Parting Thoughts from a Soon-to-Be GPTI Graduate

Alison Sharpless, Translation Track

     This is it. After three-and-a-half years, it’s just about time for me to say goodbye to GPTI.

     Making it this far doesn’t necessarily give me the credentials to hand out unsolicited advice to my fellow classmates, but I’ve recently been reflecting on these past few years, and I feel the urge to share two main takeaways now that I’m completing this program:

  1. Say yes to every opportunity (within your limits).
  2. Embrace mistakes and ask questions.

     This first piece of advice is to me the most important. However, don’t ignore the part I added in parentheses. Say yes to every opportunity presented to you, but at the same time, learn to grasp how much work you can handle without sacrificing your own wellbeing. One thing that helped me take control of my workload, which I didn’t start doing until embarrassingly late, was making a master schedule with all my translation cases and deadlines to help me visualize and prioritize my work.

     To return to the main point, as a student, this is the perfect time to try out all sorts of areas in the vast world of translation. Even for areas of translation that you are convinced you would have no interest in, you never know until you try. This ultimately ended up influencing my post-GPTI career path.

     As someone who, regrettably, has always been somewhat avoidant of politics, I never once envisioned myself working in government. However, because I pushed myself to take every translation opportunity I could handle, I started a translation internship at NARLabs (which is part of the National Science and Technology Council) in the summer after my first year at GPTI. Little did I know then, but that internship, which gave me a familiarity with government writing style and background knowledge of major policies, was essentially training me for the full-time government translation job I started this January. As it turns out, working within the government itself, the figurative eye of the storm, is not very political at all, and contrary to my expectations, lack of political bias has turned out to be an important asset in government translation.

     The fact that I pushed myself to explore types of translation outside of my comfort zone is something that I’m very proud of myself for. As a result, I was offered a lot of interesting work opportunities, some highlights being translating informational signage about Taiwan’s native plants and animals, a short story for an anthology, and voiceover scripts for a TV station. Equally important was that I also discovered some types of translation work which were not a good fit, saving future me a lot of trouble.

     That being said, I believe I should also mention my biggest regret from the past three-and-a-half years and why I included two takeaways in this article. If I could get in touch with my 2020 self, I would have told her to find a way to lay aside her fear of making mistakes and hesitation when it comes to asking questions.

     You’ve probably heard this advice many times, but I just want to hammer it in a little harder. As a student, this is the time when you should make mistakes—and embrace them as fuel for your growth. Right now, those mistakes will cost you nothing (our translation assignments aren’t really graded on accuracy anyway!), and by learning from them, you will always gain something. In the world beyond GPTI, mistakes can come with a cost, so by all means, make all the mistakes you can while you can!

     On a similar note, ask all the questions that pop into your mind, even if you are afraid they are “stupid” or “a waste of time” (they aren’t). At GPTI, you are blessed with an environment full of people willing to help you left and right, be it teachers, classmates, or the administrative team. Now I’m being hypocritical, since I still find it uncomfortable to make mistakes or ask questions, but being in a new job currently, where the stakes are significantly higher, I really wish I had. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

     Even if my advice goes in one ear and out the other (or in one eye and out the other…?), writing out my reflections has been a great way to give myself a clearer perspective. Although I am graduating from NTU, I don’t intend this goodbye to be final. If there is any way I can contribute to future generations at GPTI, please reach out to me freely. And to my cohort, keep in touch!