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Susan Young, Freelance Outdoor Pursuits Instructor

My name is Susan Young, and this is my office! I am incredibly fortunate that I have managed to make my passion in life into my job. I am based in Stirling, and travel all over Scotland to take people into the mountains to have all sorts of adventures.

Do you use languages as part of your job?

Yes, I spend most of the summer months working with foreign groups. At the moment, it's mostly French groups that come over for a week long walking holiday in Scotland. I get given a pile of maps, minibus keys, and a list of hotel bookings and get sent out for the week with them! I am driver, walking guide, translator and anything else that is required for the week. I'm meeting soon with a company who are hoping to start doing the same thing with Russian groups too.

So other than English, you speak French and Russian then? How did you learn these?

Yes, my languages are French and Russian. I did French at School, and found it easy. My dad encouraged me strongly to keep pursuing languages; he speaks fluent German and some French also. I went to the University of Sheffield when I finished school to study French and Russian (which I studied as a beginner). During my 3rd year of my degree, I studied for a semester in Voronezh in Russia, which is about 500km south of Moscow. Then I went for a semester to La Réunion, which is a French island in the Indian ocean. It was a hard life studying there!! 

Russian is an unusual language, did you find it hard?

It is very hard grammatically, but it's such a beautiful language that I had so many incentives to learn it. I never get bored of studying and using it as a language. There are, as with most languages, some comedy mistakes that you can make. For example, it's very easy to say 'I pissed a letter' when meaning to say 'I wrote a letter'! So you do have to keep concentrating.

So did you then go straight to outdoor instructing?

No, at that stage I was a keen mountaineer, but never thought of instructing! I volunteered with a charity in Eastern Siberia when I finished university, working with street kids and orphans. It was hard work at times, and often pretty heart wrenching. I was there for 10 months, and I returned to get a new visa, planning to go back out. But the visa never materialised, and eventually I had to accept I wasn't getting back there at that time. So, I ended up working in an outdoor centre in Scotland and getting qualifications for the outdoor industry. 


And was that you then settled in Scotland?

Not quite! I was at the centre for a year, and then went freelance. I have been predominantly working in Scotland since then, but I have spent a few winters working in ski resorts in the Alps. I have had 3 really good winters there, and my husband was able to come for the last one too, which was great. Each time I have been out for about 5 months, and skiing pretty much every day. It's not essential to have languages while working in ski resorts, but you get better jobs if you do.

And what's next?

Well in the outdoor industry, your body takes a hammering. The chance of me reaching old age with my knees intact is slim. So with this in mind, I am currently doing an MSc in Translation at the University of Glasgow. My plan is to try and get freelance translating work to fit around my outdoor work for now, and then if I do need to reduce my outdoor work as my body starts to give up, then I can increase my translating and reduce my instructing. That's the plan anyway; we'll see what happens with it!

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