations major, with a minor in Spanish, and dreams of working for a multinational organization. While at Roanoke, he has taken full advantage of the many opportunities to grow as a student and person.

As a sophomore, Chis took on the challenge of completing an independent study that examined the consolidation of the European Union's foreign policy and the relationship between the United States and Europe since the World War II. With the help and guidance of Dr. Joshua Rubongoya, Public Affairs professor and department chairman, Chis completed the unthinkable - a 50-page research paper.

"It's very atypical for a second-year student to take on a project of that nature, do it and do it well," said Rubongoya. "Cristian is naturally gifted - he's one of those students who's able to exercise a fantastic memory and recall information in a way that is critical and analytical."

From his independent study, Chis learned valuable time-management skills that have helped him throughout his college years. Through dedication and self-discipline he was able to accomplish his goal and found the end product to be extremely rewarding.

"Cristian is very laid-back in his method of work. He doesn't show stress, is independent, self-directed and autonomous," Rubongoya said. "He makes it easy for the professor because you don't have to spend a lot of time directing. This is very unique given that English is not his first language."

But Chis didn't stop there. In his time here at Roanoke, he has made a point of taking advantage of every opportunity presented to him.
In the fall semester of 2010, Chis lived, worked and studied in Washington, D.C. as part of Roanoke's Washington Semester Program. As an intern for the American Legislative Exchange Council, Chis did more than fetch coffee and make copies. Among other tasks, he wrote formal resolutions to ambassadors, and even helped plan the ALEC's States & Nations Policy Summit.

Although academics have always been top priority for Chis, he came to Roanoke to pursue much more. In his four years here he has been involved in various clubs and organizations, including the International Club, which he quickly became president of, and the Model United Nations Club.

Chis has made the most of every moment - from visiting Virginia attractions such as the Mill Mountain Star in Roanoke and Monticello, near Charlottesville, to the big cities of New York, Milwaukee and Chicago.

After graduation, Chis plans to return home to Romania and put his experience to work. Although May 2012 will mark the end of a crucial chapter in his life, Chis will not easily forget his time spent studying in the United States.

"Roanoke will always have a special place in my heart," Chis said. "For the past four years it's been my home away from home. I plan on coming back, whether it be for a visit, work or to further my education."

Released: September 28, 2011