Peiang Li graduated from Bath with a master’s in interpreting and translating back in 2017. We caught up with her to see how she has been getting on since, and how the course led her to secure a full-time role working as an interpreter for a global design company.
Discovering a passion for interpreting
I studied my undergraduate degree in China, at Huazhong University of Science and Technology near my hometown. I majored in Broadcast and Television Journalism. It was during this time I discovered an interest in interpreting and translating, and had the opportunity to work towards a minor degree in this area. A friend of mine had recently studied a master’s at the University of Bath in Interpreting and Translating, and told me about their excellent global reputation. After a little research, I decided that this was something I wanted to pursue.
To help me learn more about the field, I secured a number of short internships with exposure to interpreting. One of these was for the Wuhan Open Tennis Tournament where I worked for two weeks providing support as an interpreter to the on-site TV broadcast team. This confirmed that interpreting was something I was interested in, and helped me further my knowledge in the field.
Building my skills throughout the master’s
Through all I had heard, I had high expectations of the course at Bath and it did not disappoint. We had access to tutors with a wealth of experience who worked for organizations such as the UN and EU. They were always available to provide advice on how to improve our interpreting. Some of the units I studied included; simultaneous interpreting, consecutive interpreting, liaison/public service interpreting, translation, and using CAT tools. For simultaneous and consecutive interpreting we were divided into small classes of 5-7 students, to ensure the best teaching outcomes. I also got to practice with my classmates every day, which was great. Everyone was so talented and I learned a lot from them.
Outside of learning how to be an interpreter, we were taught techniques such as effective public speaking that have proved invaluable in my career to date. During the master’s we regularly presented in front of our classmates, and were given instant feedback on everything from the technicalities of our interpreting, to softer skills such as needing to project your voice or remembering to smile! In my career so far, I have been required to present to clients and even government officials at times, so these skills have certainly been useful.
Securing a role after graduation
Whilst in Bath, one of my peers recommended the Careers Service, which provides students with support in securing a job. It was easy to find out lots of information on how they could help me on their website, so I booked a one-to-one appointment with one of the advisors. I wanted their guidance on tweaking my CV and writing a cover letter. It was really useful having access to this service on campus, and it made me feel more confident when applying to jobs.
Though I initially considered looking for work in the UK, this turned out to be a little challenging due to visa restrictions. So, I decided to return to China where I secured a role working for JD.com, one of the largest e-commerce sites in the country. I was really excited to be working for such a large and reputable business, however the role transpired to be a little more admin focused than I was looking for.
Therefore, I began to look for roles that would allow me to use more of the skills I had learnt during my degree. I accepted a role at the global design company behind London’s Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour, the Thinkwell Group. Having worked in the company for more than three years now, I have had so many opportunities to put into practice skills I learnt on my master’s course. In fact, I use almost everything I learnt on a daily basis!
Staying connected, four years on
An added bonus of this course is that there is a very well established Bath Alumni Network here in China. After my final exams, I was added into a WeChat group with those who had graduated the course in the years before me. Now, four years on, I am still in regular contact with other students who are living in China. We use the group to send each other job information, advice and just to stay in touch with people who have been in a similar position to me, some of whom have gone on to be extremely successful interpreters working internationally. I've found it very helpful for my professional career.
Reflecting on my time at Bath
When I think about my time on this master’s course, and in the roles I have gained since, I can appreciate the importance of communication in being a successful interpreter. I know that many people think English language is the most crucial skill when translating or interpreting, but at the core, your communications skills are very important too. Being able to speak in a logical way and deliver key information without confusing people, was vital on the course, and still is in my career.
In addition, I really believe that studying in the UK has given me a real advantage compared to if I had completed an interpreting master’s at home. It has helped me gain a different perspective when translating. Now, when I translate something, I think about whether it would make sense to local readers because I have been immersed in UK culture. I don’t believe I could apply that same approach without the first-hand experience.
I think the course at Bath is great in preparing you to be an adaptable interpreter or translator in whichever field you are interested in. Our course alumni has such a mix of experience across many industries, from working as freelancers, to full-time interpreters at global companies and even working on a cruise making an expedition to the South Pole! I feel extremely lucky that I can draw on this experience many years after completing my degree at Bath.
As for the future, I definitely want to continue working in the field of interpreting and translating, and am considering looking at becoming a freelancer further into my career.