Studying overseas (or How to choose a translation course?)

Courtesy of fdecomite on Flickr

All my translations for the day are done and, before I finally head off to my vacation, I’ll treat you with one last post of May.

Today’s post was inspired by this guest post (in Portuguese), by Angélica Cattini, about studying abroad. Since I also had an experience of studying abroad, I decided to share it with you. After all, if you are like me, it can help you decide or make up your mind on what to do yourself. It can also suit those who simply want to study translation/interpreting, but don’t know where to start.

As some of you may already know, I did my MA in England. I fell in love with the country after spending seven months working as an au-pair for my aunt in Cambridge (what’s not to fall in love with in this lovely city, right?) – after concluding my high school studies, before entering university. After this period, I came back to Brazil and started my BA in Letters specialized in Translation at a Brazilian university (UNESP). During my major, all I thought of was to do an MA in Interpreting in England. So I spent four years researching all the possibilities. Every time I had some spare time, I would google several combinations of the words interpreting, MA, England, translation, UK, etc. I found out there were quite a few universities that offered the course in England. The main criterion I used to choose one was price. The pound is really expensive when compared to the Brazilian real (Brazilian currency): it’s worth more than three times more! At the time, the University of Surrey was the cheapest: the total fee for a non-European student was around 9,000 pounds (R$ 27,000.00 Brazilian reais!) – which could be paid in three installments. Obviously, although I already worked as an English teacher and had saved some money, I didn’t have it all. So I talked to my parents to see if they had the money and if they could lend it to me. Luckily, they had and agreed with lending it.

For the admission process, I mailed all the required documentation, which included a proficiency exam with a given grade. They didn’t necessarily demand that I translated my proof of education, which was perfect! I also had a telephone interview (in English, of course) with one of the department’s professor.

As planned, I applied for the MA in Interpreting programme. However, one week before embarking to the UK, I received a phone call from the university informing that, unfortunately, they weren’t able to build a class for Brazilian Portuguese, so I would have to choose another course. Nevertheless, they also offered me some interpreting workshops and said I could attend any interpreting lessons I wished as an audit student. At first, I was really upset. But later on, I realized it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I found out that, actually, I loved more translating than interpreting, and that translating was more adequate to my skills. All in all, I ended up choosing the MA in Translation Studies with Intercultural Communication course.

As for accommodation, I chose the cheapest option: leaving on campus. The University of Surrey offers several accommodation options for students. The one I chose (the cheapest one) was a house for 10 people (only girls) with two bathrooms and a kitchen. I shared a duplex room with a Chinese girl.

In order to pay for my expenses, I worked part-time (with a student visa, you are allowed to work up to 40 hours a week in the UK) as a waitress at a café and at an Italian restaurant. So I had lectures five days a week, all day long, and worked on weekends at the café during the day and at the restaurant during the night.

The full-time course length is 12 months, with two one-month-long “vacation” periods: the first one on Christmas holidays and the other on Easter. “Vacation” periods (between quotation marks) because they were vacation only from lectures. We actually had to write essays (they don’t have tests) and start working on our dissertation during this period. But I also took advantage to work a bit more as well.

At the end, I managed to save quite some money to travel for two weeks around Italy and for my expenses back in Brazil while I didn’t find a job.

In a nutshell, it was a bitter-sweet experience. A dream-come-true, living one year in a country I love, studying something I ‘m passionate about, meeting awesome people, learning tons of things on the process; but I also had a really hard time, working and studying A LOT, missing my family, friends and country. However, it was totally worth it. And I would do it all again if I had the chance. Bottom line is there’s nothing impossible when you really want something. If you really wish, from the bottom of your heart, to do something, you’ll find ways of doing so.

You can find more information about the University of Surrey in the hyperlinks provided throughout the post. Besides, here are a couple of other UK universities I know that offer translation/interpreting BA/MA courses:

University of Leeds
University of Salford
London Metropolitan University

Well, I hope my experience helps some of you. Please feel free to comment or add your own experience.


Note: Please note that, as previously announced, I’ll be on vacation from tomorrow to June 1st, therefore, there won’t be any blog activities during this period. I’ll resume blogging on June 3rd.