The Minutes of Sentiments

鮑開立 Interpretation Track

          As a post-graduate student, attending classes, studying, practicing, and thesis writing compose nearly 90% of the student life. Among the aforementioned events, thesis writing is the most crucial since it is the only way for us to obtain the passcode to the safe that keeps our diplomas. However, obtaining the passcode is way more, both mentally and physically, exhausting than perceived.

          As stipulated by the program, a thesis has to be presented before oral defense. Therefore, each year, the program office assigns first-year students to organize the National Taiwan University Postgraduate Symposium on Translation and Interpretation (hereinafter referred to as the Symposium) for post-graduate students of translation and interpretation to present their theses or dissertations.

          The Symposium in 2021 was the most unique. It was the first time that simultaneous interpreting services were provided, and that the Symposium was held online. As the head of the organizing committee of the Symposium in 2021, I knew everything related to the organization and the Symposium itself. I can confidently say that this experience was indeed rewarding; not only did we learn how an academic symposium functioned, but we also got to experience how chaotic it could be before making a symposium successful.

          It was in the last week of the winter break in 2021 when I was informed to organize the Symposium. Upon receiving the message, I had no idea what such symposium was. The co-head of the organizing committee, Sylvia, started to learn about this event with me from scratch. We read through all the past documents and consulted the former organizers and professors, trying to clarify every step and every action during the preparation process. The more information we got, the more confused we became. All pieces of information were like pieces of a puzzle; we had to solve them all in order to see the full picture. This took us almost a month. Two months before the event day, we finally knew what the Symposium was and what to do—we gave chances for students to present their research results through the Symposium, and invited scholars to comment on their research. After solving this puzzle, we were ready to assign tasks to our members. We only had two months, and everything was just going to be more chaotic as time went by.

          Throughout the whole preparation process, the real nuisance was “Change.” Orders from the office, suggestions from professors, and problems from everywhere kept interfering with our decision making. We often had to change. For us, the fledgling event organizers, these just added more burdens to our preparation work. That’s why I say things just became more chaotic. For example, after we had rented the venue for the Symposium, we learned that SI services should be provided, so we need another room with SI booths. And as we finally settled the venue problem, the pandemic broke out again; we were forced to hold the event online. When interpreters asked us how to use the interpretation function on Cisco Webex, we figured that out for them. “Plans disrupted, new plans, plans disrupted, new plans,” this was basically what happened to us daily. Hundreds of emails were sent just to inform participants of all the changes. It was indeed exhausting and chaotic.

          “We throw tantrums when things don’t go our way,” says Meredith Grey in Grey’s Anatomy. Every change in plans was a discouragement. There were many times when I really wanted to give up. But thanks to my perfectionism, I didn’t allow things under my command to be done casually. And thanks to my mature mind, I never threw a tantrum. We continued what we had to do, and we made changes whenever necessary. We collected papers, sent notifications, and rehearsed until there was no more problem. Eventually, the Symposium ran smooth; everything was in control and we completed it in time. It was quite a success that we were praised by professors and senior students. After rain comes fair weather. I believed sleepy and hungry was how a person felt in a fair weather. When the curtain falls, all I wanted were food and sleep.

          As mentioned in the very beginning, I learned two rewarding lessons from this experience—what the Symposium was and that chaos came before success. Now, I can explain confidently to everyone what the Symposium is and how it functions. It is a platform for post-graduate students of translation and interpretation to present their research results, receive comments from scholars, and become one step closer to graduation. Although the organization process was chaotic and discouraging, the consequence would be great if we insisted on doing the right things. In fact, there is a third lesson for student interpreters like me. We got to know the process of organizing an event with interpreting services so that we know what to expect at a conference. This experience was unique and beneficial to students of the program. Regardless of how discouraged and frustrated I was during then, when speaking of this experience, there is always a big smile on my face.