Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

UN Interpreter: Living the Dream


Sarah Irene (MACI '10) is working as an English booth interpreter at the United Nations in New York.

March 23, 2012

During her first year at the Monterey Institute, Sarah Irene (MACI '10) decided that her goal was to one day work at the United Nations as a Conference Interpreter. Less than a year after graduating from MIIS, that dream became a reality.

"I am very happy," said Irene. "I have a sense of accomplishing what I set out to do and of course that is a great feeling."

Irene works as a booth interpreter at the UN in New York, interpreting both Russian and French into English. Some of the highlights of her time there include interpreting for the president of Kazakhstan, being at the same meeting as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and having U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listening to her interpretation. For a self-proclaimed "political nerd" like Irene, being a part of world political news as it is unfolding is very exciting.

"Depending on what you are interested in you can really find your niche within the UN," she said. 

And while the work is interesting and exciting, there's also, at times, a lot of pressure and stress to perform at a high level.  For example, Irene had to interpret a security meeting on Syria which ended up on the BBC and NPR.

"When the stakes are higher it's more gratifying when I do a good job," she said.

Irene is grateful for the professors and the training that she received at the Monterey Institute. In fact, she says that without her time here, she wouldn't be where she is today.

"MIIS provided a very solid foundation in the technique of interpreting, both consecutive and simultaneous," said Irene. "It's a craft; it's not just listening and speaking at the same time.

Irene also has some words of wisdom for students just starting their degree.

"Two years is not a lot of time," she said. "People who can determine within the first year what direction they want to go in, it can really help them get the most out of the program." 

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