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Alumna Abroad

A Q&A with Rachel Faith '14

  • rachel-faith-14---st-petersburg---2012_photoset.jpg
     Faith in Saint Petersburg in 2012  Courtesy photo
  • faith-at-conference_photoset.jpg
     Faith at work as a translator  Courtesy photo
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     At Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, where she received her M.A.  Courtesy photo
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Faith is currently Associate Translator (Russian-English) at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland. At William & Mary she was the first recipient of the Robert M. & Rebecca W. Gates Scholarship for study abroad. She received her M.A. in Translation & Interpretation from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Where were you born? What do you consider your home town?

I grew up in East Waterboro, a town in southern Maine. Although my family no longer lives in that town, they still live elsewhere in the state, and Maine will always be home to me.

Why did you choose to attend William & Mary?

 knew that Willian & Mary was a high-quality school where I could get a good education and which offered the languages I wanted to learn, which is what drew my interest in the first place; but ultimately, the deciding factor was that something just felt right about it when I visited and talked with people there.

What was your major? Any particular reason you chose it?

I double majored in Russian Post-Soviet Studies and Chinese Language and Literature. I knew coming into college that I wanted to go into translation and interpretation, and since this is a pretty hard degree to find at the undergraduate level in the U.S., I decided to start by focusing on learning foreign languages that I could work in and out of as a translator/interpreter. Russian and Chinese interested me because I was fascinated by the cultures and countries behind the languages, and because they seemed like they would provide a wide variety of interesting career opportunities down the road.

Did you study abroad while you were a student?

Studying abroad was a huge priority for me: since a high level of linguistic proficiency was the main thing I was trying to achieve during my degree, it was really important to me to get an immersive study experience in a native-speaking environment. I spent a summer in Saint Petersburg on the William & Mary program, a semester in Moscow, and then a semester and summer in Beijing. I also spent an academic year studying Russian in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, immediately after graduating.

Do you have a favorite memory of your time at W&M?

It’s hard to pick! Looking back, I have many fond memories of W&M: taking part in the Mid-Autumn Festival and Lunar New Year performances that the Chinese Student organization would put on with some of the other East Asian cultural organizations, basically living in the Kimball Theater during the International Film Festival each year, going for nighttime walks in Colonial Williamsburg with friends, playing some of the liveliest concerts of my life with the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble and the Appalachian Music Ensemble, and so on. One of the things that I loved most about W&M was the rich cultural life available on campus, and I was very fortunate to be able to make of the most of that outside of my studies and meet a lot of wonderful people along the way.

What career path(s) have you pursued?

I’ve been very fortunate to be able to pursue the career of translation and interpretation that I’d originally dreamed of. After coming back from Kyrgyzstan, I worked as a medical interpreter in Portland, Maine for about a year, and then went to grad school to get a MA in Russian/English translation and interpretation at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS). While at MIIS, I developed a love of scientific and technical subject matter, and after completing my degree, I moved to Geneva, Switzerland to do a translation fellowship at the World Intellectual Property Organization, where I still work as a Russian-English patent translator. I translate patent abstracts and various reports involved in the process of evaluating patent applications. This allows me to work with the technical content of the patents, as opposed to the legal materials more often associated with intellectual property work, and thus I’ve found myself in the incredibly fortunate and privileged position of having a job that I enjoy tremendously and which falls smack in the middle of all of my interests. I’m very excited to have recently found out that I will start training for Chinese patent translation at the beginning of next month, and can finally officially claim both of the languages that I love so much as professional working languages. 

Do you have any advice for current students?

Try to keep your focus on the longer trajectory of your goals, particularly when things are difficult and you’re struggling, and remember that you don’t have to succeed at something immediately in order to succeed at all. Spending so much time learning languages has really emphasized to me how much time it can take to see your efforts bear fruit, and when you’re in the midst of things, it can be incredibly frustrating and difficult to see the progress you’re making. However, that doesn’t mean that progress isn’t being made or that you won’t ever achieve what you’re trying to achieve. It’s all right to fail here and there along the way and to take a different and perhaps longer route than you may have originally wanted or planned—you can still get to where you want to go, and it will be no less of an achievement once you get there.

Do you think international experience as a student is helpful in future life and career?

I think that international experience is incredibly valuable, no matter what you’re studying or what you’d like to do professionally. The experience of being a bit out of your element and stepping outside yourself to engage regularly with a different culture and maybe a different language is a fantastic opportunity to learn about others and yourself, and it can be surprising the extent to which cultures one might assume would be very similar to American culture can differ in a multitude of small but significant ways.