Volunteer Review: Lisa R., General Journalism Projects in Mongolia
‘Mongolia?’ people said, when I told them that I was going to work there for a month. It got me thinking - why was I going to Mongolia? Such an unusual destination to decide to live and work but I was drawn by the fascination of this unfamiliar place, to a country so vast and full of culture but that I knew so very little about. I was about to embark on a journey to a destination very unknown.
Arrival in Mongolia
Arriving on the Trans Mongolian railway, after a spectacular journey through the Gobi desert, where wolves roam the train tracks and eagles soar above, I could barely contain my excitement. I was greeted with a warm embrace from Projects Abroad and was taken to meet my Mongolian host family, who I would be staying with during my placement.
My first weekend was a challenge - I felt like an alien as I spent the day with my hosts and their extended family: the auntie, grandmother, sister and nieces, with all of them speaking a language that I did not understand. All I could do was point to my phrase book and hide my look of bewilderment, constantly thinking ‘what am I doing here?’
However, as soon as I started work, my outlook changed. I fell into a routine and grew to understand the Mongolian way of life. The culture shock wore off and the language became almost comprehensible. My colleagues began to accept me and I threw myself into work to fend off the loneliness.
At home, my little host-brother (who’s five years old), began to call me sister and although we could only communicate through playing and body language, he adopted me into his family. I soon got used to the Mongolian way of life; to the fact that my host brother goes to bed later than me, the whole family sleeps in and for one month in the summer, there is no hot water. Their tea is too salty, the meat too fatty and they hang up before saying bye, but its all part of the culture. So all I could do was immerse myself in this fascinating country, embrace the Mongolian people (not literally of course) and turn that first impression into an incredible lasting one.
My Journalism placement
It was great to be working at a TV station and meet all the guests that appeared for the interviews. As well as researching each one and compiling questions, I was able to follow the film crew as they filmed their visits to Mongolia (I even got to have lunch with the Turkish Ambassador). Working in TV was so much more relaxed than I imagined and as well as editing English material for them, I learnt how a program was put together and made.
My weekends were spent visiting this wonderful country. There are lots of museums in the city to keep you busy but following the locals and getting out into the countryside is a must. As well as my host family taking me to see the giant statue of Chinggis Khan, I booked my own tours and visited Kharkorin, the ancient capital of Mongolia and lived life as a nomad traveling between gers on horseback.
With the internet at home and the power of Skype, I no longer felt isolated. I’ve made friends and have broadened my food horizons, trying Korean, Japanese and Russian food (and Mongolian of course). It is a harsh, dry environment to live in but I mastered the art of crossing the road and a bit of the lingo. Living and working in Mongolia can be challenging even for the most robust traveler, but is definitely something worth trying.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.