Fragmentation of (Interpreter) Knowledge

This is an installment of my recent presentation on “Making Research County” from the 2014 OCRID conference in Columbus, Ohio.

Making Research Count (Recovered)

We cannot avoid the problem of fragmentation when we think about the history of interpreting. I have tried to advocate for a less individualist view of the history of interpreting, i.e. less focus on person A did B or law X was passed, then things got better/worse/stayed the same. Instead, I like to think about the “conditions of possibility” for interpreting becoming  a profession.

One condition is that an educational system had to exist which allowed for specialized, technical training. Most interpreter training programs began (and remain) in two-year technical and community colleges. This institutional situation cannot be easily ignored. Yes, it is common to recognize this as a problem in training duration. As in, “There’s no way we can train someone in a language and also in interpreting skills in two year.” Absolutely true. (Although in my recollection, the teachers who complained about this most often also seemed the least organized, least committed to developing a strong curriculum, and wasted the most time during class.)

But there’s another aspect to specializing in two-year programs. Although I am glad that education has been, to some degree, more democratized, it has also become less about education and more about training. Education provides you with a broad skill set for reasoning that one uses to interpret constantly changing worldly experience, while training teaches you to perform a particular skill set with the boundaries of a professional position. Yes, there is plenty of overlap. But there are also important gaps in what training can provide, especially when it comes to answering important question such as, “why is there poverty, and how does poverty impact the Deaf community?”, “how should interpreters think about sexism?”, and so on.

Most importantly, the move towards economic specialization through technical training should be seen as a product of changes in 20th century capitalism, in particular the movement toward service economies that preceded alongside outsourcing labor to the developing/third world.

Antonio Gramsci made such an observation long before interpreting was a profession. It’s important for us to ponder how this change has impacted us.

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How to become a sign language interpreter

So you saw Lydia Callis interpreting for Mayor Bloomberg or you saw Marlee Matlin’s interpreter, Jack Jason, on Dancing with the Stars and you thought to yourself, “I wanna do that!” What’s next? Here’s what it takes to become an interpreter.

  1. Develop fluency in your local sign language and Deaf culture: That’s right – sign language is not universal. You will have to learn your country’s or region’s sign language. If you’re in the United States, much of Canada, and some parts of Latin America and Africa, that will some dialect of American Sign Language. If you’re in the U.K. that will be BSL, QLS in Quebec, and so on. Developing fluency will require a mix of college-level course work and community interaction.
  2. Develop explicit knowledge of your dominant language and dominant culture: Yes, you may have spoken English since birth, but that doesn’t mean you are knowledgeable about its morphology, syntax, and pragmatics. Since you are using your dominant language at least half the time, you need to be as knowledgeable about it as you are about sign language.
  3. Develop interpreting skills and knowledge: Being bilingual isn’t enough. Interpreting is a whole other skill set. You need to be able to recognize how language works in theory and in practice, and be able to think quickly in two languages. This, too, will involve college coursework, skill development, and on-the-job training.
  4. Attend and Graduate from an Interpreter Training Program: In the U.S. and many parts of Europe, steps #1, #2, and #3 are combined in what we call an ITP – interpreter training program. This is the most direct path to becoming an interpreter, but I mention it separately to let you know what you should be getting out of your ITP. It’s not enough to get a piece of paper – you should take charge of your education and make sure you get what you need.
  5. Get Qualified: Just because you have an interpreting degree in your back pocket, doesn’t mean your actually good at what you do. Interpreting is largely skill-based, which means if you can’t do it, you can’t do it. Qualified means a lot of things to lots of people, but let me put it like this: being qualified means being able to do the job someone hires you to do. You might be a great medical interpreter because you used to work in a hospital, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to interpret a three-day workshop on government accounting procedures. Getting qualified means attending advanced workshops, developing industry-specific knowledge (accounting terminology, for instance), and teaming with more experienced interpreters.
  6. Get Certified: Certification is important, as well. Many countries have an interpreting organization or government agency that has developed a standardized test for certifying interpreters. Think of it like the ASE certification for mechanics: it tests your basic, general knowledge and skills of your field and is nationally recognized. In the U.S., the test is administered by RID (the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf) and involves a written portion and performance portion, both of which you must pass before getting certified. Do this sooner rather than later. There are also a few states with state-led certification, and there is an education-specific certification.
  7. Get Work: I strongly advise against going it 100% alone. Find an agency to work with, get a full-time position (rare, I know), or work in a school system. This will keep you connected to the profession and give you a network of colleagues for support. Of course, always keep your options open. Learn how to drum up work on your own without undercutting other interpreters, and learn how to manage taxes and contracts as a freelance interpreter.
  8. Grow. Grow. Grow: Let’s be honest, no one respects a colleague who tries to do the bare minimum. This is especially true in the language services field where language, the economy, and the social groups we work with are changing all the time. Workshops are a great way to stay on top of the game. But I actually believe that peer study groups, college coursework in closely-related fields, and volunteering are better ways to develop as a professional. — Following blogs like this one is a good way to keep abreast of new ideas, too. 🙂

So that’s what it takes to become an interpreter. This isn’t much different than a lot of professions. We could be talking about becoming a lawyer, a welder, a teacher – lots of things – and it would easily map onto this list. I love interpreting and I’m sure if you go down this path, you will, too.

Interpreter’s Library: Reading Between the Signs

Anna Mindess’ Reading Between the Signs (1999) is probably the single best known book about interpreting on the market. While I have never met Anna Mindess, her reputation and website (here) suggest that she is as interesting and enthusiastic as they come. And the fact that she has even published a book about interpreting puts her in the very small company of six or seven interpreters alive today with published manuscripts.

B669A

So what about this book? The subtitle to the book tells the story: intercultural communication for sign language interpreters. Mindess introduces interpreters to the field of intercultural communication, itself an overlap of anthropology and communication. The book accurately claims that linguistic knowledge is only part of the skill set that interpreters need to do their job. Interpreters are also cultural mediators, and therefore need to be familiar with Deaf and hearing cultures. She gives concrete examples of interpreting conundrums that have more to do with cultural mismatch than technical linguistic differences. And she provides strategies of how to negotiate and mediate these conundrums with sensitivity and professionalism. The presentation is thorough, cited, and well-written for an audience of working interpreters. In my view, every working interpreter should own this book and have read it.

The book is not without its problems, however. The concept of culture is central to the entire book. Yet the definition Mindess uses for culture comes from Edward B. Tylor’s 1871 book Primitive Culture. Here it is:

Culture or civilization, taken in its broad, ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society

His definition of culture is straightforward enough. But in my reading, there are three problems with using Tylor.

  1. Using Tylor ignores a century and a half of extremely useful work on theories of culture. I’m thinking of the Burmingham school of cultural theory, the Frankfurt School in Germany (and the US), postcolonial studies, and the critical turn in anthropology itself. See Raymond Williams’ Keywords, Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectics of Enlightenment, and Homi Bhabha’s The Location of Culture. These texts refine, critique, and extent the 19th Century’s notion of culture/Kultur.
  2. Tylor’s definition is overly broad. Culture seems to be a bucket that you can fill with whatever you want, an “empty signifier” by virtue of its nearly unrestricted flexibility. Williams says as much in Keywords.
  3. Anthropological research in the 19th Century was largely a colonial affair, and Tylor is no exception. It seems awkward to return to the colonial era to find our language for talking about our work with the Deaf community.

The other main figure of the book is Edward T. Hall, whose research on intercultural communication can be seen as a solution to the problem of U.S. hegemony in the Third World following World War II. This can be seen in the opening montage, which illustrates a major interpreting error during the Vietnam War. A critical reader might ask, “and what is the U.S. doing in Vietnam in the first place, where they need interpreters?” This is not necessarily Mindess’ fault. But it raises the troubling history early on that professional interpreting has some of its roots in the modern military apparatus, from the courtrooms in Nuremberg to the fields of Vietnam. Mindess isn’t responsible for investigating this, but it might behoove some of us to think about it. (As a political and legal geographer, this is my area of study, so I can’t help but think about these things.)

Hall’s other writing on intercultural communication, while excellent and widely cited, sometimes depend on awkward stereotypes, such as between “Arabs” and “Westerners” (bringing to mind Edward Said’s critique of such distinctions in Orientalism). Mindess inherits some of these problems through Tylor and Hall, and the reader might sometimes feel that the differences between Deaf and hearing are overemphasized in order to keep Tylor’s and Hall’s ideas functional. For instance, even though Mindess brings critical awareness of hearing, North American culture, her examples of culture tend towards other-ness, including “igloos” and “ASL”, but not spoken English or the suburban housing developments. There is much more to the book than this, so don’t see the book narrowly through these comments.

None of these issues compromise the value of the book, nor should they undermine Mindess’ expertise. Quite the contrary. Her book, like all books, are a product of a specific historical moment. It is not just a book about Mindess or about interpreting; the book itself tells us something about the field of interpreting. Groundbreaking books require authors to step bravely into unexplored territory. Mindess has done this. Those who come after Mindess must engage with her work – we have no choice. We should neither ignore it nor passively yield to it. We must honor her work by working through her ideas, building on them, and moving her spirit forward. Nor do we have to either tacitly accept her definition of culture or jettison the term altogether. Instead, we should be inspired by Mindess (as I have been) to make our mark on the field by adding depth and breadth to the concepts we use.

Field School in Deaf Geographies

The second annual Deaf Geographies summer institute will be taking place in 2014. Please pass this along to any undergraduate students you know who are studying in the humanities, social sciences, or practice professions (including interpreting), and who also have some experience with or interest in Deaf studies.

Deaf Geographies Field School

Language, Power, and Models of Interpreting

This post brings together Sandra Gish’s model of interpreting and Normal Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis.

In 2002 I took an online class through Gallaudet University called Introduction to Interpreting for Multicultural Interpreters. I learned my first interpreting model: the Gish Model of Interpreting. The Gish Model of interpreting in a nutshell works like this. If you try to focus on interpreting every word that’s coming at you, you are bound to miss things. And when you miss things, you don’t have any way to compensate for that “miss” in your interpreting. Instead of focusing on the surface of the language, focus on the intent, goals, and themes of the situation and use that knowledge to create a better-quality interpretation that actually makes sense. (See the diagram below courtesy of TheInterpretersFriend.) In my opinion, the Gish Model is the best information processing model we have in interpreting. So far, so good. (I think Sandra is still teaching at Western Oregon University, but I can’t find a page to link to.)

gish-model

Now enter Norman Fairclough and his book Critical Discourse Analysis (1995). Quick aside: I came to this book because it was published in a series by Pearson Educational Press called “Language in Social Life Series”. Cecilia Wadensjö’s book Interpreting as Interaction was published in this series, too, which is how I found out about Fairclough. In any case, in Critical Discourse Analysis, Fairclough explains his approach to discourse analysis as being committed to careful interpretation of the “text” (which can mean spoken texts, too), but also being attentive to power relationships, ideology, and inequality. He criticizes theories of discourse analysis that ignore power and presume neutrality. Here’s how he describes it:

“I also criticize the concept of ‘background knowledge’ as an obfuscation of ideological processes in discourse, the preoccupation with ‘goals’ as based upon an untenable theory of the subject, and the neglect of relations of power manifested for instance in the elevation of conversation between equals to the status of idealized archetype for linguistic interaction in general.” (23)

If that sounds like gobbledygook, here’s what Fairclough is saying: It is extremely rare that two people of perfectly equal or neutral status communicate with one another. Yet when we study language, we pretend like this is the norm. When we do this, we are hiding the power relationships that actually exist. These “neutralized” models of language are part of what make us blind to power. Here’s an image of the kinds of models Fairclough is talking about. You’ve probably seen this before, right?

talking

Okay, so far, so good. But now we have to ask ourselves a tough question: how would Fairclough view the Gish Model?

If work with Fairclough’s framework of analysis, we might come to the following conclusion. The Gish Model supposes that communication is about goals, when in fact (as Freud said), we don’t know why we do what we do (see post on Judith Butler). We don’t have overarching goals which filter down into specific sentences and words, and therefore, interpreters can’t work their way back up the tree to arrive at the speaker’s goal. Even when we have goals, because language is so fidgety, we can’t enact those goals through language in any straightforward way. If we accept Fairclough’s analysis in his book, we have to acknowledge that – at some level – the premises of the Gish Model obscure power relations. It’s not something that we need to “add back in” to the Gish Model. The model itself starts from the premise that communication is a power-neutral process, when, at least according to Fairclough, it isn’t.

But isn’t the Gish Model super helpful? Didn’t I say that I love it? Yes, and yes. So what’s going on? The utility of the Gish Model isn’t that it helps interpreters grasp the goals of the speaker. Instead, it’s that Gish helps us to imagine goals, and these imagined goals (true or false, it doesn’t matter) helps us to organize our interpretation in a more coherent fashion. In other words, the Gish Model isn’t about the speaker – it’s about us. And insofar as the Gish Model teaches us to “think like the speaker” in recognizing goals, it is powerful and should be included in workshops all the time.

But we haven’t escaped Fairclough, yet. We are still stuck with the fact that the goals that are guiding are own interpretation are of our own making. Which means that our interpretation is tainted with our unrecognized, unacknowledged, unknown ideologies. This is just a fancy way of saying that interpreters influence the message; we all know that. But I think if we put Fairclough and Gish together we can get a better idea of precisely how interpreters influence the message.

If this seems like an anti-climactic conclusion, let’s look at the most thorough analysis of interpreter errors in our profession: Marty Taylor’s pink and blue skills books (1993). They list all possible types of linguistic errors. And Marty is absolutely right: we need this kind of careful analysis. Just take note that if we are talking about how ideology influences language, no such typology is possible since human subjectivity is not a standardized, rule-based process. In short, with Fairclough’s analysis it gets more complicated than tracking more-or-less objective signing errors.

If we incorporate Fairclough into the field of interpreting, we will have to recognize that many of our assumptions about language contain false premises of “power-neutral” communication. I think this is the contribution of Fairclough. But it shouldn’t cause us to despair, or lead us to react against existing models. Instead, we should draw upon our own scholarship and move it forward carefully and thoughtfully.

Language, Interpreters, and Qualitative Research

I received a call for papers at the annual geography conference about fieldwork using interpreters. I was already engaged with another panel. The panel coordinator included these citations about doing research in a second language or through an interpreter. I haven’t read any of them, so I can’t say anything about them. But just look at the titles. Doesn’t this stuff sound interesting and relevant to interpreters? Maybe these resources will benefit someone out there.

  • Crane, LG, MB Lombard & EM Tenz. (2009) More than just translation: challenges and opportunities in translingual research. Soc. Geog. 4:39-46.
  • Putsch, R. (1985) Cross-cultural Communication: The Special Case of Interpreters in Health Care. Journal of the American Medical Association 254 (23): 3344-3348. Smith, F.M. (1996) Problematising Language: Limitations and Possibilities in ‘Foreign Language’ Research. Area 28(2):160-166.
  • Squires, A. (2010) Methodological challenges in cross-language qualitative research: A research review. International Journal of Nursing Studies 46: 277-287.
  •  Temple, B. & A. Young (2004) Qualitative Research and Translation Dilemmas. Qualitative Research 4(2):161-178.
  • Twyman, C., J. Morrison & D. Sporton. (1999) The final fifth: autobiography, reflexivity and interpretation in cross-cultural research. Area 31(4):313-325.
  • Veeck, G. (2001) Talk is Cheap: Cultural and Linguistic Fluency During Field Research. Geographical Review 91(1/2):34-40.
  • Watson, Elizabeth E. (2004) ‘What a dolt one is’: Language learning and fieldwork in geography. Area 36(1):59-6

All Interpreters are Philosophers

Interpreters deal with language everyday, and are therefore in an exceptional position to analyze how people think about the world. This is why I love interpreting. And since we are translating and interpreting between two languages, we can’t help but create meanings that reflect our own worldview.

Take gender, for instance. Many forms ask the applicant to fill in gender. Speakers may often say gender. How do we interpret this? In ASL, there is no superordinate word for gender. I suspect that is true for many other languages. The textbook way of signing this is probably to sign: “MALE FEMALE WHICH?” But there’s the problem. Is gender really a question of male or female? From a normative perspective, yes, most people probably think that gender is about male or female. So the interpretation does meet a general dynamic equivalence. But on the other hand, if you recognize that gender is a social category (not a biological one) you may also recognize that the male-female choice is reductive and incomplete. To sign MALE FEMALE WHICH? is a way of perpetuating the heteronormative myth, a myth that gains validity each time we repeat it through language as if it were objectively reality. What a lot to think about!

Interpreters, therefore, can’t help but make language choices that have philosophical baggage. Is there any way to theorize the role of interpreters as philosophers? Enter Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), an Italian Marxist who was imprisoned and later died for his protest of the Italian fascist regime. Here’s an often-circulated picture of him.

Image

In his best-known work, the prison notebooks (literally a bunch of notebooks he wrote in prison), he says this about philosophy:

“It is essential to destroy the widespread prejudice that philosophy is a strange and difficult thing just because it is the specific intellectual activity of a particular category of specialists or of professional and systematic philosophers. It must first be shown that all men are “philosophers”, by defining the limits and characteristics of the the “spontaneous philosophy” which is proper to everybody. This philosophy is contained in: 1. language itself, which is a totality of determined notions and concepts and not just words grammatically devoid of content; 2. “common sense” and “good sense”; 3. popular religion and, therefore, also in the entire system of beliefs, superstitions, opinions, ways of seeing things and of acting, which are collectively bundled together under the name of “folklore” (SPN 1971, 33).

Rather than do the work of explaining what I think about this passage, I simply leave it to you, dear interpreters, to think about this passage today. Some questions to ponder:

  1. What does this passage mean?
  2. What does it mean to interpreters?
  3. Why is language at the top of the list of things that make us all philosophers?
  4. What belief systems are you encountering today, and how does that influence your interpretation/translation?
  5. What powerful systems of language are beyond your control?
  6. When do you have the ability to transform language? When don’t you?

I’d love to see your thoughts and feedback!

A Day in the Life of an Interpreter: Part 3

Consumer. What a strange word to describe a person who uses the services of an interpreter. But that’s what people seem to be using these days.

So you meet your “consumer”. You, dear interpreter, are taught to view Deaf consumers through a narrow grid. But real people don’t conform well to academic grids, so you are already set up to feel confused when a Deaf person uses initialized signs or verbalizes with a hearing colleague. There are good reasons for this: most research on ASL, and therefore most materials used in ITPs, has filtered out the wide variety of actual signing styles and only shown so-called “authentic” ASL. In any case, remember that while you consider yourself to be interpreting for a Deaf person, they likely have a broader sense of identity than just their cultural, linguistic or audiological “deafness”.

Deaf ASL users aren’t your only consumer. Remember that the role of an interpreter is to make communication possible for everyone, including non-signing people, too. This goes beyond just the time limits of the assignment, since the material you interpret will form the basis of your consumers’ background knowledge for the future. As an outsider in virtually every situation, interpreters can’t help but get noticed by others. Part of your service involves being a professional presence without letting your presence become a distraction. It’s a context-dependent fine line.

Then you’re interpreting! This is the part you’ve waited for, and we’ve finally made it. The meeting begins, the speaker starts speaking, class commences. And you raise your hands are your voice, and start interpreting. As I regularly say, interpreting is the most cognitively demanding task I’ve ever done. When you’re reading a dense text, you can always stop and think, back up, review, or check the sources. When you’re interpreting, time is the cruel warden of your mind. You have to keep up, you have to keep going, you don’t have time to stop. This is what makes interpreting fun and daunting at the same time.

In addition to doing the “language work” of interpreting, you also have to do “social work”. You have to constantly check in with the people in the room, the most direct consumer first and foremost, but everyone else, too. Interpreting a such a public activity and you can’t forget that. Of course, you also can’t let that control how you interpret, either. The goal of the interpreter is to enable communication.

At the end of an assignment, I always touch base with the consumers to see if there’s anything else I can do, and if there’s anything that seemed unclear. This is a good practice because it allows interpreters to fix things that we didn’t catch during the event or meeting. It also gives me a chance to establish a good relationship with the consumers and the staff of the business, because it’s very likely that I’ll be back again in the future.

After an assignment or a day of assignments, it’s important to make official notes somewhere about anything about the assignment that changed. It’s important for billing purposes, for personal records, and you should also send that into your agency if you’re working for one. Agency staff can’t follow you around and see what’s going on out there, so your feedback is extremely helpful.

Making time to decompress at the end of the day is crucial, too. Most days are either terrific or at least normal. But some days are rough, there’s no way around it. People get in arguments that you have to interpret, somebody can’t understand you or you can’t understand someone else, you get lost and arrive 20 minutes late. These mistakes end up looking very public and effect others more than we ever want them to. Whether you are thinking about becoming an interpreter, just getting started, or have been working for years, it’s important for us to take time to care for our emotional health.

[And that is a very (very) rough and sloppy sketch of what it’s like to be an interpreter. I’ll have to edit this intensely and some point and give a much better account.]

A Day in the Life of an Interpreter: Part 2

We left off in Part 1 with the morning of an assignment. Now let’s get to the job.

Untitled

There are three hurdles to clear when getting to an assignment: parking, security checks, and room location.

First, parking. If there’s one thing I don’t like about interpreting it’s the need to drive everywhere. Unless you work in (maybe) D.C. or NYC, driving is inevitable, and parking is even worse. Most places that hire interpreters – hospitals, federal agencies, state agencies, schools – have wonky parking. So in addition to allowing time to drive, you have to allow time to park. Which often means, you have to figure out which of the 27 categories of designated parking spaces you belong. Don’t underestimate this, because there is a hidden legion of private security personnel with little else to do than turn your $4 parking fee into a $40 fine. Few things can turn a work day sour as quickly as coming out of a one-hour interpreting assignment to find out that after billable hours, you barely broke even.

Next, security. Unlike a mail person or staff employee, there is no guarantee that a guard will know what an interpreter is. They will either assume you’re in the wrong place (which you might be), or ask you to repeat even the most clear and elementary explanation of your job. Make sure you have ID, a contact name and location for the assignment (printed out helps), and a certain degree of obvious confidence. Expect to have to sign your name twice and fill in seemingly irrelevant information. It’s not personal, it’s just how these things work.

Finally, location. There is no guarantee that the room number that you received two weeks ago is still correct. Assume that you will have to ask around, and do ask around. People will typically respond generously to a lost interpreter, much like people have pity on sick animals. I often prefer to check with the front desk or security guard about the location of an assignment. You will either get a blank, sometimes obnoxious stare or you will get an answer that saves you lots of time. Take the risk.

In the best case scenario, everything is right and you arrive with plenty of time. Often, however, there are unknown complications at every stage: there is a long line to sign into the school, the meeting room changed to a different building entirely, your name isn’t on the list of people allowed in, etc. The standard rule is to arrive 15 minutes ahead of time to assignments. This is pretty good. But be prepared for plenty of assignments where even 30 minutes may not be sufficient and it will be out of your control. The more familiar you become with your market area the better you will become at predicting these hangups.

Next time: meeting the consumer.

A Day in the Life of an Interpreter: Part 1

If you ask 10 interpreters how they spend their days, you’ll get 10 different answers. Here’s mine.

As a freelance interpreter, I don’t go to the same place everyday. When the agency with whom I contract gets a request for an interpreter, they send out an email asking for available interpreters. If the interpreter is a good fit (and responds in a timely manner), the interpreter – me, for instance – will get the assignment. Once the assignment is confirmed, I check the details of the assignment through our secure, online database, and I enter those details into my private daily calendar. (You can see that privacy and confidentiality are a big deal.)

I check my weekly calendar each Sunday and my daily calendar the night before. This isn’t just for interpreting, but to keep me sane. That way I know which assignments are coming up and I can coordinate my life – and more practically, my laundry – accordingly. Interpreters need to wear plain but professional clothing at all times. For me, this means slacks and a polo in the summer, slacks and a sweater in the winter. It’s not exciting, but it’s ethical. Also, some assignments, such as professional workshops, require more preparation time. I try to look over all materials at least three days ahead of time just to make sure I know what’s available. I often bring those materials with me to look over if I have some “hurry-up-and-wait” time in the days leading up to the assignment.

On the morning of a given assignment, I make sure I have all the materials for the day: right clothing, personal ID (you have to show ID almost everyday if you’re a busy interpreter), assignment materials and handouts, two pens (I will lose one by the end of the day), a pad of paper for notes, two books for down time (two, just in case you finish the first one), a professional journal (yes, interpreters should have a professional journal), a digital copy of all assignment details, locations, and directions, a full water bottle, and non-perishable food just in case (my favorite is the Cliff bars).

Here’s a pro tip on the meal bars: don’t get the ones that are dipped in chocolate because when you have to eat one you’ll probably have to eat it quickly and discretely. And if you get the chocolate coated ones, you will (or I will) most certainly get chocolate all over your fingers and face. Get the nutty ones that just leave crumbs.

This may seem like a lot, but you have to be ready for anything. Most assignments are pretty banal. Some are outrageously and unexpectedly chaotic or just plain strange. You won’t know the difference until you’re in the moment.