“As long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of being able to combine my love of languages and literature with my desire to experience the world,” Leticia Medina states. Medina began her journey as an English Language Fellow in Moscow, Russia, and has continued her project virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her project focuses primarily on research-based academic writing at the university level.
As a Fellow, Medina has designed and taught courses on advanced academic writing and public speaking for international presentations. Many of Medina’s students, who range from pre-service teachers to professors, are motivated to improve their academic writing skills so their work can be published in peer-reviewed journals. Additionally, the public speaking courses, which Medina designed in response to student interest, have helped student scholars and faculty members practice English presentation skills in preparation for regional and international conferences.
When learning moved to the virtual platform, Medina modified the curriculum to align with her student’s immediate needs. For example, she assigned a “How I Am Surviving the Pandemic” project in which students gave presentations sharing the literature, art, film, and other media content that is helping them deal with and heal from these trying times. Medina states, “As I always tell my students, I have as much to learn from them as they do from me.”
An Interdisciplinary Approach to Academic Writing
“Although English-language academic writing is expected to adhere to certain conventions and is frequently standardized, there are many ways to tap into the interdisciplinary nature of writing,” Medina explains. Her students have responded positively and enthusiastically when she has incorporated concepts such as the hero’s journey, the poetic sensibility of writing across disciplines, and the semiotics of pop culture. Beyond exploring these and other concepts in the classroom, Medina has also led workshops and delivered talks on these topics, which have been met with welcoming attitudes and open minds.
One of Medina’s greatest contributions during her fellowship has been highlighting the importance of fostering human connection as a key element of promoting mutual understanding between countries. “If we can recognize and care for our shared human experience, we can resist essentializing and stereotyping individual people and entire groups and instead value the diversity of our existence,” she states. Medina has incorporated this philosophy into the heart of her teaching and has excelled at encouraging students to develop deep critical thinking skills and to consider a variety of worldviews.
Finding Poetic Sensibility in Scientific Research
One of Medina’s favorite memories from her fellowship is when she delivered a workshop on the concept of poetic sensibility in scientific research. Medina’s innovative workshop received overwhelmingly positive feedback from teacher candidate attendees. In the workshop, Medina asked participants to think about what characteristics are shared among poets and scientists. Through hands-on activities and probing questions, it became clear to participants that poets and scientists actually do possess very similar characteristics such as keen observation skills and the ability to identify patterns. Medina has truly opened minds to the world through her interdisciplinary and holistic approach to teaching, which has inspired her students to grow as more creative and critical thinkers. As a result, Medina’s students have gained confidence as writers and presenters, and have also become more inquisitive and empathetic inside and beyond the classroom.
Cross-Cultural Exchange as Professional Development
Being an English Language Fellow has allowed Medina to expand her teaching beliefs and practices, make strong professional connections, learn a new language, and keep an open mind to big and small adventures. She states, “Cultural exchange has led me to continue deepening my teaching philosophy…the global perspectives of colleagues, students, and fellow researchers allow me to expand on my own work to reflect a broader, multicultural understanding.”
Medina looks forward to remaining an active member of the English Language Programs community and intends to pursue other cultural exchange opportunities as an English Language Specialist or Fulbright grantee in the near future.
Leticia Medina is originally from Laredo, Texas, but moved to San Antonio with her immigrant family when she was 6 years old. Leticia fell in love with books and all things language-related, which led her to study language and literature in undergraduate and master’s programs. A course in linguistics sparked her interest and prompted her to enroll in the Culture, Literacy, and Language PhD program at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) where she is currently a doctoral candidate working to complete her dissertation. She has taught academic writing in ESL and EFL contexts for more than 8 years and has led conference workshops and delivered plenary talks at a number of regional and international events. Leticia’s interests include critical linguistics research, L2 composition, teacher training, dynamic assessment, and plurilingual literacies. After serving as a Fellow in Moscow, Russia, 2019-2020, she is currently teaching from home as a Virtual English Language Fellow for the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and the Mining Institute of Steel and Alloys (MISiS) in Moscow.