Whether she is interpreting for medical patients, translating for political protests, or speaking out as a member of MIIS Student Council, Cecilia Tang MATI ’17 thrives on giving voice to the voiceless. Tang, a first-year student in the Institute’s Translation and Interpretation program, is originally from Hong Kong, but since completing high school she’s spent her time studying, working, and traveling in other countries. “I’ve always wanted to broaden my horizons and learn more about the world,” says Tang.
Tang completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan, where she majored in comparative cultures and politics. During her final year, she volunteered at 7C Lingo, a language service provider. This was Tang’s first time interpreting, and she was thrown in as a medical interpreter at an Ob/Gyn office, where she worked mainly with pregnant Chinese women. Upon graduating, Tang landed an internship at the organization, spending another year as a medical interpreter and leading language and cultural workshops for businesses.
Back in Hong Kong, Tang joined the largely student led pro-democratic Umbrella Revolution movement. Originally called Occupy Central with Love and Peace, the movement later became known for the umbrellas protestors used to protect themselves from the teargas of police. While participating in the occupation on the streets of her hometown, Cecilia met a reporter who was looking for translators for their Facebook group, called Translators for Dialogue in HK.
“I was translating news from day to night every day for three months,” Tang said. They had a team of 20 reporters and translators. A reporter on the street would send up news in Chinese, then Tang and the other translators would post the information in English on the page. Even though the protests have died down, Tang says the movement goes on and the role of translators is as important as ever to “continue to raise global awareness of the freedoms the people of Hong Kong are fighting for.”
When asked about her program at the Institute Tang says, “It’s very demanding, but I want myself to be expected to perform at that high level. I realize I still have a long way to go.” She says her classmates are amazing, “Everyone has a lot to offer in class and in their daily life. Every time I talk to them, I’m inspired by their stories and experiences.”
On campus, Tang is always seen with a smile on her face. It takes her forever to walk to class because she knows everyone and has to stop and say hi, so it’s no surprise that she was elected to be a student council representative. “I want to be the voice of people’s opinions,” she says, “to help them speak out.”