Interpreting classes in Ljubljana have been running for a month or so and the students have probably already got a sense of how things will be proceeding this year. Indeed, they have a very intense year ahead, both in terms of efforts and hard work as well as emotions and, hopefully, joy at seeing their dreams come true. I already had a short discussion with our students about how to organize and deal with everything, but I thought it might be useful to write a post about it too (maybe you will think of something and provide extra advice and tips on the topics I might have missed out).
In Ljubljana, the courses follow a set timetable, though some seminars only last for 15 or 30 hours, some exercises (in simultaneous) start only at the end of the first semester, and there are numerous footnotes to the timetable, indicating extra activities like pedagogical assistance from SCIC or video-conferences with the European institutions and other EMCI schools, which shake up the timetable and impose their own order. On top of that, teachers might also be absent due to their professional obligations as interpreters, so this practically means that the "timetable" has to be checked and adjusted as the weeks proceed. Nothing new there, we had the same issue, back in the years when I was doing my MA. But it is true that it takes some time to adjust and accept this flexibility (unpredictability?) as modus operandi. The less (time) the better.
Despite flexibility and constant changes in the number of classes per week, continuity is necessary to ensure progress, so students must take the initiative and use the eventual "free" time effectively, if possible by practicing individually or in groups. Since the number of contact hours has somewhat decreased, our students now also have dedicated time to practice by themselves and we also provide guidance as to how and what to practice at what stage, how to provide peer feedback etc. Of course, the time between classes could be used for catching up with the news and reading The Economist or listening to their favourite science podcast jotting down vocabulary or interesting phrases, but I suggest spending as much time as possible (during the morning/afternoon) in the interpreting classroom doing practical exercises. Since we have a small number of students and only two language combinations (sl-en-de, sl-en-fr), they can practice together. I am not sure how these things are settled at other universities with more students in the programme.
However, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying students should spend every second of their awake time doing interpreting related things. Heavens no! Regular pauses are needed to keep the thoughts clear and get a break from everything, preferably with some vitamins, a lot of water, coffee, of course, if needed, as well as a warm meal at the time of lunch to keep the machine going. I also suggest and encourage students to take up a physical activity, if they haven't yet, be it running, cycling, walking or yoga, pilates or the ever more popular zumba classes. Whatever they find good for them and makes them busy for a good 45 minutes to 1 hour sweat, during which they forget about words, numbers, names, terminology and public speaking. Feeling strong physically is an important part of feeling strong emotionally and professionally (something we should not forget as professionals, too, right?).
No matter how hard and complicated things might seem at the moment, when the big picture is still blurry and uncertain, with a well thought out plan and discipline, all the challenges of interpreting studies can be overcome and solved allowing students to build up their competence and self-esteem as future interpreters. Sure, there will be tough moments, many of them, but just stick to your plan, get enough sleep to recharge your batteries, and carry on. Be determined and dedicated, focused and motivated. You will get there! ;)