The Mongolian Landscape and people stole my heart!! December 16, 2018

By (Conservation Biology, SUNY - College of Environmental Science & Forestry) - abroad from 08/20/2018 to 11/12/2018 with

Round River Conservation Studies - Mongolia Conservation Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I would not take back any of the experiences I had during my semester (even the freezing cold nights and not showering for weeks). I could not have asked for a better opportunity for my first time abroad. I learned about field research techniques for various taxonomic groups, challenged myself academically and physically, critically analyzed conservation issues within Mongolia, and learned to care for a land, culture and people who make Mongolia a beautiful place.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Classes include Humans and the Environment, Applied Ecology, Conservation Biology, and Natural History. Classwork includes experiential learning by conducting field research, field identification (hiking for lecture!!), group discussions, some lectures, and readings conducted on the provided Kindles. The work is challenging and rewarding, but sometimes you forgot you were doing classwork, becoming so engaged in learning more and invested in the fieldwork. Do not consider this program if you are looking for an easy semester doing nothing, especially since the work we do, goes directly to the park to help them with their work, so it is important that we provide them with the best information and research we can.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Mongolia is a very difficult country to work in due to logistical problems such as vehicle break-downs, rivers flooding, poor cell phone connection, and Mongolians habit of being late, but the program did an amazing job managing everything, being flexible and working with students so we knew what the schedule was and what was expected.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We lived in tents, had one community ger, and stayed a few nights at the park headquarters in cabins. Bringing a good, 4-season tent for the fall program is crucial (we got about 5-inches of snow within our first week). Don't expect living in a 5-star hotel, but arrangements are very comfortable. We had slight problems with lack of solar power near the end of our semester, but hopefully they figure that out for the next semester.

* Food:

If you like meat, you will love Mongolian food!! If you are like me and prefer veggies, you will still find really good food, although food is limited in Mongolia (think a lot of potatoes, carrots, cabbages, and beets)! Our camp cook was amazing and made delicious food everyday, making sure there was plenty of food for people with diet restrictions (vegetarian, gluten-free). Bring your own peanut butter!!!!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

A majority of our time was spent in the Horidol-Saridag Strictly Protected Area at our basecamp, but we got to know a few locals really well. We became friends with many of the park rangers and staff as well as their family's whenever we went into Ulaan Uul, or went out on our research excursions. We learned many local customs and although we often did not speak the same language, Mongolians are some of the most hospitable people I have ever met.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

All of the instructors and many of the students in my program were Wilderness First Responder or EMT certified, so I never felt unsafe. We lived outside of Ulaan Uul, which doesn't have very dependable healthcare, but when needed it we consulted with Global Rescue.

* Safety:

There were never times I felt unsafe.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

Round River Mongolia provides students the opportunity to engage in unbelievable hands-on field conservation projects in partnership with the parks system to help students gain the necessary skills for field research, all while having a blast in a beautiful part of the world.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Everything is covered while in Mongolia other than if you wanted extra snacks or souvenirs.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? generally $0 (slightly more when in UB at the beginning and end of the program, but Mongolia is inexpensive)

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

There is no formal language component, but we did do some language lessons and learn a ton from the locals. We were encouraged to learn and use what we could, although Mongolian is a difficult language to learn.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? If you are interested in learning Mongolian, consider getting a dictionary or a lesson book available in UB.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
  • Host Family
  • Hotel
  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Hands-on experience
  • Living and working in a breathtaking landscape
  • Community
* What could be improved?
  • Pre-departure preparation
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Now that we have actually run the first fall semester, there is a better understanding on what the program looks like, so it will be easier to communicate with prospective students what exactly to expect.