Meet Trish Van Bolderen, professional translator and UPEI Modern Languages graduate
Trish Van Bolderen lives in Dublin, Ireland and works full-time as a freelance translator (from French and Spanish into English) and English-language reviser. She also works as a Translation Studies scholar, having obtained a PhD in that area.
What brought you to UPEI? Why did you choose to study here?
The choice was partly related to a career change and partly linked to an interest in the adventure of moving somewhere where I didn’t know anyone. I wanted to become a high school English and French teacher and needed additional courses in those subjects to qualify for bachelor of education programs. Since most universities in Canada offered English and French programs, I decided to choose which university to apply to based on an interest in the location itself. I had been to PEI as a child and again as an adult, one year before starting at UPEI. I adored both trips. On the second one, I had visited the UPEI campus and picked up an English program brochure on a whim. This initiated the plan to begin a year of studies at UPEI 12 months later.
What do you find unique and interesting about UPEI’s Modern Languages (French, Spanish) programs?
The professor-student ratio was outstandingly good! In larger classes I attended, there were roughly 20 students; in smaller ones, there were sometimes as few as five. This kind of focus and attention at the undergraduate level is what many students get only if they pursue graduate studies. The variety of the professors’ backgrounds, in terms of how and where they came to know French was strong. I feel it is very important for students to learn from professors who, collectively, express a range of accents, cultural reference points, and geopolitical perspectives.
The ability to speak in person with professional, knowledgeable and kind administrative staff was huge. This is a remark that applies as much to the Modern Language Department as is does to UPEI’s central administration. I have first-hand student experience at 4 other Canadian universities, and UPEI was far and away the best among them.
What kinds of support did you receive during your time here from UPEI students, staff, and faculty members?
Outside class time, my professors were very generous in offering assistance with course content. I frequently had follow-up questions about material discussed in class and about assignments, and they addressed my concerns by meeting with me during office hours or before or after class, or by responding to me by email. The professors’ sensitivity to extenuating circumstances (such as when extra time was needed to complete assignments) was also exceptional and greatly appreciated.
"My experience at UPEI was instrumental in leading me to translation. My skills as a speaker of French, as a writer in French, and as an active member of Francophone communities increased significantly as a result."
What kinds of opportunities did you experience as a student which have led to your current work?
I had a research assistantship with one of UPEI's French professors, which involved translation work and large-scale bibliographic research. This was very inspiring and instructive for my subsequent and still ongoing work as a translator and as an academic.
I worked as an English-language assistant in a lycée (high school) in France for roughly eight months. This consisted of ten hours per week of on-site work with students enrolled in English classes. It offered students the opportunity to interact with and learn from someone whose first language was English. The experience was very valuable for me because it allowed me to immerse in the French language and in a new culture, and because I developed many rich and long-lasting connections with other language assistants from around the world, as well as with the lycée staff and students, and with other people living in the same town. And, the department organized monthly on-campus gatherings to view films in French (from France and different parts of Canada). These were optional, but I attended all of them and found they helped to deepen my appreciation of French-language culture and to enrich my social (i.e., extracurricular) immersion in French.
What's unique about UPEI, and Prince Edward Island, in your experience?
When I relocated to PEI, I had been living in Toronto for several years and had grown very tired of the anonymity of the city (despite the fact that many of my friends lived there) and its particular aesthetic. The small size of the UPEI and of the Island more generally was fundamental to my decision to apply to UPEI. I also found the peace and beauty of the Island as well as the attractiveness of the UPEI campus—especially the central square and the Main Building—simultaneously inspiring and calming.
The presence of the Acadian culture on the Island had a huge impact on me. Although I had been immersed in the French language and culture since kindergarten, it wasn’t until living in Charlottetown that I began living in French (in addition to English) outside of the classroom. One example of this was that I quickly began working weekly at Friday night Francophone socials at the Carrefour de l’Isle-Saint-Jean.
What would you tell a high school student considering your program?
As a student in UPEI’s French program, you will learn a lot—about the French language, about a variety of French cultures, about how to think critically—from professional and knowledgeable people who are enthusiastic about the material they are teaching and who care about their students’ personal and intellectual well-being.
How did your UPEI education prepare you for success in your current job?
My experience at UPEI was instrumental in leading me to translation. My skills as a speaker of French, as a writer in French, and as an active member of Francophone communities increased significantly as a result. Before enrolling at UPEI, I expected my day-to-day life to largely take place in English; afterwards, however, incorporating French into my everyday became very important to me. UPEI was also key to my work in academia. My writing and critical thinking skills were strengthened through the English and French courses I took at UPEI. But, most critically, the only reason I ever thought to consider pursuing graduate studies was that one of the French professors had urged me to teach at the university level (instead of in high school). I remain indebted to them for that encouragement.