ISIT 2014, Spain
David Cabrera Sánchez graduated from ISIT in 2014 with a master’s in Conference Interpreting. Nowadays he is a member of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) and works as an accredited freelance interpreter for the European institutions and some UN agencies.
What did you study prior to starting ISIT?
I completed a four-year degree in Translation and Interpretation Studies at the Jaume I University of Castelló, in Spain. In my last year, I came to ISIT as an Erasmus exchange student in Conference Interpreting – and I never left!
Why become an interpreter?
That’s a hard question to answer! I’m from Alicante, so my native languages are Spanish and Catalan, the official languages of my region, the Valencian Community. Basically, I’ve been steeped in multilingualism my entire life. I’m passionate about languages, and interpreting seemed to me the most beautiful way of putting them to work for others. I’m not a big fan of extreme sports, but I love the adrenaline rush that I feel when I turn my microphone on: being an interpreter is like being a tightrope walker.
- Studying at ISIT was a dream of mine even before I came as an exchange student! It is world-renowned for its Conference Interpreting programme. At the end of my exchange year, with the support of my family and my teachers at ISIT, I decided to take the pre-admissions exam for the first year of the master’s.
- Once admitted, I had one-to-one classes with highly experienced trainers, who knew how to focus on my strengths and weaknesses. ISIT’s many partnerships with major international organizations meant I had the opportunity to complete a number of internships working in a dummy booth, which taught me a lot.
- These included internships with the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Council, and the United Nations. I also really enjoyed practising with my fellow students at ISIT: there wasn’t any competition, and I made real friends that, I hope, will be friends for life!
- Once I passed my final test at ISIT, I left Paris for Valletta in order to participate as a guest student in the Conference Interpreting programme of the University of Malta. I added Maltese to my language combination and I was finally eligible for taking the EU accreditation tests.
- While in Malta, I put my professional domicile in Rome and –less than a year after leaving ISIT– I was offered my first contracts with the UN Rome-based agencies. I took many planes between Valletta and Rome that year, until I decided to join the team of the Spanish Embassy in Valletta, where I worked for another year.
- I got my EU accreditation in 2016 and moved to Brussels in 2017, just in the middle of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU. I currently live in Brussels, where I work as an accredited freelancer from English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Maltese and Catalan into Spanish.
What is your advice to candidates and future ISIT students?
Although it can be hard to put into practice, I would say that the following advice is essential.
- Learn to be patient and to stick with things. You don’t become in interpreter in two days, or even two years! ISIT gives you the right foundation, but it takes years of experience to become a truly accomplished interpreter.
- Avoid comparing yourself with others. Every student progresses at his or her own pace, and not everyone “gets it” at the same time. It’s better to capitalize on the non-competitive atmosphere at ISIT and learn from others.
- Never stop improving your working languages. You should already have a very good grasp of them before starting ISIT. Then, use long weekends, vacations, any moment really, as an excuse for an escape to a country where your languages are spoken. The most important thing is to be in direct contact with them as often as possible.
- Learn how to take criticism from your teachers. Even if it’s sometimes difficult to accept, it’s always meant to be constructive. Learn to put things into perspective, to bounce back with professionalism and keep your goals in mind: to become a professional interpreter. There are definitely some days that are harder than others, but you have to hang on: nobody said it was easy!
- Find a hobby to help you unwind during the week and put your mind to something else: sports, dance, theatre… interpreters work with their minds, so good mental and physical health is essential. Learn to relax!
- Support other students and let yourself be supported. You have to work as a team.That spirit of cooperation will no doubt be very useful in your future professional life.