Kim in Mongolia: Pre-Mongolia Introductions

Hello Everyone! My name is Kim, and I’m currently a junior at the University of Richmond. I’m an Interdisciplinary Studies major, which means that I’ve created my own major to suit my exact interests. My major is Education & Development, and it’s a mixture of classes in history, political science, education, and international studies.

As a brief introduction to my background, I was born in Japan, and moved to the U.S. with my parents when I was 4. We lived briefly in Falls Church, Virginia, but I grew up in Maine until I left for Richmond. However, I spent many childhood summers in Japan going to school and living with family, so I definitely consider myself to be a Japanese-American. I’m actually in Japan right now, and am visiting family in Hiroshima before my program in Mongolia begins.


The view I see every morning from Hiroshima

Another pretty important factor about my background is that I received a scholarship to study abroad in Germany for a year in high school. Combined with my last semester abroad in Uganda, Mongolia will be the third time that I’ve studied abroad. As with any combination of experiences, I think that they will always be inevitably connected in my mind. I will keep this blog focused on Mongolia, but I can’t promise not to occasionally mention interesting connections!

You might be wondering why I’m blogging so late, especially compared to Austen. While it’s true that most spring programs begin in mid-January, the official start date of my program is February 24th. The best (and only) explanation I’ve heard is that the program doesn’t think that the students can handle the Mongolian weather before this date. Apparently the average temperature there now is around -30 degrees Fahrenheit. We’ll see if this is true, although I’m naively hoping that it’s not!

The program I choose to study abroad with is administered by the School for International Training (SIT). If you’ve read Mel and Blair’s blogs, you’ll remember that their programs in Ecuador and Chile were also from SIT. The set-up of the programs is similar: some classes at the local university, urban/rural host families, and a 4-week Independent Study Project at the end. It’s incredible to have a structure that allows for independent, hands-on learning. I thoroughly enjoyed this set-up in Uganda, and I am eager to try this again in Mongolia.

However, the journey to specifically choosing Mongolia was harder than I originally thought. My time in Uganda was unbelievably challenging in so many ways that I couldn’t imagine not having another experience that forced me to question my beliefs daily. All throughout my sophomore year, I was 100% convinced that I wanted to spend half a year in Africa, and the other half in Asia. But when it came down to choosing a program, I found it difficult to settle on one. I was worried that by being in northeast Asia, I wouldn’t be as challenged as I was in Uganda.

In the end, I had to revisit my main goal for studying abroad. I wanted to go to a place where I wouldn’t get half the same experience exploring on my own. Mongolia is an incredible place that is rapidly changing, and I wanted to get a taste of it before it was too late. There are many components to this program that will give me experiences that I couldn’t get on my own. I’m most excited to have the chance to live with Mongolian nomads for 2 weeks! Opportunities like this allowed me to confidently settle on this program.

I’m so excited to explore a new side of Asia, and to share it with you through this blog. This time next week, I’ll be settled in Mongolia! Thank you for taking the time to read this, and please look forward to my first post from Mongolia!

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