I was born and raised in Belgium (quite a few years ago) in the small village of Zwijnaarde near the city of Ghent. I had a happy and pretty uneventful childhood, but from a young age, I felt the desire to explore the world. Most of my friends settled with their families in the local community, but I was looking for an adventure beyond the boundaries of my small country.
My first stop was Pretoria, South Africa, where I started my career in the medical library of the University of Pretoria. My first job was pretty unexciting so I followed my supervisors’ advice and completed a degree in library science. Once qualified, I moved around the country, and lived and worked in Umtata, Transkei, and finally Ballito, Umhlanga and Durban. Two of my three sons – Christo and Robert – were born in Pretoria.
In 1998, we left South Africa and returned to Europe. Work took us to Newcastle in England and then Belfast, Northern Ireland, where my third son, Elzi, was born. But there was little time to get settled and after less than two years, it was time to pack our bags again. Work took us to South Korea where we stayed for another two years before we decided to move to beautiful New Zealand. We arrived in Hawke’s Bay in 2001. It is in my first job at the Eastern Institute of Technology that I developed an interest in proofreading. My supervisor noticed that I spotted errors in reports that even natives overlooked, and it didn’t take long before I was tasked with proofreading reports and other documents for the library manager. I soon realised how much I actually enjoyed it and when I moved to Auckland and struggled to find a library job, I decided to make a career change.
I enrolled in the NZIBS proofreading course and remember how excited I was when my first assignment arrived. I completed the course in six months. The qualification has truly opened doors I never thought even existed. Although I don’t recommend jumping in the deep end the way I did, the rewards have been nothing short of amazing. Without any experience of how to run and market a business, I resigned from the job I held at that time and started ProofPal.
In hindsight, it was a risky move but one that I don’t regret. I have made many mistakes and wasted a lot of money, but I truly believe that it is outside your comfort zone that the magic happens. I challenged myself and completed an ESOL qualification. By becoming an ESOL teacher I didn’t only overcome my fear of public speaking, but I also became a better editor and tutor.
I also became a tutor at NZIBS and the experience has been incredibly rewarding. Although I never met any of my students, I cared deeply about them and even from a distance, I felt a special bond with them. Although I was the one guiding the students through the course, being a tutor has also been a humble learning experience. As I close this important chapter in my life, I can say with confidence that I am now a better editor and teacher than I was before I became a tutor, and I thank my students for that.
My words of advice for the students
Firstly, work hard and never give up. “The temptation to quit will be the greatest just before you are about to succeed.” (Chinese proverb)
Secondly, never stop learning. After the proofreading course, I completed a postgraduate qualification in editing. I followed it up with an ESOL qualification because I wanted to overcome a debilitating fear of speaking in front of a group. Now I love the combination of teaching and editing from home. A new job is waiting for me in Belgium. This wouldn’t have happened without planting that seed with completing my proofreading course at NZIBS.
So, thirdly, step out of your comfort zone. Believe in yourself and chase that dream. “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.” (Richard Branson)
And so, once again, I step outside my comfort zone and leave the country I love so dearly to go back to the beginning – Belgium. I am returning with thirty-five years of life stories, experience and hopefully a small dose of wisdom. I will join Ghent University as proofreader and translator, and I will teach academic English at their international campus. This opportunity would not have come my way had I not planted that seed with NZIBS many years ago. I hope my story will encourage you all to follow your dreams and work hard to achieve your goals. If I can do it, so can you.
Thank you all for a wonderful time at NZIBS. I will be in touch once I’m settled.
During her career, numerous supervisors relied on Katrien’s proofreading and copy editing interest and skills, but it took her nearly 30 years to make a career change and set up her own business, ProofPal.
According to Katrien …
I have gained an almost obsessive love of detail for the English language. As the old saying goes – ‘English is tricky but you can master it through tough thorough thought though’.