Critical Language Scholarship Program | Mycal Ford
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Mycal Ford

Mycal Ford is an alum­nus of the 2015 CLS Chi­nese pro­gram in Xi’an, Chi­na. He is the first of his fam­i­ly to grad­u­ate from col­lege and pur­sue a Master’s; he is study­ing glob­al gov­er­nance, pol­i­tics, and secu­ri­ty at Amer­i­can University’s School of Inter­na­tion­al Ser­vice. He has been a Ful­bright ETA in Tai­wan and is cur­rent­ly a Boren Fel­low in Chi­na and a 100K Strong Foun­da­tion Stu­dent Ambas­sador. He once cycled and camped around the entire island of Tai­wan in 10 days. When he isn’t study­ing or cycling, he enjoys Latin danc­ing, hiphop chore­og­ra­phy, and stay­ing abreast of inter­na­tion­al news in Asia.

Why Chi­nese?

In the fall of 2010, I stud­ied abroad in Cheng­du, Chi­na. Through my per­son­al inter­ac­tions, I learned that many Chi­nese cit­i­zens have a lim­it­ed under­stand­ing of Black Amer­i­cans. My goal since has been to learn Man­darin in order to change that. I wish to pro­mote greater US-Chi­na exchange by encour­ag­ing more Amer­i­cans to study away. More specif­i­cal­ly, I wish to help dri­ve ini­tia­tives that pri­or­i­tize send­ing stu­dents abroad who may not have the option oth­er­wise, such as low-income or minor­i­ty stu­dents who lack the access to finan­cial sup­port and net­works nec­es­sary to make study abroad a real­i­ty. Ulti­mate­ly, I hope to serve my coun­try as a Unit­ed States For­eign Ser­vice Offi­cer in East Asia, because it will trans­form my pas­sion for advo­ca­cy and ser­vice into mate­r­i­al forms of action.

In a word…

Lǎozi once said qiān lǐ zhī xíng shǐ yǔ zú xià.” It means the jour­ney of a thou­sand miles beings with one step. Learn­ing Man­darin has been, for me, much like a jour­ney of a thou­sand miles. It has been exhaust­ing, frus­trat­ing even, but not the least of which, reward­ing. And it all began five years ago, with one small step, one deci­sion to study abroad in China.

On broad­en­ing perspectives

My CLS expe­ri­ence solid­i­fied my com­mit­ment to share with Amer­i­can stu­dents how not just race, but also gen­der, sex­u­al­i­ty, edu­ca­tion, Chi­nese lev­el, abil­i­ty, and class shape the way in which we engage Chi­na, the way Chi­na engages us, and final­ly the way we engage one anoth­er while in China.

On cul­tur­al exchange

Dur­ing one of the CLS cul­tur­al activ­i­ties, I learned how to do a tra­di­tion­al Chi­nese fan dance — that is, of course, after I taught my Chi­nese teacher the watch me whip, watch me nae nae” dance.

If you had one day in China…

You must absolute­ly vis­it the unre­stored Great Wall in Bei­jing. The seem­ing­ly end­less man-made struc­ture gives cause to reflect on how small we tru­ly are. It almost sit­u­ates us in both time and space.

On friend­ship (and facials)

Fol­low­ing a week­end-long trip from the famous Shaolin Monk’s tem­ple, I final­ly returned to my dorm. All I want­ed to do was col­lapse. My Chi­nese room­mate had some­thing else in mind, though: he pulled out a box and sug­gest­ed that we pam­per our­selves with facial treat­ments. And that’s what we did! My favorite part about being in my host coun­try was inter­act­ing with my Chi­nese room­mate. Our con­ver­sa­tions ranged from Amer­i­can and Chi­nese cul­ture, food, and hob­bies to fam­i­ly, rela­tion­ships, great­est fears, and wildest dreams. It was a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to build a deep, authen­tic friendship.

Words of wisdom

Liv­ing in Chi­na was one of the hard­est things I have ever done. Even so, it has been incred­i­bly reward­ing, part­ly because of my per­son­al phi­los­o­phy of say­ing yes.” Yes to the cul­ture, his­to­ry, food, peo­ple, and most of all, the lan­guage. My advice: say yes!


Alumni Profiles

Mycal Ford
Mycal Ford
Chinese 2015
Xi'an, China

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Posted Date

May 03, 2016