Reflections on BAAL/Routledge Workshop
Please note that the first two paragraphs of this post were written by me, and the last two paragraphs were written by Nahielly.
I and Nahielly had the opportunity to give a presentation at BAAL/Routledge Workshop ‘Expectations of and on international students in UK HE’ on 16th September at Manchester Metropolitan University. This workshop brought together researchers, professionals of English for Academic Purposes, and international students. Our presentation entitled ‘Internationalisation in UK higher education: Experiences of international PhD students’ focused on our experiences of academic writing and intercultural communication during our PhD journey. In line with the previous research on this area (see Jenkins, 2013; Holliday, 2016), we brainstormed ideas together (and with Susan earlier) and exchanged our experiences with each other, which led to deeper reflections on our encounters during our meetings.
I (Duygu) shared with the participants in what ways I changed my views of how I should write more effectively as an academic writer. In my first reports, for instance, I tended to present my arguments indirectly. Self-evaluation on my academic writing and how I approach writing and my supervisors’ feedback have influenced my identity as an academic writer, and these have enabled me to become more confident as an academic writer over the years. I also reflected on my experiences as a graduate teaching assistant of Study Skills course which is delivered to MA students in order to equip them with more effective academic study skills in general. Although this course is helpful for students to learn the conventions of academic writing in English, it may not necessarily lead to the development of writing in their own discipline. Based on the findings of recent (and my own) research on novice academic writing, I also made the point that academic writing support at universities should be given to all students regardless of their first language, as the labels ‘home’ or ‘L1-English speaking’ students and ‘international’ or ‘L2-English speaking’ students may divide ‘us’.
After Duygu’s presentation, I (Nahielly) continued sharing some of my own PhD experiences. I talked about how my previous experiences as an international student (i.e. MA TESOL 2014-2015 at the UoM) contributed to perform my role as a Teacher Assistant (TA) the course unit ‘study skills’. For instance, I mentioned that during the first week of my MA TESOL studies I realised that I was part of a multicultural and multilingual community. This new understanding helped me to appreciate that we all have our own academic personal trajectories which in turn contribute to the way we learn and socialise in the classroom. Being aware that I am currently a TA of multilingual and multicultural classes, I recognise that it is important to get to know my students not only to design appropriate classroom methodologies but also to explore their own personal academic trajectories. Getting to know my students, giving them a space and time within my classes so that they can also get to know each other and acknowledging that they all have their own academic experiences, aided us to contribute in the construction of our own classroom culture.
We both ended up our presentation talking about how we combat prejudice. In other words, how we deal with being othered. For instance, I (Nahielly) mentioned that I like to offer ‘counter narratives’ based on my own life experience when someone asks something about Mexico. In more than one occasion I received the comment ‘you do not look like a Mexican… are you sure you are Mexican?’ I used to get upset since I didn’t like people doubting my national identity. However, over time I learnt that people might not know that Mexico was a conquered country and that a lot of human races have been mixed over the years. So we have mixed Mexican Ethnic groups as well as Afro-Mexican people, Asian-Mexican, Euro-Mexican etc. When I explain this, I feel like I am not only sharing a little bit about Mexico but providing a ‘counter narrative’ about how Mexicans should look like.
Holliday, A. (2016). PhD students, interculturality, reflexivity, community and internationalisation. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 1-13.
Jenkins, J. (2013). English as a lingua franca in the international university: The politics of academic English language policy. London: Routledge.