Gavin Darroch may have completed his MA in Languages with Interpreting and Translation (French and Spanish) during the first lockdown, graduating in June 2020, but it hasn’t stopped him from securing what he describes as his “dream job” less than 3 years later: he is now a fully accredited EU interpreter and will be starting work in the booths in Brussels in the coming months.
The lengthy selection process, which started back in the summer of 2022 and included simultaneous tests and consecutive tests, gives him a very sought-after EU accreditation which “unlocks a wealth of opportunities” because, as he rightly highlighted: “the system is inter-institutional, so EU-accredited conference interpreters can work for the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Court of Justice of the European Union”. In some instances, the EU even shares its pool of high-profile interpreters with the UN, opening further exciting prospects for Brussels-based professionals. One such interpreter and fellow Heriot-Watt graduate has in fact recently moved from the EU booths to the UN ones in New York!
Gavin’s achievement is no mean feat: he is only 25, a very young age to join the select ranks of the EU-accredited interpreting team, and only holds a British passport. He grew up in the Highlands, in a monolingual household, and studied French and Spanish at high school, before starting at Heriot-Watt on the Chemistry with a European Language course. He soon realised that languages were his true calling and became a fully-fledged LINCS student on the LINT programme.
His desire to study languages was fuelled in part by an event that LINCS is bringing back on campus this year, on Wednesday 29th March: the annual Multilingual Debate. Gavin attended the event while in high school and was left “awestruck”. Languages won him over completely:
“During my time on the LINT course at LINCS, I fell in love with conference interpreting and set myself the goal of one day becoming an EU conference interpreter. It still doesn’t feel real to say that I’ve achieved this goal. I did it!”
To achieve his aim, Gavin drew from what he describes as the “endless passion, dedication, encouragement and expert guidance – both during and after my undergraduate course” of staff in the department. Additionally, he was able to benefit from the many EU-led sessions available to MA and MSc students, thanks to the established partnership between LINCS and DGI-SCIC, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Interpreting. As part of this collaboration, Gavin had access to pedagogical visits led by EU interpreters, as well as virtual classes, and receiving feedback and guidance from EU interpreters was “invaluable”, in his words. This type of experience provided students with a real “motivation boost” and consolidated his determination to one day work alongside these inspiring professionals.
Following his graduation, Gavin knew he qualified for the entry requirements for the EU accreditation tests. However, drawing from the advice gleaned from professionals and industry insight built into his studies, he decided to consolidate his experience as a linguist, working for two years as an in-house translator. These two years helped him get his bearing in the T&I industry, but his goal remained the EU booths, so he started the application process while simultaneously beginning a postgraduate degree in Conference Interpreting in a bid to further polish his interpreting skills. But his initial training came in handy as he passed the simultaneous tests in October, only a few weeks into his further academic training. The simultaneous tests are now the first hurdle in the EU accreditation process, and Gavin successfully passed the last one, the consecutive tests, mid-January.
When asked what advice he would give budding linguists and current students, Gavin said: “the demand for interpreters with English as their mother tongue has never been higher, so now is the perfect time to set your sights on an international institution like the EU”. And he hopes to soon be joined by more fellow Heriot-Watt LINCS graduates in Brussels!