Monday, April 18, 2016

Vol State to Mongolia

Vol State recently sent what we believe was the first ever United States community  college student-faculty delegation to Mongolia. The group traveled over Spring Break and included: Dr. John Espey, Director of International Education; Dr. Carol Topping, Professor of Psychology; William Rogan, Chief of Campus Police; and students Darryl Vann ( Theatre Arts major), Donna Fair, ( Veterinary Technology major) Breanna Fitzpatrick ( Education major)  and Ryan Seay ( Information Technology major). 

We were hosted by Dolgormaa  Jamiyan, Ph.D., Professor and Director of International Joint and Exchange Programs at the Institute of Finance and Economics (IFE),  as well as the faculty , staff and students of IFE.  The institute is located in Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar.

Here are two student perspectives on the trip.


Reflecting on the trip to Mongolia fills me with a lot of different emotions. Since it was my first time ever leaving the States I really had no idea what to expect, and that scared me a lot in the beginning. In fact, it scared me so much that, not only was I late for the initial shuttle to the airport, but I also left my wallet in my car that had all the money I was expecting to spend in it, so we had to turn all the way around to go back and get it. This little moment of forgetfulness changed my attitude completely, from fear to an alertness.

The single most unforgettable thing about the trip for me personally was by far the people I departed with, and those that we met, more specifically my guide and wonderful friend Unur Suhkbaatar. I don't know what forces brought he and I together but I am so thankful that I was paired with him. Unur is a man that loves his country, his family, and his soon-to-be fianc√© with every ounce of himself. He has dedicated his career to teaching others who share his passion for learning. With that being said, he is an astounding teacher, on one of the first mornings I got to share with him and his family, he took me aside and taught me what he could about his beliefs on Buddhism. Unur gave me the strange and overwhelming feeling that, although we live thousands of miles apart, I would see his face again in the future. Unur is a testament to the intellect, and beauty of the people of Ulaanbaatar, from the women, to the food, the history, and the cashmere, Mongolia has opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of world travel. 

-Darryl Vann

When I was asked to go on this trip to Mongolia, I had no idea what to expect. To me it sounded like a free vacation, and another stamp in my passport. I did not know how I could possibly say no. At the time I knew nothing about Mongolia; nothing. I could not point it out on a map or tell you anything about it. I honestly did not know what to expect when I got there. I had tried to research some before the trip to be a little prepared, though nothing could prepare me for the trip I was about to embark on.

About three days before we left for the trip I found out we would be staying with host families. I wanted to back out, I did not want to go anymore. I was scared to death of staying with a family I did not know. I overcame my fears and went on the trip. I was able to stay with a family and see what everyday life is like there, not just what I would see as a tourist in a hotel. I had home cooked traditional Mongolian meals every day. I was able to really feel like I got to know the culture, other than just what normal tourists would see. I had the best host family possible. I love them so much and I am so thankful for the friendships that I gained by staying with them.

I realized how welcoming the Mongolian people were of us Americans. I did not know how welcoming they would be to us, not knowing anything about the country. The fact that any car there can be a taxi still blows my mind, the peace and lack of major crimes was so different for me. Although I live in a safe place, every day when I turn on the news is constant bad news. The people there all seemed so friendly and welcoming to each other and to us, whether it be in the schools or the streets.

I am so thankful to have been chosen for this trip. I thought it would be a vacation, and it was but I learned much more than I ever imagined. As an education major I learned a lot about their school systems and education practices. I learned a lot about the history and culture of Mongolia, to be honest when we were comparing country’s histories I learned some about American History. This trip provided me with experiences that will help me in my career, and in life as a whole. Once you can connect with another culture, it is easier to see more than just America, you can feel yourself yearning to learn more about other cultures.

-Emily Fitzpatrick

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