I recently returned from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia where I worked as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in a vocational school. A freelance travel writer, photographer, and international reporter, I continue to publish my work on Mongolia in a wide range of publications. Currently, I’m focusing my efforts on my Kickstarter campaign and am taking a hiatus from my usual posts.
How and why did you go to Mongolia to teach English?
I first visited Mongolia two years ago with a study abroad program run by the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. With the Pacific Rim Travel Program, more commonly known as “Pac Rim,” I traveled to seven Asian countries over nine months. As a fifth year senior majoring in International Political Economy, I took a year’s worth of academic courses ranging from Business Marketing in Vietnam to Biodiversity in Malaysia. On Pac Rim our group was in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital, for a month and a half studying Buddhism.
It was really only during our group’s visits to the countryside that I fell in love with Mongolia. After all, most people don’t really travel here for the city life––although it’s quickly developing! The immense landscapes and warm people left a deep and lasting impression on me. Our group had the amazing opportunities to travel to the Gobi desert, see the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire, and visit with nomads on the steppe. Riding half-wild horses, wrestling, and drinking fermented mare’s milk with herdsmen were some of my favorite moments from the entire year of traveling in Asia.
Mongolia called to me and shortly after returning to the US, I began to search for viable ways to head back to “Land of the Eternal Blue Sky.” A former professor encouraged me to apply to the Fulbright Program. During the lengthy application process I worked as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Seattle. I served East African and Southeast Asian refugee communities as a youth tutor and classroom aide, gaining valuable teaching experience in an ESL environment. In May 2013, to my great surprise, I was awarded the Fulbright Fellowship.