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NPR France correspondent says ‘whole new world opened up’ with UofSC MIBS degree

Moore School alumna Eleanor Beardsley (’91 MIBS) called Columbia, South Carolina, home growing up and during her time in the Master of International Business program. After traveling and living abroad in Europe, Beardsley realized her passion for foreign affairs and now works as an NPR correspondent in Paris, France.  

As a child, Beardsley said she was always intrigued by European culture. She was exposed to Europe early on and learned French from the iconic comic book series Asterix the Gaulle, which she and her father would read together, and by visiting the country when she was 12. 

“Growing up in the 1970s and 80s in South Carolina, Europe felt hugely different,” Beardsley said. “It’s not so much the case today where everyone is online, and you can call people instantaneously. And we all share the same Netflix series. Back then it was another continent with completely different ways of dressing, eating and living, and I was fascinated. You had to write air mail letters to correspond, and it took days and was far away. But I was fascinated, and I knew that I wanted to travel in my life and go back there many times and become proficient in French and better understand French culture.”

Beardsley said her interest in France and European culture inspired her to pursue her Master of International Business at the Moore School. She said she knew she wanted to work with people from other countries in her career, and the MIBS program would allow her to further develop her international business acumen and language skills. 

“I learned how to work with people from other cultures and in a foreign language,” she said. “I learned many things about monetary policy and economics that I didn’t know from my liberal arts background. A whole new world was opened up with the Master of International Business program.”

Since graduating in 1991, Beardsley has had the opportunity to utilize the skills she gained from the MIBS program to cover a number of historically significant political events. She said one event she covered that stays with her the most is the Arab spring revolution in Tunisia in 2010.

“I covered the first Arab spring revolution in Tunisia — the first place to oust its dictator,” she said. “That happened kind of by chance. I pitched to go and got there on the last night of the dictator. He fled, and the Tunisians closed their air space. So, NPR couldn’t even send in one of their experienced war reporters. I remember how amazing it felt to be able to negotiate my way around and speak to everyone in this completely foreign, Arabic country because I spoke French.”

Throughout her career, Beardsley has also had the opportunity to experience many different cultures across the globe. She spent three years with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. 

“I worked with the Department of Peacekeeping in their press and public information unit,” she said. “It was a fascinating experience in a raw, postwar environment. I worked with wonderfully talented people from all over the world. Our goal was to try to get the Serbs and Albanians to live together again. We did all sorts of outreach programs.”

As she looks back on her journey to becoming an NPR correspondent in Paris, Beardsley said she encourages young people to find what they are passionate about in the world and pursue it.

“I would say to young people, ‘Follow your passions, do what you really love,’” she said. “‘Don’t worry about having the greatest job in the world when you graduate. The job you’re really going to want is in 10 years, so build the experiences for that. And if you don’t know what you want to do (I did not!) go out and try things. Just do things that feel worthy and important to you…’”

“‘One of the reasons I chose the MIBS program at UofSC was because I wanted to be fluent in French and combine it with business so that I could travel the world and have an interesting job…Even if you’re 30 years old waiting tables in a foreign country, if you’re learning a language, you’re not wasting your time. You’re not just learning another language, you’re learning a new culture and a whole other way of looking at the world.’”

Beardsley recently returned to UofSC with a virtual forum she headlined on the political aspects of COVID-19 in the European Union for the Moore School’s Folks Center for International Business. Watch a recording of Beardley’s forum.

-Claire McGrath


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