By Leigh Savage
NPR Paris correspondent Eleanor Beardsley says she never once considered a career in journalism or radio as a college student, which is why her first piece of advice to young people is to stay open to possibilities. .
Being ready to take the plunge when the opportunity presented itself – and being ready to make the most of it – took her across the world and transformed her life.
âDo what feels right and feels right for you, gain experience,â she says. “You have to follow what you like.”
Praised for her insatiable curiosity and in-depth, insightful reporting – as well as her distinctive voice that still hints at her South Carolina roots – Beardsley has become a key contributor to NPR Europe’s reporting team.
For Beardsley, who grew up in Columbia and graduated from Furman University in 1986, those first loves were French and European history, his dual specialization. âI wasn’t good at French, but I loved it and wanted to speak fluently,â she says.
A study program in France lit a fire in her to find a job that would send her to France. After working for U.S. Representative Floyd Spence and U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, she decided that a Masters in International Business from the University of South Carolina was a safe route to travel, so she graduated in 1991.
Beardsley remained involved with the school, including hosting a virtual forum in March that discussed the political aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic in the European Union.
âWe are very proud of Eleanor as an alumnus for her outstanding achievements in journalism and business,â said Karen Brosius, executive director of the Folks Center for International Business at the Moore School. “She is a wonderful example of The Moore School’s International Business Program, which is ranked number one nationally for her leadership and prepares the next generation of leaders who can understand and solve the problems that shape our world.”
After earning her masters degree and considering her next step in the midst of a recession, she returned to Washington, DC, and took a job at a restaurant – and the confirmed Francophile naturally chose a French restaurant. The opportunity hit during a lunch service, when she met a French executive from Euro Disney (now Disneyland Paris).
Before she knew it, he asked her: “How would you like to go to France? “
She says that by following her passion for France – even serving tables – she was able to meet French people, including a Disney big-name looking for French cuisine. âIf you choose a path, things will crop up,â she said. âYou will meet people following this path. “
Never a Disney person, she nevertheless jumped at the chance and held several roles there, including selling conference space to Parisian companies.
âEuro Disney had just opened and it was an amazing experience,â she said, and a great opportunity to work on her language skills.