How I Studied Abroad to Four Countries as a Translation & Interpretation Student

study abroad Israel

Angelike (pronounced an-juh-leek) was born in the tiny town of Archidona, which you might not have heard of if you have never been to Ecuador. She was born in a town with fewer than 5,000 people and by the time she was 20 years old, she had already left her country to study abroad in France & Canada while studying translation and interpretation. By her mid-twenties she completed her Master’s Degree in Scotland and recently studied abroad in Israel. Angelike wants to see the world, get to know other cultures and get an education. And no, she will not pay for any of this. All of her semesters and years studying abroad were through scholarships. These experiences helped her “find herself”; it’s how she became trilingual; how she learned what it means to bar hop in Europe; and eventually, led her to start her own business. Here is her story and she wants you to know that, yes, you can do it too!


Why did you study translation and interpretation?

I started taking classes at the college level when I was fifteen. I was still in high school, and I didn’t know what to study, but I did like foreign languages. Being able to communicate with people from other countries and to breach a gap is something that I wanted to do, so when I read that I had translation and interpretation opportunity as a career in Ecuador, I said “Ok, that should be fun.” That’s the main reason!

I moved from Quito to Guayaquil when I was a teen and I didn’t have any friends, so I started my major early. Translation and interpretation looked like a good major to pursue.

Would you say that you had a major passion for translation?

I have a passion for foreign languages and travel. I thought that if I was a translator or interpreter, I would be able to travel and communicate with other people and cultures. I would say I have a passion for communication, not necessarily for language, grammar, syntax and all of that stuff.

study abroad Canada

Explain how you went to college and high school at the same time.

The university I wanted to attend in Ecuador, Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo (UEES), allows you to take basic courses while in high school. I took principles of writing, speech and all of those filler courses. Once I graduated from high school then I took core translation courses.

Translator-and-interpreters-in-the-making at times want to study this field because they believe they’ll travel. In your case, even before you became a professional, you used your major in order to travel the world. How were you able to do it?

My university had really good agreements with universities around the world. Not everyone is able to go abroad or even to get into the details about how to apply to other universities. I had the opportunity through my university and the first time I applied abroad was to France. I took advantage of the exchange agreements and also that I had studied the language.

Can you give us a step-by-step explanation on how you were able to go?

At UEES, you have to complete your first year or meet a certain amount of credits. Since the study abroad in France was a partial scholarship, which meant that I only had to pay my local tuition and not the tuition abroad, you had to have a good GPA. The next step is to start looking at what types of agreements the university has. I had to choose from 3 universities in France. It was either Montpellier, Paris or Grenoble. Then you need to fill out all the forms. The next step is to have an interview with a board that chooses which students go abroad. The individuals that oversaw the interview for me was the Director of the International Study Abroad Program, the dean of my school and a French teacher. They asked me why I was the best candidate, and if I go what would I share with others about Ecuador as an ambassador of my university. They want to make sure that you are a good representative. I applied in August and by the end of September, after the interview, they told me they had picked me to go for the following semester in January.

The first time you studied abroad was in France. What did you learn in class and outside of class?

I had already taken some French courses and I was in an intermediate class. But I got there and realized I was a basic French speaker. I could say basic stuff such as: where’s the bathroom, how do I get to ______ and that was it. I took some French classes there but in reality, I learned the language by going out and meeting new people. Basically, when I was drunk, I was pretty fluent. I improved my French-speaking skills at the bar!

It was the first time I lived the abroad and getting out of my parents’ house. I learned a lot about independence and about myself as well. The second time, I learned a lot about what I like and don’t like and self-control. That time I was more focused on my studies and getting good grades. Do not get me wrong, I went out a lot, but still kept a high GPA.

Now that you mention the second time, after you got back from France, your best friend (The interviewer. Yes, that’s me!) convinced you to apply to study abroad again for Canada.

I already had the experience and I knew I could do it. Plus on top of that, I definitely I applied so I could experience this with my best friend.

What did you learn in Canada that you hadn’t learned in France?

I went to France starting my second year and I was a little bit immature. I wouldn’t say that I was completely responsible by the time I went to Canada but I did take classes more seriously. I took a class, such as Gender in Islam, and being a translation and interpretation student, it helps you so much when it comes to building bridges between cultures. I took intro to psychology and writing courses. It helped me a lot in the sense of building a professional background. In France it was about discovering who I was and improving my French.

Canada study abroad
Adulting in Canada!

After you got back from Canada when did you graduate?

I got back in 2011, and I graduated in 2013. I took one year to write my dissertation and I’m not proud of it. I should have graduated sooner in 2012 but I took my time.

(Note: In previous years, it was necessary to complete a short thesis in Ecuador to obtain your Bachelor’s Degree.)

What did you do in between the time you graduated with your Bachelor’s and started your Master’s degree?

I didn’t work exclusively as a translator and interpreter, instead I freelanced. I worked full-time in the International Relations Office of the university where I graduated from. I had been an international student and then it was the other way around. I became the advisor and welcomed all the international students that arrived at the university. I did everything ranging from approving the students that would come from foreign countries to study at the university, helping them with their visa application, registering them for classes and guide them through our university system. I also picked host families. And, the most fun aspect is that I oversaw the one-week orientation in Quito, Ecuador for all foreign students.

Now that you mention visa application, can you explain how your passport has limited you while trying to study abroad?

Every time I want to travel I have to check if I need to apply for a visa or not. As an Ecuadorian I can travel in South America with my I.D., but I need a visa to travel to North America and Europe, and basically the rest of the world. I have traveled abroad since I was 7 years old and I am somewhat used to it. However, every time I need to renew my visas, I invest time and money. Visa application fees are high, so I need to budget this as well.

It is not always easy! There are some disadvantages of having a passport that requires you to get a visa to travel, sometimes even if you are in transit. For example, during my time in Scotland, my best friend and I organized a Euro trip. Even though I was a full time student in the UK I needed to apply for a visa to travel inside the Schengen space (European countries). I got my visa and I was able to travel to France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. However, I could not travel to Ireland because it is not inside the Schengen area and I did not have enough time to apply for another visa.

Another example I could mention is that even when you apply ahead of time, visa-waiting times are nerve wrecking. When I traveled to Canada I received my visa the same day I had my flight (just few hours before I took the plane). When I traveled to Scotland, I had to start two weeks late my master program because the UK embassy in Colombia, which issues visas for Ecuadorians, had a high demand and the waiting times extended by 4 weeks.

When I studied in Israel I wanted to travel to Egypt. It was so close and the prices were affordable. However, all the “cheap” flights required me to travel to Europe and I did not have enough time to request an airport transit visa to enter the Schengen space. So, Egypt is still on my list.

 Ok, so now let’s get back on track. It’s amazing that you began guiding students based on your own study abroad experience.

Yes, I didn’t work as a translator and interpreter full-time, but I did apply all the skills I learned throughout the program as an Inbound Coordinator at the Office of International Affairs. As I said, it’s about communication and understanding other cultures. I had to communicate with English-speaking, French-speaking students, Japanese-speaking students. Students from all over the world! They needed someone who knew about culture shock, cultural differences and who was able to guide others. And this is something that I believe translators and interpreters can do.

Edinburgh, Scotland

How long did you work as Inbound Coordinator before applying to your Master’s degree?

I worked there for two years until I left for my Master’s program. The application process is not easy. It demands a lot of commitment and research hours. The first step is that I knew that the Ecuadorian government was giving away international scholarships. They have a list of certain degrees and specific areas that they grant scholarships. For example, if you wanted to study chemistry, you had to check the list and see which universities fell under that category. A full scholarship.

I don’t do numbers or math so I focused on social sciences. I applied to five of them and got rejected to two. The first letter that I received was a rejection letter. I did fail a class once, but it was the first rejection letter I received. It was really disappointing and I had doubts about myself, but it also helped me to learn how to cope with these feelings and keep working hard to achieve my goals . It was very discouraging but when I got accepted into three, I was able to pick the program that I liked the most. I got accepted into King’s College London, London Imperial College and the University of Edinburgh. I studied International Development at the School of Social Sciences of the University of Edinburgh. It was a one-year program.

gender in islam
Gender in Islam Class Lunch – King’s University College – London, Ontario – Canada

What did the scholarship entail?

This scholarship covered 95% of everything. Roundtrip airfare from Ecuador to Edinburgh, health insurance, accommodation, food, books and of course, the tuition, which was the most expensive thing. And it actually covered a certain amount for dissertation research. They gave me an amount of money and I provided them with receipts on what I spent. At the end, I only had to return 5% and it was crazy to pay only $3,000 to study in Scotland, which at that time was ranked #7 in the world by QS World University Rankings.

I’ve been able to travel around the world doing what I like: learning. That year I was able to be a full-time student and had all the time to read books and write essays. Towards the last years of my Bachelors degree, I did have to work, so not having to worry about this was a blessing.

What was your next step after graduating from the University of Edinburgh?

I work at the university I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree. One of the requirements of the SENESCYT Scholarship is to return to the country for double the amount of time you studied abroad. Today, I work as a full-time professor and I’m an academic coordinator.

university of Edinburgh abroad

You started your own business after you studied abroad in Scotland. Tell us more about this new venture!

It’s a family business I opened up together with my mom and my sister. We started it in June 2017. We found out that near my sister’s university, there is no location where students can print their homework or general documents. They sometimes start school at 7 a.m. and others finish at 10 p.m. They don’t really have a location where they can go that early or that late to get everything printed out. It’s a printing service and graphic design center. I also continue to work as a freelance translator. It’s a great way to have extra income at the end of the month and to be able to afford my trips.

studied abroad

Why do you think you went from studying translation and interpretation to international development for your Master’s?

Once I graduated from T&I, I knew I wanted something more specific. You can work in international development from the health point of view, education sector or in non-profits. But what both fields have in common is the idea that you are connecting people. That’s why I eventually chose international development. I don’t want to say I want to “help” but to connect, listen and provide solutions.

Just a few months ago, you studied abroad for a month in Israel. Can you explain the program and what it consisted of?

The government of Israel offers scholarships for training courses through its international development agency (MASHAV). I applied and got accepted to do a training course for teachers of higher education on new pedagogies. The scholarship covered tuition, full board and accommodation in Jerusalem. I was in Israel from December 3th to December 21st, 2017

Do you know where you want to study abroad next?

I am still working on this! I’m not sure yet if I want to study a PhD. In the near future my plans include Canada, so I could end up studying there again.

As a “professional student”, what would you recommend to someone that wants to study T&I and anyone who simply wants to study abroad?

If you want to study T&I you have a different mindset. It means you have an open mind, you are able to understand people and you have a special ability to enable communication. This profession allows you to explore different fields. In medicine, you can specialize in different areas, such as becoming a cardiologist. The same happens with T&I, you can specialize in medical, legal, literary, etc. If you think you’re limiting your opportunities, be assured that you’re not. You can focus on a specialty, and you need to have a passion for communication.

Apply yourself your very first year and it’s not all about grades. You need to be flexible and responsible and those are things that are hard to measure with your GPA. Follow the requirements. And check the requirements even before thinking that you’re going to apply so you have all the general ones covered. Then go to the International Study Abroad Department at your school. There are friendly people there and they truly want all the students to travel abroad. We live in an interconnected world and we need to be citizens of the world. It’s all about seizing an opportunity and taking advantage of it!

Scholarships and Locations

 

Montpellier, France

Semester abroad

University of Montpellier II – IAE

Partial Scholarship offered by UEES – Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo

The Office of International Affairs at this university guides students who want to study abroad and also welcomes foreign students who want to be immersed in the Ecuadorian culture.

 

London, Ontario – Canada

Semester abroad

King’s University College (University of Western Ontario)

Scholarship program: The Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP) is a scholarship available in Latin American and Caribbean countries for undergraduate and graduate students. Residents are eligible from Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and many more. The scholarship covers visa and/or study/work permit fees; airfare; health insurance; living expenses; ground transportation; and books and supplies required for the recipient’s study or research.

 

Edinburgh, Scotland

Master’s Degree in International Development

University of Edinburgh

Scholarship Program: The National Secretariat for Higher Education, Sciences, Technology & Innovation of Ecuador provides international scholarships for Ecuadorians that are accepted into specific programs and universities around the world. The scholarship covers tuition fees, living costs, health insurance, return tickets and book fees.

 

Jerusalem, Israel

One Month Training Course

New Pedagogies in the 21st century for Higher Education Teachers

Scholarship Program: A scholarship offered by Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV is the Hebrew acronym). Professional courses are offered annually in Israel in conjunction with professional and academic institutes.​​


Angelike studied abroad as an undergraduate student, graduate student and now as a professional. If you’re wondering whether this is “just a thing that undergrads do to have an excuse to party around the world,” I hope it proves that wanderlust and studying can go hand in hand. You might not be able to travel abroad and study in as many countries as she has, but I hope Angelike’s story inspires you to try even if you’re faced with some fear of studying and traveling abroad. For some tips, check this list out on how to combat those pre-application questions that might be going through your mind. And click here to get another take from how a student from Austria was able to study around the world. Check out the universities that you’re applying to at home and agreements they have around the world. Google government sponsorships, whether it be your country or other countries. Don’t forget to visit the study abroad department and ask questions!

“Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.”

Victoria Alicia

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