A Day in the Life of an MCI

It is Tuesday. Usually that would mean I could sleep in a bit, but today it means I’m waking up at 6:45 to check my phone and…yes. Class has been confirmed for 7:30 this morning because during our normal class time, our professor will be in a plane on his way to Africa. Or China. I can’t keep track of his international interpreting schedule, but suffice it to say that he seems to have been in more countries this year than I have ever been to in my life.

Even though I have to rub the sleep from my eyes and barely have time to breakfast and shower, I love the class. Before every session, the four other members of the Spanish cohort and myself are required to submit a video of us interpreting, along with a copy of our notes (we’ve reached 9 minutes of consecutive interpretation now and our first quarter isn’t even over!) During the class, our professor listens to our recording, follows along with the notes, and points out every single thing we could have done differently. Somehow though, even while he picks us apart, he manages to make us smile at the same time. “Athena, what were you thinking?!” he asks with a broad grin on his face. I don’t even try to make my excuses, because I am furiously writing down all of his criticisms, and luckily for us, he includes a few compliments as well. I prize those little kernels of good cheer more than I can say.

My day continues with two more courses with teachers in the US and Spain, and then by 3 pm I’m done and ready to start in with my homework, as well as the extra hour of French practice that I’ve decided to complete every single weekday between now and the transition exam in April (I’ll probably give myself a Christmas break though). In the evening I teach a two-hour interpreting class of my own, and by the time I make it to bed, my brain is fried. I swear I can feel the neurons fitzing!

Why has my life become a busy blur of days like this one? For the simple reason that I have enrolled in a Master’s in Conference Interpreting (MCI) program at Glendon College. The college is part of York University in Toronto, where I will be relocating to in the fall. The first year is online, however, which allows us to grow adept at managing virtual encounters and also permits us access to an incredibly skilled set of instructors located around the globe. I am pursuing my studies in both French and Spanish, so I actually get to be part of both cohorts. My classmates and I all share our language neutral courses for court, medical and conference interpreting, and then we divide into language-specific courses for those same subjects. Next semester they’re throwing us an extra (7th!) theory class, just for fun. Oh, and I’m auditing an extra language-specific conference interpreting class. So I have 8 classes right now. Exciting, right? My classmates and I have created Whatsapp and Facebook groups of all sizes to coordinate assignments and help each other out, and I already feel close to these people even though I’ve never met almost any of them (I have met two, though! We’re all located in Montreal and we’ve formed a Thursday Homework Club, which has been an awesome bonding experience and provides a well-needed source of moral support.)

My brain is exploding with information. I entered the program as an experienced interpreter, so sometimes the learning curve isn’t as steep, but I have deepened my knowledge of theory and ethics and I am taking every spare second I have to polish my skills.  I’m loving my notes these days and my French is so much better than it was a few months ago. For fifteen years I have dreamed about becoming a conference interpreter, and with every day I spend in my program, my goal becomes that much more attainable. Just…if you send me an email, I may be a bit slower to respond than normal. But there you have it. A typical day in the life of an MCI!


Portrait of Athena MatilskyAthena Matilsky fell in love with Spanish the year she turned 16. She chose it as her major at Rutgers University and selected a focus in translation and interpreting. After graduation, she taught elementary school in Honduras and then returned home to begin freelancing as a medical and court interpreter. She has since achieved certifications as a Healthcare Interpreter and a Federal Court Interpreter. She was the recent editor-in-chief of Proteus. Currently, she works as a freelance interpreter/translator and trains candidates privately for the state and federal interpreting exams. When she is not writing or interpreting, you may find her practicing acroyoga or studying French. Website: https://athenaskyinterpreting.wordpress.com/

3 Comments
  • Dr. Juanita Ulloa
    Posted at 15:16h, 07 December Reply

    So nice to have you share this! I will share with prospective interpreters. It’s always great to also get a perspective on how online teaching is working for students.
    Thank you!

  • Nicholas Ferreira, MCI
    Posted at 20:45h, 07 December Reply

    Congratulations, Athena, and thank you for this exciting description of the MCI.
    From this recent MCI grad to you, a future MCI grad, I wish you all the best, and hope we will be able to meet in person when you are here in Toronto.
    Keep up the good work and keep your chin up!

  • Gio Lester
    Posted at 03:39h, 08 December Reply

    It is so nice to live your journey through your articles! Thank you for giving us a glimpse of what it takes. Power to You, as a friend of mine from South Africa used to say. “Luck is for those who are not determined in their resolve,” he would explain.

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