I went to university harboring the same dreams as most people, I guess. I wanted to have the most fun possible, be independent and learn more about my chosen field than I could have done myself.
I chose Newcastle for my bachelors for the simple – and inadvisable – reason that my then boyfriend studied there already. The choice of course was blatantly obvious to me; I was going to study German and Dutch. This decision was mainly based on cool kids that I’d met on campsites, trips to Berlin and Amsterdam as a teenager and my overwhelming desire to sit on a balcony and translate novels.
During final year I bandied around a host of options that would involve my language skills. The translation module at university was, however, the only course that really inspired me, the only one that really made me eager to work on outside of the lecture theatres. Decision made, I’d focus on translation and try and get into the field somehow. Easier said than done I soon realised, after short stints as a freelance interpreter at Barbour, at Berlin Fashion Week and Vice Magazine, I realised that while I may have the language skills, people wanted to see experience on paper, with most translation agency requiring a minimum of two years office-based translation experience.
I despaired of the situation. Threw up my hands, took to the internet and stumbled across an affordable (bonus no. 1!) post-graduate diploma in Dutch and Translation in Ghent, Belgium. Not only would I improve my disappointingly basic Dutch, but I’d get to take a range of translation courses, covering various subject-specific areas, the associated technologies and I could learn Swedish too. The module choices genuinely looked too good to be true so I contacted the university, who confirmed that it was indeed as good as it sounded.
I arrived just before term started. After a mad rush to find a room, I succeeded in finding one in the best area for a fairly decent price. What I’d later discover though was the Belgian students are notorious homebodies and therefore the city of Ghent is virtually deserted every weekend as they flock back to the surrounding villages for some home-cooked grub.
Term started and my timetable was incomprehensible. The academic level, although English was a second language for everyone bar me, was set much higher than in the UK. The essays were three times the length, the seminars twice as lengthy and laborious. I had to dedicate far more time than I’d done in Newcastle but I could see the results and I felt myself progressing for the first time, rather than just coasting.
The addition of this post-grad diploma to my CV has, I think, done a fair deal to boost my career prospects. Certainly, from living in Belgium, I’ve created a far wider contact network, and met people on the course who’ll potentially need an English native translator one day, and then they’ll turn to me.
Writer, proofreader, copywriter, runner.