Wisconsin, Tokyo, Kumamoto, California and Geneva Next – Erika Egner’s Fascinating and Rewarding Journey

Erika Egner (MAT 2019, MIIS)

–          You are a native speaker of English.  When did you realize you wanted to further immerse yourself in the Japanese language and culture?

Growing up in a multilingual household, I always enjoyed learning languages. As I was researching and applying to colleges, I made my decision partially because I wanted to study Japanese, a language that was attractive to me for being so different from anything I had studied before. I soon fell in love with it, especially after studying at Waseda University in Tokyo for a year, and in the end, graduated with a major in Japanese Studies. I did not know what I wanted to do as a career at the time, but I knew I wanted to use Japanese in some way. I decided to apply for the JET Programme to immerse myself in the language and hopefully figure out my future path, and thankfully, I was accepted.

–          How much time did you spend in Japan and what did you do there?

After getting my BA, I moved to the southern prefecture of Kumamoto, where I worked with the JET Programme for five years. I spent three years of that time as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) teaching English to elementary and middle school students in the beautiful island town of Amakusa. I then transferred to Minamata City, where I worked as a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations) for two years. My position included everything from administrative duties for the local International Association and organizing a sister city exchange program, to organizing cultural events and writing a column in the city newsletter. My work also included some translation and interpretation, which I loved and which inspired me to apply to MIIS.                                                                                             

–          How did you hear about MIIS and what did you study at MIIS?

I first heard about MIIS early on in my JET career from a fellow ALT (who also told me about the scholarship offered to all returning JETs!). She came to MIIS a couple years later, and I followed in her footsteps a couple years after that. I originally applied for the Translation and Localization Management program, but after my first semester decided that what I really wanted to focus on was the practical, language side of translation and interpretation, so I switched programs to MAT. In addition to my translation coursework, I have taken two years of interpretation classes and earned the Localization Management specialization, so I like to think I’ve gotten a well-rounded education here.

–          Tell us about the key immersive learning opportunities (such as internship and practicum) and other key insights gained that have informed your future career direction.

After my first year, I interned for a summer at Daikin North America, a Japanese-owned manufacturer of HVAC systems outside of Houston, Texas. This was a really great learning experience for me. I was still leaning towards working in written translation until my internship, but my work at Daikin was primarily related to interpretation. I found there that there was a lot about interpretation that I loved, and I know now that I want a career that allows me to do both.

I also participated in an immersive learning opportunity this semester while auditing the Seminar in Foreign Policy, Trade, and Development in East Asia course. This course involved a field research practicum during spring break, wherein students visit Tokyo and Beijing to listen to lectures and interview experts in a variety of topics. Two students each from the Japanese and Chinese T&I programs attended to serve as interpreters, myself included. I learned a lot about the major issues facing East Asia in terms of security, trade, and foreign relations—information that is very transferrable to my general knowledge as an interpreter. During the practicum portion, we visited government ministries, research centers, and even the Diet. This was a great opportunity to get a taste of life as a freelance interpreter, and being able to help my fellow students in their research was a wonderful bonus.

–          You are about to graduate.  What are you going to do after graduation?

I am heading to Europe! I will be a Translation Fellow at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, where I will spend an intensive six months learning about intellectual property and being trained in the field of patent translation from Japanese to English. I’m very excited about this opportunity!

–          Any words of wisdom for language students who want to incorporate Japanese into their future careers?

There are so many opportunities out there that require language skills. Bilingualism is a great benefit to both you and to employers, and fewer and fewer people in the US have the advanced skills required in languages like Japanese or Chinese. If you have language skills, I would encourage you to look into the different careers that require them because there’s something for everyone. If you want to work in translation/interpretation specifically, be very critical about yourself and don’t rush into it. It can be a very demanding field, so make sure you have a really solid foundation. Take the time to live in-country and intensively study the language, culture, modern history, and current events of Japan. But don’t be scared off—it’s also a very rewarding field!

Winnie Heh

Career Advisor


Career Management – a CEO’s Perspective

Lou Provenzano 011116


Louis F. Provenzano, Co-founder of Certified Medical Interpreters, LLC and former CEO of Language Line Services was the guest speaker in my Career Management class in December, 2015. Lou speaks 6 languages, has worked in over 10 countries around the world and has successfully started, acquired and sold over a dozen businesses with an aggregate value exceeding $500 million.   Many of you are familiar with the two medical certification exams in the U.S.  Lou started to organize conferences and other activities in 2007 to push for the certification exams.  He was one of the two co-founders of the Certified Medical Interpreters exam that is now administered by the National Board for the Certification of Medical Interpreters. (  I was able to take part in this historic movement thanks to his vision.


WH: Lou, thank you for making the time to meet with my students. I bet in all those years that we worked together, you had never thought that you would be speaking to MY students at MIIS. 

LP: No, I didn’t.  I guess anything is possible in life.  (Laugh!)

WH: And I think that just goes to show that career management is not some static end state that we choose upon graduation and it shall remain unchanged. A professional who cares about their growth needs to be ready to make positive changes that they may not have planned.  With that in mind, I want to point out to our students that you have had a very successful and varied international career.  Please tell us how you started?

LP: Thank you Winnie. My father was active in the student exchange program with Kiwanis in Europe.  He and his colleagues observed how European children learn multiple languages and conceived the idea of starting a similar program.  I, along with 25 other lucky children, was in an experimental program where we studied Spanish in first grade, added French while keeping Spanish and then added German while keeping Spanish and French.  With this program and my higher education, I learned Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Russian.  I studied Romance languages and international law in college.  My language and business training opened up opportunities in my international career.

 WH: That’s fascinating. Now starting a job is one thing, to keep the growth momentum going is another.  How do you approach keeping your career growth?

LP:  I am not an interpreter by trade, but I understand the importance of bridging language and cultural barriers.  I have always been ready to use sound business protocols, my experience and my languages to build relationships.  In addition, it is important to have a growth mindset – always learning and growing.  I work as if I were looking for a career change every day.  And you have to be well-prepared to function this way.  I have found that every experience I have seems to be more exciting than the previous one.

WH: The two most “anxiety-inducing” topics for our students are “networking” and “compensation.” If you wouldn’t mind, I would like to focus on those topics for a bit.  You are one of the best networkers I know.  It will take us a while to get to your level.  Please think back on your earliest professional life, what are the approaches that you used at those early stages of your professional life that you think our students can learn from?

LP: In terms of networking, I’d say the more you give, the more you will get.  Networking is about contributing.  For example, early in my career at Northern Trust, I volunteered to serve in a community outreach program because I am naturally outgoing and gregarious.  The unintentional benefit from this volunteer activity is that I made amazing contacts with Board members and community leaders throughout this process.  As a young professional, this opportunity also allowed me to hone my presentation and communication skills not the least of which was to develop new business opportunities for the bank!

You also have social media at your disposal. LinkedIn, Twitter and FaceBook are your friends.  Use them wisely.

When it comes to compensation, I’d say: “Get over it!”  (Laugh!)  Do your research.  Understand your value and stand behind your value.  Start high and have the confidence to believe that you deserve what you are asking for.  Salary negotiation is not confrontation.  It is an opportunity for both parties to understand their assumptions and positions.

 WH: You came into the language industry in the last 15 years after having achieved great success in other industries. Your language skills and your world view have given you the passion and unique perspective on this industry.  Where do you see the language industry going and how can the new graduates from MIIS with their unique and excellent education prepare themselves for the test of time?

LP: Our world is becoming smaller and smaller. In today’s world, the ability to exchange goods and services are limited only by the ability to communicate.  This makes interpreters essential for the global market.  We have seen 10% to 15% annual growth within the language industry per year driven by migration and trade.  Spanish speakers are predicted to be the majority in this country in 25 years.  All that is to say there are tremendous opportunities for language professionals if you are open-minded and manage your careers diligently.  Always look for and acquire the new skills needed in the future market.  Getting your degree does not mean the end of your education.  To future proof yourself, you need to keep learning.  This is something I heard from Winnie:  “Interpreters need to read a daily a day, a weekly a week and a monthly a month.”

WH: One of the questions that was raised by our students is this:

I would like to know what the CEO looks for in an employee when hiring or promoting an employee internally. I’m hoping the answer will be something more concrete than just ‘leadership potential’.”

LP: I believe in performance-based recognition and reward.  I look for someone who is creative, goes above and beyond their job description and who acts on the best interest of the company.  At the end of the day, the most successful employees are the ones who make concrete and on-going contributions to the organization’s growth.

 WH: One of the questions that was raised by our students is this:

“What steps can an employee take to make sure that every one of their jobs are fulfilling and educational?”

LP: Seek out learning opportunities and mentors.  Ask for and take feedback.  The biggest mistake any professional can make is complacency.  Nothing stays the same for long.  Always ask yourself:  “How can I improve myself?”

WH: Thank you for your generosity in sharing your insights.

LP: My pleasure and best of luck to all of you.

Winnie Heh
Career & Academic Advisor

Six MIIS T & I Students Share Internship Learnings

Immersive Learning through Summer Internship

As a professional graduate school, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey places great emphasis on immersive learning which is defined as “intensive, authentic, and contextualized learning that is active, applied, and hands-on and that is related to a specific professional career path.”  One of the best ways for our students to maximize their immersive learning is through internships.  Six of our 2nd year T, TI, CI students recently shared their internship learnings with the first year students in  TED-style presentations.  I posed the following questions to them after their presentations.

Erin Compton (MATI, 2016. English/Spanish. delsurtranslations, Argentina.)
 Erin Compton
WH:  What was the #1 selection criterion as you looked for an organization to intern?

EC: I sought hands-on technical training and exposure to real-world translation and/or interpretation work in a Spanish-language environment.

WH:  What insights did you gain about yourself and your professional future thanks to the internship?

EC: I learned what contexts best foster my ability to produce good work and identified ways to overcome my weaknesses as a translator. I also gained more clarity regarding sector niches to consider moving forward; developing specialized expertise is one of my foremost professional goals.

WH:  From the employers’ perspective, what does a good intern look like while working for them?

EC: In addition to demonstrating an eye for detail and dedication to high quality, my employers appreciated a positive and collaborative attitude. Flexibility is also important, as projects, schedules and plans can change.

WH:  Any other words of wisdom to share with the 1st year students?

EC: Don’t be afraid to say you don’t understand something or need further explanation; this is your chance to ask all the questions you can in a safe and supportive professional environment before venturing out on your own. You will be interning amidst professionals who are in positions similar to those that you aspire to fill. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by!


Anelix Diaz Quinones (MATI, 2016.  Spanish/English. Organization of American States, U.S.A.)

Anelix Diaz QuinonesWH:  What was the #1 selection criterion as you looked for an organization to intern?

AD: I wanted to have the experience of both translating high register documents in an organization using a CAT tool I’ve never used before and interpreting in a mute booth in high profile and confidential meetings.

WH:  What insights did you gain about yourself and your professional future thanks to the internship?

AD: In very simple words, I challenged myself and realized I’m capable of doing so many things that I thought I couldn’t do. I learned to believe in myself. Most importantly, I realized that I still do have a passion for conference interpreting and that this is the type of setting where I would love to work in the near future.

WH:  From the employers’ perspective, what does a good intern look like while working for them?

AD: From the employer’s perspective, a good intern:

  • Follows specific translation guidelines given by the reviser
  • Is able to meet very tight translation deadlines
  • Is able to learn how to use a tool without needing constant assistance
  • Gets along with the T&I team

WH:  Any other words of wisdom to share with the 1st year students?

AD: Even though they don’t expect you to know how to use Trados Studio 2014 perfectly, it would be best if you could be already be familiarized with some of its basic features. Otherwise, you would have to study the guide on your own and then maybe ask specific questions. Also, it’s a good idea if you could visit their website and take a look at their thorough glossary and other useful resources available for OAS translators. These sources can be helpful for interpreting too. Lastly, since you won’t be too overloaded with work, take advantage of your free time and observe meetings of the Permanent Council, which are open to everyone who works at the OAS, and listen to the interpretations. Be willing to learn at all times!


Katrin Larsen (MATI, 2016.  Japanese/English.  WIPO, Switzerland)

Katrin LarsenWH:  What was the #1 selection criterion as you looked for an organization to intern?

KL: Useful career experience

WH:  What insights did you gain about yourself and your professional future thanks to the internship?

KL: I originally wanted to see whether I liked patent translation and the possibilities in this area for my future career, and through this internship I learned about what patent translation entailed and was able to develop skills that will help me in this area in the future.

WH:  From the employers’ perspective, what does a good intern look like while working for them?

KL: I believe that WIPO wants an intern who is curious and open to learning, who will be able to quickly learn about a very difficult and technical area of translation while also keeping their intrinsic writing skills in English to produce a translation that is both accurate and readable.

WH:  Any other words of wisdom to share with the 1st year students?

KL: Everything that you do can be an experience, so what is most important is to determine what you can learn from a given experience and to get the most out of it. Don’t worry that you might be wasting time on the wrong thing—rather determine what insights you can gain and focus on applying them towards your future.


Anna Suades Vall (MATI, 2016.  Spanish/English.  DA Office New York County, U.S.A.) 

Anna Suades ValWH:  What was the #1 selection criterion as you looked for an organization to intern?

AS: The possibility of gaining interpreting experience.

WH:  What insights did you gain about yourself and your professional future thanks to the internship?

AS: The internship made me realize that I am ready to and capable of translating and interpreting in the professional world. It also confirmed what I suspected; I love interpreting in court settings and I would like to combine conference interpreting with this other modality.

WH:  From the employers’ perspective, what does a good intern look like while working for them?

AS: Someone who is eager to learn, proactive and hard working.

WH:  Any other words of wisdom to share with the 1st year students?

AS: The main advice I can give them is to be patient and to keep their mind open to different possibilities. They might not know where they will intern until the very last month of the semester. I would also say that it is important to keep in mind that no matter where they go, they will be there to learn, they don’t need to know everything beforehand. Accepting this will help them enjoy the experience even more.


Lijuan (Delia) Wang (MACI, 2016.  Chinese/English.  Workday, U.S.A.)

Lijuan (Delia) WangWH:  What was the #1 selection criterion as you looked for an organization to intern?

DW:  Does it offer a position that challenges me and makes my summer worthwhile?

WH:  What insights did you gain about yourself and your professional future thanks to the internship?

DW: I discovered the fact that I can be very tech-savvy, if not everything else I want to be, as long as I put my mind to it. The internship also put localization PM on my radar as a potential future career path.

WH:  From the employers’ perspective, what does a good intern look like while working for them?

DW: I have a long list of adjectives to describe an ideal intern, but all of them truly boils down to some basic qualities: a good intern knows how to carry himself/herself in a professional setting and think like a business owner on a daily basis.

WH:  Any other words of wisdom to share with the 1st year students?

DW: Think as if you own the business (not the part of bossing people around)!


Kimberley Hunt (MAT, 2016.  English/French.  Technicis, France)

Kimberly HuntWH:  What was the #1 selection criterion as you looked for an organization to intern?

KH:  I was looking for an internship, preferably paid, in a French-speaking country to improve my language skills.

WH:  What insights did you gain about yourself and your professional future thanks to the internship?

KH: I learned that I loved translating and that I definitely chose the right career path for me.

WH:  From the employers’ perspective, what does a good intern look like while working for them?

KH: I produced quality work and asked questions when I didn’t know how to do something, instead of just sitting around having no idea what to do.

WH:  Any other words of wisdom to share with the 1st year students?

KH: You will be pleasantly surprised by how professional your training at MIIS is, and how prepared you are to do real-world work during your internship.

Winnie Heh
Career & Academic Advisor

Is there a “Monterey Method of Teaching”?

Renee Jourdenais Dean of the Graduate School of Translation, Interpretation and Education Management
Renee Jourdenais
Dean of the Graduate School of Translation, Interpretation and Education Management


After attending the American Translators Association (ATA) Annual Conferences for 20-plus years as an interpreter and an LSP executive, ATA 2015 was the first one that I attended as the Career and Academic Advisor for the Translation, Translation & Interpretation, and Conference Interpretation MA Programs at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS).  I was scheduled to be at our booth on the first day of the conference with Dean Renee Jourdenais of the Graduate School of Translation, Interpretation and Language Education at MIIS.  It turned out to be an extremely gratifying day for me hearing from the employers.

The day started with Celeste Bergold of the U.S. Department of State stopping by to tell us how much she valued our graduates.  She said she was particularly impressed by how they “hit the ground running” and didn’t need to be told things more than once.  She also noted their strong professional ethics and collaborative skills.  Unsolicited, several other employers came by to praise our graduates.  Some key phrases used were:

“The best”

“Dedicated and quick learners”


“Great project managers”

“Best professional knowledge, skills and ethics”

“Focus on quality”

An educator told our students at our alumni reception:  “You are in the right program.  It is tough, but rigorous.  Anyone who wants to do anything with languages should go to Monterey.”

Another educator said to Dean Jourdenais:  “You are the standard and we aspire to be you.”

I sat down with Dean Jourdenais after returning from the conference to review the feedback that we had received.

WH:  Renee, thank you for making the time to meet with me for this short interview.

RJ:  My pleasure.

WH:  Tell me about how you felt when you heard all those unsolicited compliments?

RJ:  It’s really gratifying to hear how employers feel about our graduates, and particularly notable that they feel this so strongly that they seek us out to tell us!  It certainly leads me to return to the Institute with a renewed sense of purpose and the comforting feeling that we’re on the right track and training people appropriately for their careers.

WH:  I have heard the term “the Monterey method of teaching”.  Could you please explain that and how much do you think it contributes to the great performance of our graduates?

RJ:  This is an intriguing term because I don’t think there’s any one particular way of teaching here.  Different faculty certainly have different approaches to training, but I do believe that what unites them is their commitment to ensuring that our graduates are people that they’ll want to work with.  After all, our students become our colleagues very quickly!  The faculty are all active in the field, they KNOW what skills are needed and are able to share this real world, real time knowledge with the students.  They’re also exceptional instructors.  It’s quite a gift to have talented practitioners who are also talented teachers and are able to share their skills and knowledge as they train the next generation.   We’re really fortunate and this leads us to be able to offer exceptional professional training to our students.

WH:  Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with me.  I am sure our students and alumni appreciate your insights.

Winnie Heh
Career & Academic Advisor