Dear future MALT students,
Although everyone who is, or will be, teaching you in the programme, will probably provide you with all the information you need in order to pass your viva, I think that a student’s point of view is essential as well. Especially when, in my case, the viva was the most intimidating moment I had as a MALTeser. So here is a survival guide to get you through the viva:
First of all, the first question is usually about your dissertation topic and after that, the discussion revolves around it. You would probably already have submitted an abstract or an outline regarding your dissertation topic, so probably you have already figured out what you will be working on. However, things change. And topics change. And probably what seemed interesting 3 weeks ago might seem extremely boring now, or a better idea might have occurred to you but you hadn’t had time to develop it yet, anyway, you are not so sure of what you want to do now. When entering the room for your viva, you must, however, if not be sure of what this little thing called your dissertation is, at least appear to be sure. And I do not mean lie to the examiners, I mean make sure that the moment you get in there you have a specific topic in your mind, and even if you hate it or want to change it, find a way to stand up for it. Otherwise you will not be able to convince them that you actually know what you are doing. Personally, I can’t really remember how many times I heard the phrase “I am not convinced” coming out of the mouth of the external examiner.
But I did not cry. As other people did in previous years. And this brings us to the second point.
Rumor has it that people cried during the viva. The truth is that yes, they cried, but not because of the viva. They cried because they were stressed, because of the tension that every form of examination- even if it is an informal procedure- includes. Some people relax that way; they burst into tears and feel much better afterwards. It does not have to do with the viva or the examiners. In fact, the examiners were very helpful. An extremely helpful fact was that my supervisor was in the room as well, supporting my idea, even when it wasn’t clear in my mind, to be honest. And I felt that she believed in me, and that gave me confidence. And I think that’s what helped me surviv(a)ing in general.
Moving on: be prepared to talk about all the beautiful things you learned- trust me, you will learn some wonderful things, and the most important amongst them is how to combine things you’ve learnt. The discussion will eventually come to what you think of the program, what have you obtained as a translator and what your future plans are. This is- or at least feels- quite casual as a matter of fact, and it usually signifies that your torture is over. It is possible that when you get up to leave the room, you will feel that you haven’t said everything you wanted to. Personal advice: Get out. If they wanted to learn more, they would ask for more. Smile, thank them and go meet the others.
Point number 4: Go meet the others. I have been lucky enough to make friends apart from having fellow MALTesers while in Norwich. Talking to and with them, not only about what happened in the viva, after which I thought that the end of the world had come, but about everything, had proved to be one of the best experiences I had this year. Discussions and arguments about theories and essays and outlines and choices and the future and their plans and your plans, viva simulations and meetings to discuss our outlines, informal workshops where you get to see and show everyone’s work, all these are also part of the programme and the knowledge you obtain, in my opinion.
So yes, the viva is something quite simple, yet quite scary, as all unknown things ahead of us are. The key is to remain calm, feel confident and seem confident, be prepared, remember that it is not an exam; it is a way of showing what you’ve done so far and what you will be doing in the future. Talk about yourself in general. You can do that, can’t you?
And once this is all over, and you get the e-mail that informs you that you have all passed, go out with your friends and drink. And keep talking about theories and rhythm and rhyme. Trust me, you will. It’s inevitable after you have become a MALT student…
Thei Sorotou is a translator working with Greek, English and French. She graduated from the Department of foreign languages, translation and interpreting, Ionian University, Corfu, Greece, and is currently a MALT student in the University of East Anglia. She is really interested in the field of drama translation.