Lessons from America

In this guest post, LINCS graduate Claire Grant talks about her experiences after she won the Fiona Watson Memorial award, which pays for a student to work as an intern for the UN or a similar international organisation.

From an early age I was interested in the work of the United Nations and aspired to work for them one day as an interpreter. My undergraduate degree in Interpreting and Translating at Heriot-Watt University, which I completed in June 2011, was my first step towards the future realisation of this dream. Thanks to Heriot-Watt and the Fiona Watson Memorial Award which I was presented with upon graduating, I have since been able to take a step closer by completing an internship at the UN Headquarters in New York City from September to December 2011.

During my internship with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), I was introduced to a wide variety of work. I conducted research and analysis of reports relating to UN Peacekeeping Missions; attended high-level conferences, such as the General Assembly and Security Council and produced reports on Member States’ reactions to policy developments. Putting the skills acquired from my degree to good use, I also translated and proofread various policy documents. Undoubtedly, these tasks provided me with a great, first-hand insight into the work of the UN. However, the most valuable lessons I learned during my internship were from the people I met.

My DPKO colleagues were keen to share their experiences of working for the UN, both in the field and at HQ. I was particularly fascinated by one colleague’s experiences of working with field interpreters while on mission in South Sudan. As an intern, I joined a group of over 200 young professionals from across the globe, from different cultural backgrounds and from various prestigious educational establishments with qualifications in subjects ranging from international relations to sustainable development. I believe this will prove to be a very useful network for the future.

I was lucky enough to live with a UN interpreter while in New York, who introduced me to her colleagues, invited me into a live booth with her on several occasions, and provided me with frank, valuable advice for pursuing a career in interpreting. I also met with the Head of the English booth and sat a mock UN interpreter’s test which allowed me to realise what my next steps should be and which skills I need to work on. Thanks to all of the advice I was given in New York, I now have a clearer understanding of the profession, the dedication it requires, and, most importantly, the life experience required in order to be a good interpreter, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be back in the UN English booth someday.”

Claire works as a freelance interpreter and translator. For more information about the Fiona Watson Memorial Award and to read Claire’s internship report and New York blog please visit: https://www.alumni.hw.ac.uk/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=344.