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Posted on6 November 2012

Where are they now? Supporting Young People

As part of an entry for a Supporting Young People award, we  asked some of our former placements to let us how they look back on their placement. Here’s one response!
Valeria  – Placement 

Smile, you’re an intern! Interning (or being a work placement) is tough. No doubt about it!
 I firmly believe in such an experience to gain professional skills and insight into the sector one wishes to tap into and work in as an ‘adult’. Learn first, get paid later – that’s what I think works best.

When I first started learning English I was 11 – not a particularly very young age, but the Italian public schooling system didn’t cater for younger learners back in the days – I knew I had to be an interpreter. Whatever that was!

I went on with this conviction over the years and embarked on a tough journey to become an interpreter. I attended the last leg of my studies at well-known SSLMT in Forlì, Italy, where simultaneous and consecutive interpreting were on my daily agenda. I fully believe that to learn a language well, you need to live in the country, though. So, after a successful Erasmus period in Spain, it was England’s turn.

I left on a summer’s day in 2006 with a bag full of hope and a place to work, at Atlas. I was going to be a WP – a work placement. My internship was rather long – my EU-funded Leonardo Programme required 22 weeks of proven work – and that was my good fortune, really.

I’d always been very busy studying and the only work I had before that was in a clothes shop (working hours were mental, but at least it was not too taxing on my brain) so I was thrilled I could work in a REAL office for such a long time.

First shock: taking calls. Let’s say it was hard to understand people’s accents on the phone, and Clare, my boss, wanted every WP to note down who had called and take a message – rightly so! Easily said… but practice makes perfect, doesn’t it? I was also in charge of the admin work and although I was worried at first that I wouldn’t get any translation experience at Atlas… I’m thankful for that!

Invoicing, database updating, money chasing, bank payments, follow-up calls, classification, reorganisation of folders, creation of templates, even setting up computers and LAN networks… The list goes on.

I would soon become a Team Leader, supervising new interns and showing them the way I carefully learnt over the months. And one of the best things of the job was being offered a position – and also knowing that some of the folders still are labelled according to my system. Clare was demanding but firm, straightforward but caring, and helpful – and above always ready to get hands-on and explain something again. Of course, you had to perform!
The things I learnt there are now the baseline of my business, and to be honest, you don’t get told these things at uni. Having an organised mind-set does help, but these 5 months truly are golden for me.

That place will always be part of a special memory for me – and a useful legacy that made my current business work so smoothly.

My tip to all translators- and freelancers-to-be (of any trade): get out there and secure yourself a placement. It pays off.

Thanks Atlas!

Find out more about our work placement scheme here:

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