Student Spotlight: Melaina Bell
When Melaina Bell started court reporting school at Green River Community College in Auburn, Wash., she couldn’t have foreseen the circuitous route her education would take. After just two quarters of classes, Bell moved to Ireland with her new husband. Yet neither the eight-hour time difference nor her initial temporary housing issues are keeping her from her goal of finishing her court reporting degree.
Bell recently shared with Up-to-Speed about her journey to the Emerald Isle and her journey through court reporting school.
UTS | You live in Ireland, but you attend a court reporting program based in the United States. How did that happen?
MB | Last year I graduated college in Idaho with a degree in justice studies and got married. My husband and I had always discussed wanting to travel and discovered that graduating made us eligible for yearlong visas in Ireland, so we took the plunge. I had already put in two quarters in the court reporting program at Green River College and invested in all the equipment, so it didn’t make sense to drop out and have to start fresh in a year.
UTS | What is it like taking an online program from another country? What unique challenges do you face?
MB | When we first moved here, we didn’t have a place to live, so all my clothes, books, and equipment were in two suitcases we had to take everywhere with us. It was so heavy! I’m also eight hours ahead, which was rough in the summer. We were doing live drills at 6 p.m. Pacific Time, so I was lugging all my equipment into the tiny internet room in the hostel or in an Airbnb at 2 a.m. to drill and test. Recently I missed a drill when we had daylight savings a week earlier than in the United States.
UTS | How did you first get interested in court reporting?
MB | I had done an internship which put me in the courthouse two times a week. It sounds weird, but I really enjoyed it and looked forward to it. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do at the time. I thought sitting in court listening isn’t really a job until I took a tour of the federal courthouse, where they talked to us about the shortage of reporters. This immediately seemed to be the perfect position, placing me in court, but as a neutral party rather than as a person with an interest. I was graduating that semester, so I started shopping for court reporting programs.
UTS | Did you start the program straight out of high school, or did you have another career first?
MB | When I first started college, I thought I was going to be a social worker. I realized after my associate degree that I wasn’t really going to be happy in that kind of position, so I switched to justice studies and got my bachelor’s degree. I loved the program, but I didn’t really want the kind of involvement that a lawyer or a police officer have. I also didn’t really want that kind of close, personal contact with clients. Sometimes I feel kind of silly having been through a whole degree program only to find myself back at the beginning, but I think that my experience made it easier for me to whittle down the kind of career that I would actually like. There’s no way I would have gotten through this after high school.
UTS | What is court reporting/captioning like in Ireland? How is it different than in the United States?
MB | Ireland is very small, and I haven’t been able to meet any reporters here. I found a firm in Dublin and reached out to a captioner at one point, but there aren’t any firms close to me. My understanding is that they’ve moved more towards digital recording, but I can’t speak to how accurate that is.
UTS | What do you plan to do when you graduate? Are planning to stay in Ireland?
MB | My visa in Ireland will end next summer. I plan to move to the Seattle area when I return so that I can do the upper speeds with a little more support. I feel like I’m at a bit of a disadvantage here by not being close to other reporters and being able to utilize their wealth of knowledge. I’m involved in some Facebook groups, but I prefer being able to actually talk with people in person, and I think I’ll probably need a little extra motivation at those upper speeds.
UTS | What is your dream job?
MB | I think I would like to be an official reporter. I tend to prefer feeling like I have sort of a “home” base with people I know, and I love being in court. But I also know from experience that it’s harder to make firm plans before you’ve really done the job, so I’m open to wherever it takes me.
UTS | What is the best advice you have been given so far?
MB | Practice every day no matter what, but always take some time and walk away if you’re feeling frustrated. Sometimes it can be really hard to get myself on the machine, but if I can talk myself into 10 minutes, I can stay on for an hour fairly easily.
Melaina Bell is a student at Green River College in Auburn, Wash. She currently lives in Ireland.