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Kirsten Grenside Auburn University Graduation 1987

Kirsten (McConnell) Grenside (left) at Auburn graduation ('87)

Days on the Plains

In the heart of Auburn University, where the spirit of football and southern hospitality intertwines, Kirsten (McConnell) Grenside's journey to becoming an Auburn international mentor began. As a military brat constantly on the move, Grenside was fortunate to experience a multicultural upbringing that spanned across nine U.S. states, the United Kingdom, Germany and even the former Soviet Union. As a result, her childhood was a whirlwind of diverse experiences that sparked her passion for international living.

"I loved traveling and the diversity of new environments and people, how they live, interact, their foods and their customs,” Grenside shared. “I very quickly realized travel and living and working abroad would become a large part of my life and personality." Her parents' commitment to exposing her to different cultures during her formative years was instrumental in shaping her future. The travel bug bit early, and the passion for culture, travel and cross-cultural community only intensified with time.

Grenside’s mother (Cherry Gale [Little] McConnell ‘61) and both her aunts graduated from Auburn, but it wasn’t her original plan to follow in their footsteps. Auburn wasn’t even on her radar, but a fateful fall visit during a home football game, with Bo Jackson taking the field and the town decorated from top to toe, changed the trajectory of her college career. The vibrant spirit and stunning campus captivated her, securing Auburn as her top choice.

As a student at Auburn, Grenside, affectionately nicknamed a 'Yankee' by Alabamians, found herself navigating the cultural nuances of the deep south. Football games, sororities and the attentive 'southern hospitality' were new experiences for her, but she soon learned the value of inclusion in any community. She worked hard to form meaningful friendships, and among the Auburn Family she found others willing and eager to make her feel welcome. To this day, the bonds she created with these college friends have stood the test of time and travel.

Kirsten Grenside and Husband Mark in Lake Como, Italy

Kirsten and her husband Mark in Lake Como, Italy

Getting Her Start to Going Abroad

Upon graduation in 1987, Grenside's journey took her through various twists and turns, not unlike most recent graduates. She initially applied to the CIA, but while awaiting the year-long clearance process, she fell in love with the buzz of New York City. Through sheer focus and determination, Grenside landed a job at Showtime Networks, and her career in media and communications was launched. This marked the beginning of a successful path that would eventually lead her to an international career.

While in NYC, Grenside expressed her openness to international opportunities. Cable TV, already well established in the U.S., was just starting in Europe, and Grenside wanted to be part it. Not long after, an unexpected call from a headhunter led to her moving to London in October 1993 to work for Rupert Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting. This year marks Grenside’s 30th anniversary in Europe.

A life abroad wasn’t without its challenges though. Moving from the States to Europe in the early 1990s wasn’t as convenient as it is now. Many companies didn’t offer ex-pat packages and transitional support systems, not to mention the different societal systems and terminology variances she faced. As Grenside put it, “My experience was one of being thrown in at the deep end.”

In view of those challenges, Grenside knew she had an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Through adaptability and determination, she learned the ropes of living and working in a foreign land on her own, whether that be finding a place to live, engaging trades people or understanding local taxes.

“I learned to negotiate new things with a constructive mindset and a passion to achieve,” Grenside shared. “That, in turn, helped my personal development, from communication skills to project management, adaptability, openness to learn and flexibility to change. What could have been deemed frustrating hurdles, became enjoyable opportunities.”

Living and working abroad enriched Grenside's life in numerous ways. It broadened her horizons to take on new activities, such as immersing herself in her local culture and engaging in charitable endeavors. Her career thrived and she experienced many milestone moments. Grenside is particularly proud of becoming the managing director of the National Geographic Channel in Israel where she got to lead the formation of a new company, establish offices in Tel Aviv and initiate joint productions for the channel. Life abroad also led to Grenside meeting and marrying her English husband, completing her life with love and adventure.

Kirsten Grenside and Abigail Minor in Malta

Abigail Minor ('22) and Kirsten in Malta

'Malta Mom'

In 2016, Grenside’s husband, a former film and TV producer, saw a new opportunity in Malta, where they still reside today. Since moving to Malta, Grenside honed her sales and leadership skills from her former TV career and is heavily involved in fundraising and event management to preserve the historic and iconic skyline of Valletta, the capital of Malta. She also works for her husband’s new venture as an author of cinematic thrillers. Specifically, she manages his promotions, social media and PR, as well as assisting with editing and production for his agents.

Moreover, having benefited so much from her international experiences, Grenside decided to give back to her alma mater by becoming a mentor for the Auburn International Mentoring (AIM) Program, led by the Office of International Programs. She saw it as an opportunity to share her experiences and help students fulfill their dreams of international living. This academic cycle marks the third year Grenside has participated in AIM, with her last two mentees securing internships and, later, full-time job opportunities with a global public relations agency with bases in the U.K., Malta and the U.S. thanks to her connections and the intentional effort of the students. Abigail Minor and Elizabeth Wood credit Grenside with launching their international careers.

“What began as an exploratory internship coordinated through my mentor (now ‘Malta mom’) led to a public relations executive position at the Finesse Group in Malta after graduation,” said Abigail Minor, ‘22 Public Relations graduate. “The AIM Program exceeded every expectation and 100 percent altered the trajectory of my life in the most magical way."

“Kirsten provided me with the most valuable advice and connections to jumpstart my career,” said Elizabeth Wood, ‘23 Public Relations graduate. “She opened up possibilities for me to combine my passion for PR and desire to work internationally, and I am forever thankful for her guidance!"

Abigail has since left the Finesse Group and resides in Italy with her husband, still embracing and experiencing all that a life abroad has to offer. Elizabeth continues to work for the agency as a PR executive.

Grenside's journey from an Auburn student to a global mentor serves as a testament to the transformative power of international experiences and the importance of paying it forward. Her story is one of determination, cultural exploration and giving back to help future generations of Auburn students reach new heights in their own international journeys.

“It’s a privilege to be in a position to help others on the same journey I took many years back and exciting and rewarding to watch them flourish as they embark on their new adventures post Auburn. I wish them the very best and hope that they enjoy and embrace the opportunities ahead as much as I have.”

Kirsten Grenside