Courtney graduated from SSU in 2007 with a BA in Spanish.
While you were at SSU, did you have any idea of what you'd do after graduation?
While at SSU, I didn’t totally know what I would do with my degree, but after a volunteer trip in Mexico and then studying abroad in Chile, I knew that I wanted to continue traveling. Job possibilities included translation and teaching Spanish, but it took me getting a hands-on position in a school out of state to realize that I wanted to pursue teaching as a career.
How did your studies or activities at SSU influence your future job choices?
I had so many amazing instructors and professors at SSU. It was inspiring to me to be able to work with the many people who were passionate about language and who shared their knowledge as I explored my interests under their guidance. I also decided to and had the financial privilege to study abroad for a full year in Santiago, Chile. It was life changing. It gave me a thirst for travel and intrigue in culture. I could not have developed the same level of language skill without this experience and on top of that, I was immersed in a life and location so different from my own background. 100% recommend!
What have you been doing since completing your master’s program?
During my first year out, I did work as a free-lance translator, though the program faculty at Trinity advised against it because it’s hard to make a living that way when you’re just starting out (establishing a client base was the main obstacle). I still want to do literary translation, and would like to get a PhD and teach, but whatever I do, I will continue to translate on the side and research other avenues which might allow me time to devote to it as a profession. In the meantime, I looked for full-time positions in localization and translation project management, including proofreading, editing, etc. I now work with a tech company (VACO and Tech Firefly) that outsources for Google and YouTube. They have a rapidly expanding team of non-English locale language specialists, which will take on auditing advertisements in various languages. I was hired to audit ads in French; they initially wanted French native speakers for the role, but I was able to pass the language exam, and prove my knowledge of the French culture and language to be sufficient enough to deal with content and moderate it, despite not being a native speaker. The company provides guidelines, and my team and I examine ads according to them. I’m happy to say that I was able to pass their language test thanks to my many years studying French, first in high school, then at SSU and during my study abroad in Paris. I have applied to be a team lead, which I have accepted, and which will see me managing the French, Arabic, and Turkish locales for the team.
Tell me about your trajectory after SSU
After graduating, I had a gap year at home. During that time, I researched my options for continuing travel and getting some experience in a job field I had no experience with--teaching. I moved to Oregon for AmeriCorps, thinking I could always move home after the year commitment. I ended up meeting some like-minded people in the program and got accepted into a Master of Arts in Teaching program at the University of Portland. After a grueling year of grad school and full-time teaching, I had my degree and my license. I was lucky enough to get hired the summer I graduated and took a position as a first-grade teacher at a school where I could use my Spanish language skills. 2022-2023 will be my ninth year of teaching first grade there.
How did you find your current job?
I did a lot of interviews and job fairs to initially get hired. I had the opportunity of a strong network with my university and I also participated in countless mock interviews. Getting that practice experience, along with enduring a handful of lackluster and even embarrassing interviews, made the awkward and scary process so worth it in the long run.
What challenges or benefits have you found in your current position?
Teaching is a very rewarding, but extremely tiring job. In my position, I communicate with students and families in Spanish, which I think strengthens our ability to support the student’s success. I get to laugh with kids, witness their wonder and exploration of their unfolding world, and hear the hilarious things they say. I sit beside them and listen as they articulate and interpret their learning. But it is so, so taxing too. It’s important to set boundaries, go slow to go fast, and center the positives of each day.
Has your Spanish major helped you in your career?
Absolutely! It set me aside as an interview candidate because of the world view, cultural experience, and language assets I have attained. Any level of bilingualism or biculturalism you can bring to the table will only help you have new and broad perspectives, which will give you intangible and non-quantifiable skills.
What advice do you have for current students?
Study abroad! It’s the most amazing experience you could possibly choose for yourself. It’s scary and it might put you out of your comfort zone, but if you have the ability to go, it will be so memorable and rewarding.
What do you see yourself doing five or ten years from now?
I have dedicated the last 10 years to teaching and learning with kids as well as using my Spanish skills to bridge the gap with families. At the same time, I have evolving interests and I’m excited at the endless possibilities out there. I hope to always take what skills and lessons I’ve learned from all of my experiences and leverage them to do what interests me.