Olivia Hipp ′14

Hometown: Charleston, SC
Major: English, Literature 
Minor: French

Extracurricular activities: French Club president, The Bridge associate editor & staff writer, Alumni Office RSA, Department of Commerce International Export intern, British Studies at Oxford, Rhodes Singers, Lipstick on Your Collar, Kappa Delta, my Rhodes bicycle

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

I first heard of Rhodes from my high school French teacher, who had grown up in Charleston, attended Rhodes, and, ironically enough, gone on British Studies with Dean Leslie, as I have. She had led a group of us on an immersion trip to France the year before and had become a mentor figure to me. She knew I was looking for a small liberal arts college and recommended I look into Rhodes. The truth was, I had no idea what I was doing, and I hung on every word of insight I got, trying to play it off like I’d known all along. But after my dad and I took a trip to visit Rhodes, I was hooked. The campus, of course, is the kind of beautiful environment that simply inspires learning, but I was most impressed by how engaged everyone seemed to be, both with each other and with the community.

How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes College?

I have learned that the Rhodes Bike Shop does full semester rentals to off-campus students who don’t have cars, and since then I have not gotten one single late fee. On a more serious note, however, Rhodes taught me how to be proactive. This college has a wealth of opportunities, and there is no shortage of driven, eclectic, and innovative individuals who take advantage of them.

One of the most enriching ways I was able to branch out into the Memphis community was through working with The Bridge, Memphis’ first street paper and one of the nation’s first student-run initiatives designed to help the homeless. As the fourth person to join The Bridge team, I have had the distinct pleasure of watching it grow from the fledgling vision of a few college students to a full blown 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a staff of 60-plus students, in addition to the community writers and vendors.

That being said, one of the most valuable things I have learned in my time at Rhodes is how to be both a strong voice and an engaged listener. Whether it is learning to blend into a unified voice in Lipstick or Singers, sharing French Club responsibilities with my co-president, walking the line between editor and writer at The Bridge, or simply fostering my friendships at Rhodes, working on this balance has been an invaluable life lesson.

What is the most rewarding experience you have had at Rhodes thus far?

Generally, my biggest reward has been learning to immerse myself in the context of my surroundings, wherever that may be. Through the Buckman Fellowship, I was able to study abroad in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France for a semester my junior year. After learning to take the plunge at Rhodes, I felt equipped to tackle this immersion. From befriending the international students at the school down the street from mine, to building a relationship with my French language partner and his roommates, to transitioning from the cocoon of friends surrounding me at college into living with a French host family, to teaching boisterous middle school students English once a week at a local Catholic school, I was able to live out immersion from many different angles in Aix.

I also have had the pleasure of experiencing the opposite end of the study abroad spectrum at British Studies at Oxford, where I was a student worker the past two summers and where I will be returning as a staff member this summer. While my trip to France was focused on cultural immersion, Oxford is geared toward on-site learning. By having all the students study different topics from the same era of British history, broken up by guest lecturers on overlapping subject matter, British Studies provides the most successful interdisciplinary learning I have ever witnessed.

You are an English major with a French minor. How have your studies enriched your college experience?

I could not have pursued any of the experiences I’ve talked about without the strong foundation provided by the professors at Rhodes. I feel like I double majored in French and English. They obviously intersect in their mutual emphasis on the value of communication and focus on literary analysis in the upper levels, but they also share a rich impetus to explore the sociological, political, and cultural context of their subject matter. Last summer in Oxford, for example, I was able to take an Irish fiction class with a professor from Trinity College, Dublin. Now I am in the final throes of my senior seminar with Prof. Shaffer on Irish drama, and plan to visit Ireland this summer during one of my free weekends at Oxford to go see the plays and culture firsthand. After studying Shakespeare with Prof. Newstock, I combined my French and English studies in a paper on the “French and Female Fetishization in Henry V.” In a sociology class, I wrote my final paper debating the French legislation banning face veils that I had learned about in my French Society class with Prof. Loth. In fact, I don’t think I would have had nearly as successful an experience abroad without the insight I gained in that class. Though it was one of my most intensive classes at Rhodes, it equipped me with the tools necessary to approach the French culture.

Congratulations on your recent acceptance to the Teaching Assistant Program in France.  What made you interested in applying for this position, and how will your Rhodes education help you be successful?

When I visited Rhodes, the French department’s enthusiasm for these kinds of endeavors was one of the biggest draws for me. My classes at Rhodes have taught me a lot about how to communicate with people, how to pursue discussion, and how to approach different cultures. But the most valuable thing my college education has taught me is how to roll with the punches. I cannot wait to see what lies ahead for me in Bordeaux, and I am so grateful to Rhodes for teaching me how to handle the unexpected.

Compiled by Ellie Skochdopole ′15