Student Spotlight: Alberto Williams-Medina

By Beth Casteel

Sending a quick text of “I’m here,” Alberto Williams-Medina stood outside of The Cauldron’s office with his headphones in, waiting for the door to open.

Students were milling around the hallway as Williams-Medina waited for the interview to begin. Once the doors opened, he smiled brightly and introduced himself. He’s got a warm persona, something that quickly becomes evident the longer he talks.

This is his first semester at Cleveland State University. Originally, he went to school in Puerto Rico, where he grew up, but he left the country after a category five hurricane named Maria hit late last year.

His decision to come to Cleveland was mainly due to the fact that his parents moved to the city about two years prior.  After the hurricane, Williams-Medina decided to move here to finish off his schooling so  he didn’t fall behind in any of his classes.

“By the time my parents left [Puerto Rico] I was finishing my sophomore year and starting my junior year so I decided to finish school down there,” Williams-Medina said. “Because of the hurricane, everything just went haywire and I thought [to myself, I have to] leave if I want to keep on my track with my career.”

While he was in Puerto Rico, he studied industrial biotechnology, which is a mix of biology, chemistry and chemical engineering. When he came to Cleveland State, he decided to continue on with the track he was on at his old school, but pursue it as a double major in chemistry and biology instead. He chose a double major because, as he says, “you can’t be satisfied with just one major.”

After graduation, Williams-Medina wants to pursue a MDPHD, a dual degree that consists of having a medical doctorate degree with your PHD. In his case, he wants to have a PHD in neuroscience.

His vested interest in pursuing such a technical major was partially due to his mom. For 12 years, she was a high school biology teacher and the love she had of the subject stuck to him like a covalent bond.

“She had these molecular models, and when I was about three or four years old, I would play with them,” Williams-Medina said. “So I was already doing chemical models when I was 4 years old. From there, my interest in science grew.”

While Williams-Medina is a “science junkie,” that doesn’t mean his only interest is science. He has many interests, from salsa dancing to writing — he likes to do a little bit of everything.

One thing that he’s found a lot of enjoyment doing is creating Facebook live videos. He started making them back in Puerto Rico with a friend of his. He likes to talk about things he’s passionate about with some recurring themes like politics and newsworthy events that are happening in Puerto Rico. He’s modest and says he doesn’t get that many views on his live videos, but he does maintain that people seem to enjoy watching them as much as he enjoys posting them.

He also enjoys traveling, often viewing himself as someone who is an international type. Exploring different cultures and seeing a greater diversity among the people around him is something that he loves because he’s noticed from his travels that places like Cleveland have a greater diversity in the people living there  — which is different that what he’s used to seeing from living in Puerto Rico.

The diversity between people isn’t the only thing that he’s noticed from his travels. For Williams-Medina, one of the biggest changes he’s noticed from moving is the cultural differences between people in Cleveland to people in Puerto Rico.

These differences are most prominent when he sees how people are with one another. For Williams-Medina, he’s grown up having a close relationship with neighbors, often going up to them to ask for things like salt or sugar. He’s also been taught to greet women with a hug or kiss on the cheek and not doing so here in the States is something that he’s had to adjust to.

“Puerto Rican culture is very warm, in every sense of the word — like in Puerto Rico, it’s summer all year round.” Williams-Medina said. “In the Midwest, I’ve noticed here people have a greater sense of personal space. Whereas in Puerto Rico, we greet each other with a hug.”

Cultural differences aside, he’s pretty happy with his choice in moving to Cleveland and finishing out his schooling here.

As the interview wrapped up, Williams-Medina sat for a moment to reflect on some of the events that happened in the past few months.

It’s been a whirlwind of changes and big events, but Williams-Medina has not let the hardships of the past few months phase his progression in life.

“Yes, the hurricane happened but we’re overcoming that by going out and seeking opportunities that are out there,” Williams-Medina said. “I would like people to look at the people of Puerto Rico as resilient and a category five hurricane can not turn our fire off.”