Reflections from Conference Support Staff

Here are reflections by Maribel Escarfullery and Carly Fischbeck, two members of the Conference Support Staff team.  Our thanks to them for their assistance in making for a smooth conference experience for attendees, and for sharing their reflections so others can see the benefits of volunteering.

Reasons to Volunteer for the CIT Conference

by Maribel Escarfullery


English Translation by Doug Bowen-Bailey

I’m Maribel Escarfullery from Pennsylvania and I’d like to share with you some of the reasons why I volunteered with the 2012 CIT Conference.  I graduated a year ago and worked as a freelance interpreter.  After those experiences, I thought I wanted to have some other possibility and considered teaching.  However, I wasn’t sure if that field would be my passion.  So, I decided to volunteer for the CIT conference so I could learn more about what CIT is about and what interpreter educators are like.
This was a tremendously beneficial experience.  The group of volunteers worked together.  We also had the opportunity to attend workshops and take in some of the presentations.
It made me really reflect on the contrasts between my experiences as a recent grad working with community mentors and being at the CIT conference with people who are contributing to furthering the field through their research and publications.
What I have experienced is that there is really a gap between recent graduates and those who are leading the profession.  Community interpreters who serve as mentors are potential people to fill that gap, but often they view recent grads as competitors for work and want to focus simply on work without paying attention to the new findings and developments in our understanding of the interpreting profession.  The CIT conference offered an opportunity to bridge that gap.
So, for recent grads or those still in school, volunteering at the CIT conference is a great opportunity to understand what is behind our school experience.  I’d really encourage people to volunteer either for CIT or RID or some other interpreting organization to get that experience.

The Benefits of Volunteering

by Carly Fischbeck

I’m sitting at the airport, on my way back to Minnesota from the CIT conference, trying to figure out two things important to me as a student: where did the time go, and when can I take a nap? This was my first time volunteering at CIT (or any conference) and the coordinators were right – I am worn out. But, being a good student, I’m not dozing off just yet; I’m reflecting on my experience.
Naturally, part of this reflecting consists of my marveling at how many “rock stars” of the interpreting world were there – for students, anyone who wrote our textbooks or was in a class video is in this category. But aside from that vague idea of “networking,” what exactly does volunteering at CIT do for students? As it turns out, CIT offers just as much for students as for the people who teach, mentor, and work with them.
Volunteering is a way to actually become part of a conference. I think my first conference experience was much more fulfilling as a volunteer than it would have been as an attendee. When I attend events, my focus is different than if I am assisting at them; I worry, is this where I am supposed to be? Where do I sit? When is lunch? When volunteering, you not only know where you are supposed to be; you have a badge that says you’re supposed to be there. You know how long things will last – at least somewhat – but you don’t know what will come up on your to-do list. Rather than watching the clock, I was so involved that every time I looked at my phone, I couldn’t believe how late it was already.
Volunteers see how things go “behind the scenes,” helping with tasks before, during, and after presentations. Having done everything from setting up projectors to bringing someone a breakfast sandwich, I have learned to appreciate not only what volunteers actually do at conferences, but also the bond that is formed amongst the volunteers and coordinators. If I needed help, I had to trust that the other volunteer would do something for me, and I was often expected to do the same. There was no time for discussion; it was assumed that everyone would take care of each other, doing what it took to keep the conference moving. I also learned to trust myself, following my instincts and realizing that sometimes the questions I thought I should already know the answer to were the ones most worth asking. Conferences are short, so that leaves little room for figuring things out on your own. It is easier just to ask, something that I as an introvert needed to learn.
The workshops and presentations also taught me things I otherwise never would have known as a student. Though these workshops were geared toward educators, whether they be professors or presenters, I gleaned many things from these presentations as a student. Most important among these things is why our teachers do the sometimes frustrating things that they do. Why do they make us practice our ASL with such boringly simple scenarios? Why do we have to write so many reflections? Why can’t they just post a video of the lecture online for me to watch at my leisure – with the helpful button allowing me to back the lecture up and replay it when I need? What exactly are the “skills” we are supposed to graduate with, and how do our assignments help us gain these skills? These questions frustrate many ITP students, but our teachers have their reasons. They just don’t tell us; they tell each other at CIT.
My experience at CIT influenced me as a student, an interpreter, and as a person. I gained skills, saw amazing presentations, and met fascinating people. I am now adamant that students need to volunteer at conferences to gain these skills and experiences. More importantly, however, volunteering convinced me that I need to be at interpreting conferences in the future – but perhaps I want to do something