From Heidelberg to Tafelberg: Meet Fiona Strohm

Finding the right career path may seem scary to a teenager, but everyone has to go through it, and a few years later I’m now finally able to say that I know exactly what I want to do with my life.

Sometimes it’s good to take some time off and travel, just to become aware of who you are as a person and what your goals are in life. After graduating high school in Germany in 2016, I was sure that I wanted to study economics. It sounded like a solid solution and everyone else was doing it, so why not? Fortunately I decided to rather take a year off and move to France. In Paris I worked with children and went to a language school. The first few weeks were tough! You can’t compare learning languages at school with using them in real life. It was the first time that I actually needed to speak a foreign language just to get from point A to point B. My shy mumbling in French and English disappeared after some time and my language skills blossomed from day to day. That’s when I knew I wanted to work with languages.


So then the logical question was: “Is it possible to follow a passion for languages and eventually earn a proper income?” After doing some research I found that you can study translation and interpreting in Germany, even though it’s not common. Most people don’t really know about this career path, they take it for granted that everything they see in their daily life, such as books and movies, is already translated. We take it for granted that everyone around the world can communicate with each other, but we never ask ourselves how? It’s with the help of translators and interpreters, even though we never realise that they’re there.

From that moment on I became more open-minded towards other cultures and people speaking other languages. I started to travel and gain more experience. These experiences may not always be positive but each one teaches you a lesson. Once you set your mind on becoming a translator it opens your eyes to translations in your daily life, every minute of the day. Be it a badly translated menu or a bad synchronisation in a movie, you always think about how the translator or interpreter could have done a better job. You also get excited because you realise one day you may be that interpreter, and you can get it right!

After my year in France, a country of overwhelming beauty and culture, I finally started to study translation at the Institut für Übersetzen und Dolmetschen in Heidelberg ─ what an enchanting place! You’re surrounded by like-minded people and teachers who have already experienced things that you can only dream of. At the IUED you have to choose two languages to major in (I chose English and French). You also have to complete a lot of courses you wouldn’t think necessary to become a translator, like improving your native language and your computer skills. That just goes to show how diverse a translator’s skill set has to be ─ being bilingual is merely the start. One has to consider ten things before committing to a translation choice, even if the solution seems easy at first glance.

Soon after I started my studies, everyone around me started talking about the specific major they wanted to graduate in: interpreting, translation, terminology, and so on. There are many possibilities. Which brings me here: Even though I figured out what I want to do with my life, I have to narrow it down. So here I am in a foreign country to gain more experience. May my internship here at Folio Online and my semester in Scotland next year bring me some answers. I can’t wait for the adventure to begin!