When Margarite Fisher ’22 was deciding where to apply to college, her mom, with whom she is very close, had just one request.
“My mom attended a women’s college (Wellesley College in Massachusetts),” Fisher recalled, “and she was very insistent that I apply to at least one women’s college.” Born and raised in Berryville in Virginia’s northern Shenandoah Valley, she wanted to stay within a six-hour drive and “Hollins fell into that. We drove down here one day, and the campus was just so beautiful. Everyone I talked to was so nice. There was just a different type of community and a different type of bond here on campus that I really, really liked.”
Fisher did not want to go too far away from home for her undergraduate education, but the business major’s Hollins experience has her ready and excited to travel halfway around the world to pursue a master’s degree in digital marketing beginning this fall at the Rennes School of Business in France. Fisher said the one-year program offers several distinct advantages and opportunities. “I signed up at Beyond the States, which is a website that specializes in finding programs abroad that are taught in English,” she explained. “I wanted the majority of my program to be in English with the possibility of learning more of the French language or taking classes in French. I also specifically targeted schools that had sizable international populations.” In addition to those attributes, Rennes boasts triple crown accreditation, which reflects recognition of excellence in business education in the US, UK, and Europe, so her studies will be recognized on her return to the US.
The economic benefit of completing graduate school overseas was another of Fisher’s major considerations. “The cost of graduate school is less expensive in Europe, even if you’re an international student.”
Fisher is no stranger to French language and culture. Her mom speaks French fluently having lived in Belgium and France for two years, so Fisher occasionally heard the language growing up. She took four years of French in middle and high school and is completing a French minor at Hollins to complement her business degree. She first went to France during the January Short Term of her first year at Hollins as part of the university’s “French in Tours” travel/study program. “This was a fun program and fueled my desire to spend more time in France,” she said. Fisher was subsequently realizing her dream of spending an entire semester studying abroad in Paris during the spring term of 2020 when just a few weeks after arriving, her visit was cut short by the emerging COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was heartbreaking for me. Before I went to France, I was extremely nervous whenever I spoke French. It wasn’t because I was necessarily saying anything wrong, but when it’s not your first language, there’s nothing in your brain to tell you, ‘Oh, you said that incorrectly.’” After she got to Paris, “I had to speak French regularly and I really became comfortable with it. I was so sad to leave as one of my goals was to learn to speak French fluently and I was not quite at that point when I had to leave.”
Thus, Fisher sees going to graduate school in France as a chance to finally fulfill the journey that was interrupted two years ago and achieve her goal of becoming fluent in French. “It’s a bit of an out-of-the-box solution,” she said. “I get to the opportunity to continue my education while at the same time living aboard and becoming fluent in a language I have always loved. It’s a win-win situation.” Rennes is located just an hour and a half from Paris, and with the country’s centralized transportation system she said she will find it easy to do a lot of exploring. She is also “completely leaving open the option of staying there a few years more” after she completes her master’s degree.
Fisher plans to make her time in France a success by “going in with a very positive mindset. If you go in thinking you’re going to have a great time, you’re probably going to have a great time. But if you go in with a negative mindset, then you’re probably going to have a really bad time. You have to have that kind of attitude when you go abroad because everything will be different. It helps that I’ve been there before, so some processes I’m already familiar with. Other ones will be brand-spanking new,” but because of the study abroad experiences that Hollins has provided, she noted that she is ready for the challenge.
“My business professors at Hollins were generous with their time in helping me to evaluate business programs in relationship to my career goals, and everyone in the French department – even a new professor that I did not know well – gave me advice on the schools and the different areas of France,” she stated. “My professors also gave me detailed recommendations that led to scholarships. Overall, the Hollins community was incredibly supportive of my goals.”
And how does her mom feel about her upcoming adventure? “My mom is so excited. She has already made plans to visit.”