I Miss This Program Every Day Past Review

By (Religion / Religious Studies, Williams College) - abroad from 08/13/2019 to 11/03/2019 with

Round River Conservation Studies - Mongolia Conservation Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned how to be a naturalist, I learned a ton about the nuances of conservation work, I learned how to examine my own culture in comparison to other cultures, and I learned a lot about how I want to live my life and what kind of life I want. I also made such close friends!

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

There are four courses in this program: Conservation Biology, Humans and the Environment, Applied Ecology, and Natural history. A fifth course is Field Methods, but that course simply consists of the field work you do outside of the classroom. Classes are taught with a portable projector in a Mongolian ger (yurt) in between fieldwork. This program definitely focused on practical work in the field and classes come second, which was wonderful. It's like a lab with courses on the side instead of a course with a lab on the side. The classes themselves lack a little rigor, but made me ask super useful and fascinating questions about what we mean by "nature" and how to best do conservation work.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Everything went smoothly! Maybe slightly better scheduling of academic tests, but other than that everything was very well planned.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved it! You live in a tent all semester with a ger (yurt) as your classroom and common area, which I loved. Not for everyone though.

* Food:

This program has a cook, Amkaa, who was incredibly talented and kind. Food was plentiful, but don't expect fresh food of exciting flavors. Mongolian food is bland and meat or dairy-based. Perfect for the cold weather, but I wouldn't call this a food destination!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

This program would benefit from a homestay, which i believe they may add. Fieldwork is done with local rangers, with whom you can become close. However, the rest of the time is spent at basecamp in our own small community.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The instructors are knowledgeable, careful, and have large medical kits. They are proactive and understanding about addressing injuries and illnesses. However, you are fairly far from a hospital on this program. That being said, I never felt unsafe.

* Safety:

Never felt unsafe. There is some inherent risk in hiking in the mountains everyday, but the instructors were very careful.

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

This program has to be one of the most unique and transformative study abroad programs out there. On this program, you will spend several months in a remote valley in Northern Mongolia, a ten hour drive on a dirt track away from the nearest plumbing or pavement. Out there, you will work closely with locals on various conservation research projects within the national parks in the area. This program foregrounds the experiential, and you will spend most of your days in the field. While the academics could be a little more rigorous, we asked fascinating questions like how best to manage land for conservation, how to understand the relationship between people and nature, and what we even mean by "nature." In the field work and academics, Round River stands out for their respect and conscientiousness for how to ethically do science as outsiders. They focus on how to help indigenous communities manage their land and constantly self-examine the sociopolitical implications of their presence. In turn, the science we do is hugely important and meaningful to the locals. My research felt so meaningful and appreciated, and I could see a clear cause my work would contribute to. My favorite component had to be the group dynamic the program allowed me to build. Since you live with 7 other students and 3 instructors in close quarters for the entire program, I had the chance to build incredible, loving bonds that made for endless inside jokes and a hugely supportive environment. This program is nothing like partying in Barcelona or being stuck in a classroom; living in a tent in the cold away from internet for several months may not be for everybody, but I see the world differently now and do it again in a heartbeat. Be prepared for lots of hiking, cold weather, and constantly changing or unknown schedule (unavoidable due to the programs dependence on weather and locals showing up... Mongolians have a much looser sense of time than you might be used to in the US!). I highly, highly, highly recommend this program for naturalists, adventurers, avid readers, lovers of nature, aspiring conservationists, those invested in defending indigenous rights, and anyone interested in a truly life-changing study abroad!


* 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)

You could easily spend under $200 on this entire program, and all you do spend money on is souvenirs and clothing, which are optional. Food and housing are included and there's not much to buy in the woods.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? About $350 over the three months, so an average of $30 per week
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Bring snacks from home or don't buy souvenirs, but this program requires little to no spending money.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* 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? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The lifestyle: rising with the daylight, living in a tent without internet, reading for pleasure, hiking every day.
  • The close-knit group
  • The beautiful landscape and kind locals
* What could be improved?
  • Scheduling of academics
  • More cultural interaction
  • Better preparation before leaving the USA
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Bring all the gear you think you might need and then some. Also don't be very concerned about the weight of gear: put sturdiness and warmth first because there are pack horses when we backpack. Come with ideas for skills to learn: this is a great program on which to learn to whittle, juggle, do handstands, etc!

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.