The only Arabic interpreter for some 200 Syrian students in the Greater Saint John area last year chose not to return to the job in September because she found it overwhelming. 

"It was an amazing experience but at the same time, a huge responsibility," said 27-year-old Sarah Shuhait, who is originally from the United Arab Emirates. 

Shuhait said she travelled among as many as a dozen schools in the Anglophone South School District but was mainly needed at Hazen White-St. Francis School and St. Malachy's Memorial High School.

As a translator, her duties included translating school documents, mediating conflicts between students and assisting teachers in and out of the classroom. 

No formal training

But she admits when it comes to interpreting, she had no formal training. 

"It's not my field, you know. I didn't get a degree in translation or English even."

Sarah Shuhait

Sarah Shuhait says the school district and her co-workers were very good to her. (Submitted)

Shuhait said she was hired by the Anglophone South School District in September 2016, after working at minimum wage as an interpreter for the YMCA. 

It was a good opportunity that paid well and Shuhait said the school district and her co-workers were very good to her.

But she said it was also exhausting and not her chosen career. 

With a degree in management from the Ajman University of Science and Technology in the UAE, she hopes to find work in that field.  

"If I stay in this job, I may lose myself in the end, you know?"

Shuhait said the job became more demanding in the winter, when the driving was difficult.

She said she was also asked to work for several months doing interpretation for Syrian students taking carpentry at NBCC. 

Personal connection

Shuhait said she developed a personal connection with students and their families that sometimes made the job even more difficult. 

"The students felt so comfortable talking to me about anything in life. And that's good," she said. "But ... it's hard for me to say no to them."

The Anglophone South School District said it has already hired a replacement interpreter and that there's only one on staff.

Superintendent Zoë Watson confirmed by email that the new hire will serve all schools where there are Syrian newcomers.

There are 21 schools in all but only five of them have the majority of Syrian newcomers.