Student learns new perspective abroad
On June 16th, 29 American youth, myself included, Wyoming State 4-H specialists and five adult chaperones embarked on a long trip to Mongolia for a leadership program with the Mongolian 4-H Youth Organization. Youth were selected through an application and interview process from the 13 western states of the land-grant universities Cooperative Extension Service. The finalists selected were from Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
The program’s name is “Enhancing Global Perspectives, American Youth Leadership Program with Mongolia” and as it suggests, the goal of this trip was to allow both American and Mongolian youth to learn about each other’s culture and the global issues facing both our countries. Some of the shared issues that we encountered were renewable energy, water quality and land restoration and reclamation.
The first week of the program we spent in the capital Ulaanbaatar, were we and our Mongolian host siblings received language and cultural training from multiple Peace Corps workers stationed in Mongolia. We also visited the American Ambassador and Embassy, and toured places in the city such as the National Museum, the Gandan Monastery and the Bogd Khaan’s Palace.
For the next two weeks, each American participant stayed in the home of their host sibling. The four districts for the home-stay were Ulaanbaatar, Selenge, Baganuur, and Arkhangai. I stayed with my host family in the northern province of Selenge.
There I was able to experience first hand the Mongolian way of life. My host family was very open and welcoming which made it easy to submerse myself into their culture. Being part of the family truly opened up a gateway of understanding for me and was one of the best parts of the project.
While in our respective districts, all youth participated in outings as a group to help enhance their experience. Groups participated in community service projects like cleaning up trash at prayer sites or helping plant and water trees at a mining reclamation. Groups also toured local mines and farm lands and did workshops on reclamation of the natural resources. That experience has caused me to be far more curious about local mines such as Pebble and Wishbone Hill coal mine, when I previously didn’t have any interest.
For the final week our group reunited a few hours west of Ulaanbaatar to stay in a traditional Ger encampment and observe the national holiday of Naadam. This is a week long festival observed on honor of the three manly games, wrestling, archery and horse racing. The celebration allowed for a spectacular emergence of culture and was a perfect ending for our trip.
But it was not the end of the partnership.
“You are always welcome in our home and I want to always exchange mail and be beautiful sisters” said my host sister Oyunjargal. This experience has helped me realize the importance of being a global citizen and being involved in the changes that are made everyday.
Mariah McCoy is a Chugiak High School student and a Enhancing Global Perspectives, American Youth Leadership Program with Mongolia participant.