Florrie McCard thought she would start college and almost magically find her true self. But it didn’t happen that way.
Instead, it took years of sampling majors, studying abroad in France and immersing herself in multiple activities for McCard to be the confident leader she is today – someone who left behind the “people pleaser” and made a commitment to be “unapologetically me” – even when it means she has to “rock the boat.”
“I was under the impression that I would move in freshman year, and my true self would come knocking on the door,” said McCard, now a passionate advocate for women’s rights. “Being immersed in another language and another culture, my own voice in English grew stronger, and I grew more confident in embracing who I am, as well as advocating for others.”
This newfound self-assurance began first year when her English professor, Nancy Beasley, told the undecided McCard she “could do anything.” She then tried pretty much everything – changing her mind four times – before majoring in French with a minor in rhetoric. Studying abroad junior year at the University of Rennes 2 in France also made a huge impact. McCard lived a semester with a host family, speaking only French. Then she decided to continue classes at Rennes another semester, sleeping on a friend’s couch and earning money by babysitting.
“The second semester was far more challenging,” McCard said, “but I learned more about myself than I thought possible.”
McCard will return to France and teach English next year through the French Embassy’s Teaching Assistant Program. After that, she plans to stay abroad and get a masters. She said she enjoys the “anonymity that comes with living overseas.”
Through her experiences abroad, McCard gained the confidence to let people in America know she’s gay. Being open about her sexuality has been rewarding, she said. McCard firmly believes in “the power of sharing your story and embracing your truth,” and she’s humbled to have gained the trust of others. Recently, she was chosen to give the student address at the 2018 Lavender Graduation, which recognizes graduating LGBQ+ seniors.
“For me, this moment was truly symbolic of the growth I’ve experienced and the confidence I’ve gained in using my voice to positively influence others,” McCard said. “I credit both my time abroad, as well as my rhetoric classes, for teaching me what it means to advocate for yourself in this way.”
“I no longer edit out this part of myself in conversation,” she added. “It’s been hugely freeing after many years of wrestling with this part of my identity.”
McCard acknowledges her favorite professor, Dr. Jan Hoffman, for inspiring her every day. Before giving speeches in Hoffman’s class, students are asked to say the mantra: “No matter what happens, I will still lead a full and happy life.”
It was in Hoffman’s “Argument and Debate” class that McCard discovered a talent for deliberation. In November, she was chosen as one of two Georgia College students to champion the importance of a liberal arts education with members of the British National Debate Team. McCard could win that debate – partly because she embodies what it means to take advantage of all a liberal arts education offers. She was a community leader in housing, named “CA of the Year” in spring 2016. She is a founding member of Delta Gamma sorority. She sang in the University Chorus, participated in the leadership certificate program and wrote for the Colonnade. She is president of Pi Delta Phi, the French Honors Society, and a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary, which recognizes the top 1 percent of student leaders in housing.
To do all this – McCard said she had to be open to new experiences. She advises incoming students to “embrace the unknown.”
“This is your time and your education. So, the responsibility ultimately falls on you to make the most of it,” she said. “What I’ve found and what I’ve hoped to show others is: It is indeed possible to be all these things. It’s possible to be any number of things.”