Critical Language Scholarship Program | Ramil Mercado
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Ramil Mercado

Ramil Mer­ca­do is an alum­nus of the 2020 CLS Indone­sian vir­tu­al insti­tute host­ed by Uni­ver­si­tas Negeri Malang in Malang, Indone­sia. He’s a recent grad­u­ate of Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, where he majored in polit­i­cal sci­ence and Asian stud­ies and minored in South­east Asian studies.

Get­ting to Know Ramil

I come from a mul­ti­cul­tur­al and mul­ti­lin­gual fam­i­ly. My father is Lati­no with roots from Puer­to Rico and Mex­i­co, and my moth­er is from the Philip­pines. Because of this, I grew up in a house­hold where Eng­lish, Taga­log, and Span­ish were heard under the same roof. Addi­tion­al­ly, I am a mil­i­tary brat,” as my father served in the Marine Corps for 30 years. Although I call Ocean­side, Cal­i­for­nia my home as I spent the vast major­i­ty of my life there, I was for­tu­nate to also live in Flori­da and Illi­nois for var­i­ous peri­ods and as such, was able to inter­act with so many dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties from around the US and the world. 

My upbring­ing undoubt­ed­ly defined who I am, as it made me curi­ous about the world and the peo­ple around me. My hob­bies reflect that curios­i­ty, the most notable being lan­guage learn­ing. I am pro­fi­cient in four (Eng­lish, Taga­log, Span­ish, and Indone­sian), and I have stud­ied sev­en oth­ers to var­i­ous degrees (Man­darin, French, Ital­ian, Cata­lan, Japan­ese, Ara­bic, and Turk­ish). I have also been for­tu­nate to be a guest in over 50 coun­tries in my life­time, often solo, in order to learn as much as I can from inter­act­ing with and befriend­ing peo­ple from the place that I am visiting.

Why Indone­sian?

I was curi­ous to learn Indone­sian to com­pare it with Taga­log, which is in the same lan­guage fam­i­ly. I start­ed learn­ing the lan­guage the semes­ter before I stud­ied abroad in Sin­ga­pore, as I planned to vis­it Indone­sia while there. Fur­ther­more, know­ing that the lan­guage was sim­i­lar to Malay, I planned to use my lan­guage skills in Malaysia and Brunei. 

Study­ing in South­east Asia, my pas­sion for the lan­guage and region grew tremen­dous­ly. I learned so much about the his­to­ry, the pol­i­tics and the peo­ple who live in the coun­tries list­ed above, in addi­tion to those of Tim­or-Leste. I made con­nec­tions with peo­ple and was able to read his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments and accounts that I would not have been able to do with­out the lan­guage. My semes­ter abroad inspired me to ded­i­cate my focus and research on the Malay Arch­i­pel­ago and fur­ther the con­nec­tions I estab­lished there. 

Indone­sian, in many ways, reflects the his­to­ry of the land that it comes from. It has ele­ments of Ara­bic, Dutch, Por­tuguese, and many oth­ers com­bin­ing in a sin­gle Aus­trone­sian lan­guage that is used across one of the most diverse coun­tries in South­east Asia and the world. Because of this, my favorite word is dunia,” which means world.” This word reflects the many worlds that the Indone­sian lan­guage holds, as it comes from Ara­bic, a lan­guage orig­i­nat­ing far from the Malay Arch­i­pel­ago that has pro­found­ly influ­enced Indone­sian. Learn­ing Indone­sian is an expe­ri­ence of a life­time, and so I whole­heart­ed­ly rec­om­mend this lan­guage to any­one who wants to access the past, present, and future of the Malay Arch­i­pel­ago along­side more than 200 mil­lion speak­ers in the region today.

Future Pur­suits

I intend to go to grad­u­ate school to obtain an MA in Inter­na­tion­al Affairs in order to fur­ther my stud­ies in Insu­lar South­east Asia, specif­i­cal­ly in Indone­sia, Malaysia, The Philip­pines, and Tim­or-Leste. While in grad­u­ate school, I will use Indone­sian to com­mu­ni­cate with peers across the Malay Arch­i­pel­ago. I want research in and about this region of the world, and know­ing Indone­sian will allow me to access doc­u­ments, insti­tu­tions, and most impor­tant­ly, peo­ple who speak the lan­guage. Pro­fes­sion­al­ly, I intend to work in diplo­ma­cy and become a For­eign Ser­vice Offi­cer for the US Depart­ment of State, using my lan­guage skills to serve in South­east Asia.

Gain­ing Confidence

I vol­un­teered to be the Mas­ter of Cer­e­monies for the clos­ing cer­e­mo­ny of CLS Indone­sian, where I spoke com­plete­ly in Indone­sian for the entire event. This was sig­nif­i­cant to me because it reflect­ed how much I grew in sev­en weeks, not only lin­guis­ti­cal­ly, but also per­son­al­ly. In the begin­ning of the pro­gram, I strug­gled to make a sen­tence, and was not con­fi­dent with speak­ing. I even won­dered whether I was in the right class. 

Through count­less hours of patience, encour­age­ment, and ded­i­ca­tion from my teach­ers, lan­guage part­ners, and class­mates, I was able to find the strength to do some­thing far out­side of my com­fort zone. I had nev­er been an MC in Eng­lish, let alone anoth­er lan­guage! This new­found con­fi­dence is some­thing that I will car­ry with me through­out all of my endeav­ors in the future. Being an MC and express­ing my grat­i­tude for my teach­ers, my lan­guage part­ner, my cohort, and the staff at Uni­ver­si­tas Negeri Malang in Indone­sian was the prover­bial cher­ry on top of my amaz­ing jour­ney with CLS, and I am for­ev­er grate­ful for this oppor­tu­ni­ty of a lifetime. 

A Word to Future Scholars

No mat­ter if the pro­gram is in per­son or vir­tu­al, the lan­guage gains you make along­side the bonds you cre­ate with your class­mates, teach­ers, and lan­guage part­ners in this short amount of time are amaz­ing. Fur­ther­more, while you learn so much of the lan­guage in an inten­sive man­ner, you also learn so much about your­self. In my expe­ri­ence, being in this set­ting allowed me to chan­nel strengths that I nev­er accessed before. 


Alumni Profiles

Ramil Mercado
Ramil Mercado
Indonesian 2020
Malang, Indonesia

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Posted Date

May 10, 2021