Make The Connection

April 1, 2021 | By Cole Hatcher

Palabras Poderosas

Ohio Wesleyan Student Interns as Translator with the Immigrant Worker Project

Samantha Merino ’21 is interning with the Immigrant Worker Project, translating documents in immigration-related court cases. (Photo by Elise Crawford ’21)

Name: Samantha Merino ’21
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Major: Spanish
Minor: Philosophy
OWU Connection Experience: Internship with the Immigrant Worker Project

Samantha Merino ’21 is spending the semester working remotely as the Spanish interpretation and translation intern for the Canton, Ohio-based Immigrant Worker Project (IWP).

Her work entails reviewing, correcting, and reverifying translations for asylum cases as requested by the immigration court. Merino also creates new, truthful, and accurate translations regarding statements, police reports, and witness accounts for ongoing immigration cases with the IWP.

In addition, she interprets social service interviews, workers’ compensation case interviews, and immigration intake interviews, and she reviews statements for upcoming immigration hearings with respondents.

My Favorite Internship Moments

“Some of my favorite experiences include the in-the-moment interpretations. Since my work consists of a lot of sensitive information, I am not allowed to disclose qualitative components, but one instance that I distinctly remember was my first interpretation session.

“I was working alongside a legal intern, and I was put in a position where my every word carried so much weight – given that we were working on an asylum case.

“At that moment, I thought about my time in my Philosophy classes because it reminded me of the particular attention philosophers need to place on analyzing texts. I was also taken back to the times in my Spanish classes where we learned that different Spanish language variations convey different meanings.”

The Power of Language

“In our day-to-day lives, we nonchalantly use language, we take it for granted, and we forget how lucky we are to use it. What I love about interpretation is that it constantly reminds me that language is a lot more complex than we make it seem.

“This is why helping one person communicate with another is a fantastic and gratifying experience; it helps put things into perspective. The satisfaction of experiencing moments like these is seeing the direct change I am making in a person’s life. …

“I do not take interpretation lightly. To many, the information they relay is a matter of life or death. This responsibility invigorates me. At the heart of interpretation is storytelling. And my role as an interpreter is to allow these stories to be shared and heard.”

Lessons Learned

“From the short amount of time I have spent interning with IWP, I have come to learn so much more than I could have ever imagined. In front of my eyes, I have seen my favorite academic disciplines – Spanish, Philosophy, and Economics – merge in ways that construct people’s real lives.

“As part of the Spanish major, students are required to study abroad. Clearly, that was not feasible (during the pandemic). Instead of doing an independent study, I chose something a bit more hands-on, the internship. …

“I want to become an interpreter and translator. With this internship, I am directly getting exposed to the type of work I can expect from my future profession. I am applying my language skills in manners that will allow me to preserve my bilingual skills. Furthermore, I am seeing my knowledge being applied to real-life situations; for the moment, it doesn’t get better than that.”

My OWU Faculty Mentors

“My experience has involved mainly working with the wonderful and talented Dr. Eva Paris-Huesca (associate professor of Spanish). However, I owe a lot of thanks to my advisor, Dr. Bob Gitter (Economics professor), for introducing me to IWP in the summer of 2018 when I worked with him and two other OWU alums.”

My Plans After Graduation

“I plan to move to New York to participate in the OWU NYAP (New York Arts Program) in the fall of 2021, get married to my college sweetheart, and go to grad school for interpretation and translation.”