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How my Bath master’s helped me start my interpreting career with the EU in Brussels

Bath graduate Elizabeth Black shares her journey from studying MA Interpreting and Translating to working as an interpreter for the European Union (EU).

A woman (Elizabeth Black) stood in front of a selection of European flags.
Elizabeth is a Staff Interpreter at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Interpretation and has been working as a professional interpreter for more than ten years.

The Bath pathway

I first became aware of the MA in Interpreting and Translating (MAIT) course during my undergraduate degree.

While I was studying, some interpreters and university representatives came to talk to us about working for the EU and one of the courses that came up as being helpful in such career paths was MAIT. I really liked the sound of the interpreting element, as I had enjoyed the interpreting module I had taken during my degree.

When I graduated, I took a year out to teach English in Germany. While I was there, I took a summer course in interpreting and translating. One of my classmates was an interpreter working for the EU. They could see I was really keen on doing something similar and gave me some advice about how to get into that line of work, and that included telling me that a lot of interpreters have graduated from MAIT at Bath.

That confirmed my decision; I applied while I was still in Germany!

Moving to Brussels and starting my career

Following my final MAIT exams, a small group of us were invited to Brussels to take the EU accreditation test. I was really fortunate to pass first time, and from then everything progressed really quickly.

I moved to Brussels with another Bath student a few days after taking the test – that was before I’d even completed my thesis! I then managed to secure some freelance work in written translation, as well as interpreting for EU institutions.

I was a freelancer for about three years, which was great to build up experience, before getting a full-time role in the European Commission’s interpreting service. I'm now a Staff Interpreter at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Interpretation.

‘It’s often a high-pressure environment to work in, and that was an element Bath helped with – how to deal with the pressure and to work with challenging speakers.’
Elizabeth Black MA Interpreting and Translating graduate

My life as a full-time interpreter

I have been working as an interpreter for over ten years now. My role is very varied. It can be 9-5, but very often we have irregular hours. For example, one day I might be translating a press briefing in the morning or working at a conference in the evening.

I can work around those things wherever I am, like at home or in our work buildings, to prepare for future meetings and complete other tasks.

Every day is different. I don’t have an office, I just have everything I need in one bag, because I work in various different places. Some meetings I am asked to cover are very technical and others are very political; some are conferences and some have members of the public there. There’s a massive range of work.

There is a lot of performance involved in the role, which people who are new to interpreting might not realise. You need to really put across the emotions and message behind what is being said. It’s often a high-pressure environment to work in, and that was an element Bath helped with – how to deal with the pressure and to work with challenging speakers.

Learning in the lab

The interpreting labs at Bath were excellent. They were very modern in the way they were set up to give us everything we needed to gain practical experience. There were soundproof booths to practice in and the sort of technology professionals used, and still use today. The space is dedicated to interpreting and translating students too, so you feel like you have your own space for your studies.

The course prepares students really well to work at international institutions. The modules are designed to give you practical experience across a range of different situations, so you’re learning the specific applied language skills you need, as well as the life skills needed for a career.

The campus at Bath is fantastic, too. I really liked having everything in one place, in such a beautiful location.

My advice to potential students…

There aren’t many courses that prepare you for a career in this type of conference interpreting like MAIT does. The whole course develops your use of language in dynamic and interesting ways.

My advice would be to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself.

Are you interested in studying MA Interpreting and Translating at Bath?

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