Rachel Whitmore, NIC
Journey of an Interpreter
Hello, I am Rachel L. Whitmore, NIC. I am 25 years old and am married to Andy Whitmore. I grew up in Rockford, Michigan and still live there with my husband. I graduated from Lansing Community College’s Interpreter Training Program in August of 2005. I have been an interpreter for four years and I currently work in video relay, part time at the schools, freelance, and I also teach ASL classes at Grand Rapids Community College. In my free time I enjoy hiking in the Teton Mountains, rollerblading on the White Pine Trail, and hanging out with my husband, friends, and family. I especially enjoy the summer because I get to spend time up in Elk Rapids, Michigan at my parent’s condo. We spend a lot of time at Lake Michigan laying out on the beach and reading good books. At home I have three semi-fat cats; Lola, Lupe, and Nevada. I say semi-fat because I think they’re just fluffy and happy. I am in love with my new niece Adrienne and really enjoy hanging out with her. I can’t wait to start a family of my own some day.
When I received the e-mail that I knew would contain my National Interpreter Certification (NIC) test results it made my heart beat wildly in my chest. Before I “clicked” the “open” button I had a vivid flashback to what it had taken to get to this point. There were countless hours of reading books, flipping through note cards, and meeting with study groups. I remembered all the pep-talks I had with fellow co-workers and friends, and perhaps eating too many Smarties candies in hopes it would help me do well on the test. When it was all said and done, I knew I had done everything I could to prepare for the NIC test and I felt confident in my preparations.
When I think about my journey to becoming nationally certified, it was a one I did not take alone. Support and encouragement from my friends, family, instructors, and co-workers played a significant role in helping me accomplish my goal. It was when I started in the Interpreter Training Program (ITP) at Lansing Community College (LCC) that I had heard about being a Nationally Certified interpreter. I was sitting in my first American Sign Language (ASL) class too embarrassed to admit that I was one of the few students who didn’t even know the ABC’s. “How was I ever going to become good enough to be nationally certified?” I didn’t know the answer to this question but everyone has to start somewhere, right? As my classes went on and I progressed in my skills, the idea of becoming nationally certified started to become a goal and even a possibility. I knew what I wanted and I knew I was going to do whatever it took to get there.
After two years of hard work I graduated from LCC in August of 2005. Right out of the ITP, the goals I had of passing the state test and getting a job were both were easily reached and actually done within a matter of weeks. All of my classmates scattered around the state and country to go on with their interpreting careers. A sense of loneliness started to overshadow my goal of becoming nationally certified. I had lost my sense of a support group from fellow classmates around me every day. Everyone had been together all the time, planning the next study group, comparing notes, and giving feedback on each other’s work. It was then that I hit the bottom of my interpreting career and my professional development goals were pushed aside. I used the excuse of life, it was happening around me and that was more important.
I kept up my continuing education units (CEU) by going to workshops and classes and later decided it was time to take the state test again. Happily, I passed again and this time with a higher qualification level. The light at the end of the tunnel began to shine a little brighter. I had changed jobs and settled into a new pattern of life. The itch to become nationally certified began again with a phone call to my friend one night. We started talking about the new NIC test and how she had decided to start studying to take the written/knowledge portion of the test. Knowing taking the test was a goal we both shared, I was very excited for her to commit to taking that first step in the process of becoming nationally certified. I began to wonder why I wasn’t doing the same thing. What was stopping me from taking that next step too? Perhaps it was the fear of failing. I decided I was too stubborn to let my fears get in the way of achieving something great. It was then the conversation switched to nothing but encouraging words from my good friend excitedly talking me into starting the process too. It was time to start the new chapter in my interpreting career, time to take all I’ve learned over the years and turn the goal of becoming nationally certified into a reality. I was ready.
I went through several note cards and a few highlighters marking up any detail of information that couldn’t be over looked in every book I owned. A few of us from work set up a study group including myself, my mentor and a few co-workers. We met a couple of times during the months in preparation for taking the written exam. We shared study habit ideas, had discussions about which foods to eat to help our brains function at top quality, and practiced relaxation techniques so we wouldn’t get too over stressed while taking our test. Our study group meetings were always very fun and I really appreciated all the quality advice my friends and co-workers had to give.
The words “I accept” can be a frightening button on the computer screen when the results on the other side could be life changing. I inhaled deeply and perhaps held my breath too long then “clicked” the button… I passed! The written/knowledge portion of the NIC testing process was done and I was moving on to the performance! I sent a mass text message to everyone I knew sharing the great news. I felt like I had run a marathon and it felt good!
Not wanting to waste any time, I quickly scheduled to take the performance portion of the NIC. The date was set and there was no turning back now. I spent every waking moment I could to practice all the important skills needed to pass this part of the test. I took time to review the “NAD-RID National Interpreter Certification (NIC) Examination Test Outline Tasks, Knowledge and Skill Statements”. I found extremely helpful to review tapes of myself interpreting. At home practice, I appointed myself NPR news radio’s personal interpreter. Every once in a while when I was sitting at my desk looking at all the books and materials I had stacked up, I would begin to feel overwhelmed. Whenever I began to doubt myself, it only took a phone call to my good friend. She was always full of encouraging words to help me get back into studying even harder than before. I think that every good interpreter always knows there is something more they can improve on. No one person can be finished learning.
As the day of the test was approaching, it was then when I finally began to feel I was at the end of my rope with all my preparations. I had been through every page and every chapter of all the books I owned and borrowed. All my video tapes were full and sitting in a pile on my living room floor. Thankfully my fiancé (at the time) knew I didn’t forget that he existed and quietly stepped aside to let me focus on what was ahead of me. He was always there to tend to my every self-doubt, and he stood by my side encouraging me all the way.
The morning of my performance test, a snow storm was blowing through the great state of Michigan. Knowing the weather could almost never be predicted accurately I knew I had to put trust in my little 4X4 Escape. She had not failed me yet, and she could not fail me today. The two hour drive had turned into a three hour drive, thanks to the weather, but luckily I had given myself plenty of time to get to the testing site with minutes to spare. My heart raced widely and I could almost swear anyone I walked past could hear it as I quietly walked up to the testing room.
No more than a few hours later it was all over. The moment I had been waiting and preparing for was over. The nine months of studying, flipping note cards, watching videotapes, had finally come to a close. I remember thinking that now I can finally relax because my fate was out of my hands. I had to put trust in what I had done, put it behind me, and move on with my life. However, that was almost impossible. Unfortunately, I was one of those people who looked back on how it had gone and thought through every tiny detail, analyzing it in my head, and wondering if I could have done anything differently. This is not something I would recommend.
Two months and one day later I was sitting at my computer checking my e-mail, and there it was, the e-mail I had been waiting for. It was the e-mailed letter that made my heart beat wildly in my chest before I opened it to reveal my National Interpreter Certification (NIC) test results. The word “open” can be a scary word if when “clicked” on can change your life indefinitely. When I finally had enough guts to open and read the letter a feeling of pride rushed through me like lightning when it hits a telephone pole and explodes because there is so much energy. Not only was I floating on cloud nine, but also on cloud 10 and 11 and 12 as well. I had passed, I had passed, I had passed! I must have said it in my head a thousand times over and over because the reality of it was almost too hard to grasp. I had done it and it felt better than anyone could have told me it would.
I have so many people to thank for helping me get to where I am today. I know they know who they are, so thank you to all. When I look back and remember everything it had taken to accomplish my goal, I don’t regret any moment. I worked hard to get my NIC certification, and I will always work hard to be the best interpreter and best person that I can be.