Interpreter 4-1-1: What to Pack in Your Interpreter Bag
Freelance interpreters may find themselves going from a college class in Physics to a hospital emergency room to a theatrical performance all in one day and even when we think we are prepared, "things happen."
The instructor decides to show a non-captioned film and turns out all the lights. The ever-prepared interpreter pulls out their handy dandy flashlight.
The warden at the prison goes above and beyond to ensure your safety behind his walls and you want to leave him a quick thank you note. Pull out your stationary and envelope and write away.
You're at an all day hospital assignment with a deaf patient waiting for the doctor to come in to discuss test results. The nursing staff has no idea when that will be, "sometime soon," they keep saying. The patient is sleeping, so you pull out your phone to check messages. Unfortunately your battery is deader than a door nail. You look around the room and it seems like every outlet in the room is already being used. Tech savvy interpreter that you are, you pull out your wall adapter and viola! You are now able to share an outlet and touch base with your agency.
You stop for lunch after what you think is your last assignment for the day and have the most delicious veggie sandwich (heavy on the onions) when you get a call from an interpreter referral agency asking you if you have time this afternoon for one more job. "Sure" you say, as you pull out your toothbrush, toothpaste and extra strength mouthwash.
You have an umbrella in your interpreter bag so you are prepared for the rain but the walk to the actual assignment is much further than you anticipated. By the time you arrive, your shoes are soaked and squeaking, but lucky you - you happen to have a dry pair of socks in your bag. What a difference dry socks can make. (Also see our related article on Interpreter Q & A: Is It Better to Be Late or Wet?)
Don’t let surprises ruin your day, pack these items in your interpreter bag so you can be prepared for whatever life brings your way:
Plan for the unexpected.
- sewing kit - needle, thread, needle threader, small scissors, tape measure, safety pins, straight pins
- fresh breath kit - toothbrush, floss, toothpaste
- pain / headache reliever
- cough drops
- first aid kit - bandaids and bandages
- office supply kit - rubber bands, stapler, staples, paper clips, tape, sticky notes
- blank note card
- wall outlet adapter
- small bag - to hold jewelry and organize other items (also see our article on Interpreter Q & A: Are Piercings Ok for Interpreters?)
- extra socks and a change of clothes
- lint roller
- stain remover
- nail kit - nail file, nail clippers
Don’t forget to bring the essentials:
- phone (in addition to being your way to communicate via call/text/email/video, your phone is your calendar, contacts, and entertainment)
- phone charger
- business card
- money / credit card
TIP: Items that come in "kits," such as an office supply kit, sewing kit, fresh breath kit, nail kit, and/or first aid kit, are great because they are self-contained - making it easier to stay organized and find things in your bag.
See our Buying Guide: What to Pack in Your Interpreter Bag for tips on where to buy items for your interpreter bag.
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