Examine international relations, natural resource management, nomadic traditions, and economic growth from Mongolia’s unique vantage point.
The program looks at the interplay between foreign engagement, economic development, and natural resource utilization in the context of Mongolia, a nation facing rapid economic and environmental change. Students scrutinize the multitude of ways in which mining, conservation of pasturelands, grazing rights, and other resource management issues are shaping public and private life. For one to two weeks, students live alongside nomadic herding communities and experience some of the most pristine natural environments in the world.
Major topics of study include:
- Diplomatic engagement with major global economies including the US and regional relations with China, Russia, and North Korea
- Rapid urbanization and the rise of urban consumption in the context of a dramatic influx of foreign direct investment (FDI)
- The search for a balance between environmental conservation and natural resource development
- Cultural shifts among Mongolia’s pastoral population
- Socioeconomic and political reform
Though this program is geared towards US students, one must be motivated, research-oriented, and independent to be successful on this program. That said, it is great preparation for self-designed majors and those interested in using this as a jumping point for graduate or Fulbright work.
To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:
This program may have a cap of 3-semester students per year.
The SIT Mongolia program consists of the following elements: a weeklong orientation, two thematic seminars, research methods and ethics course, a rural and urban homestay, an intensive Mongolian language course, and a four-week independent study research project. Students earn 16-semester credits for the program, which is equivalent to 4 Lake Forest credits.
Students on this program have the rare opportunity to:
* Students receive lessons during the semester. If possible, students should plan to bring a riding helmet. Riding boots may be purchased in Mongolia.
Seminar on pastoralism and natural resource management
In this course, students examine Mongolia’s nomadic population and the impact of political, social, and economic transformations and national resource management policies on Mongolia’s social, cultural, and physical environments.
Main topics of inquiry in the Pastoralism and Natural Resource Management seminar include:
Seminar on geopolitics and development trends
In the geopolitics and development course, students focus on Mongolia’s path to political and economic development and the country’s current strategies for external relations and internal growth.
Students analyze two key academic themes:
Learn the language of Mongolia.
Students receive 45 class hours of intensive language instruction beginning shortly after arrival. Classes are conducted by trained Mongolian language instructors and emphasize introductory speaking and comprehension skills. Further practice is available outside of class, including during the homestays.
The SIT Mongolia program includes a number of excursions, which exposes students to life outside the capital city. Excursions vary from semester to semester based on seasonal and climate conditions, but may include one of the following:
Erdenet (3–4 days)
In Erdenet, Mongolia’s second-largest city, students learn about Mongolia’s manufacturing and mining industries, while contemplating the country’s past, present, and future in the context of one city. Erdenet is home to one of the world’s largest copper mines, Erdenet Copper Mine, which has been a central player in Mongolia’s development. Presently the mining corporation is the sole copper concentrate producer and accounts for between one-fifth and one-fourth of Mongolia’s GDP.
During the excursion to Erdenet, if travel conditions permit, students visit Amarbayasgalant Monastery, one of the largest and most beautiful Buddhist monasteries in Mongolia. It is considered a sacred cultural landscape. Students meet the monastery’s small but thriving Buddhist community, attend their morning or evening ritual chanting, and may have the chance to play soccer with the lamas.
Sainshand, Khamryn Hiid/Khamar Monastery (3–4 days)
Students travel to Dornogobi Province (East Gobi) to the site of Khamryn Hiid. The province is connected with the name of Danzan Ravjaa (1803–1853), officially known as the Fifth Reincarnate Lama of the Gobi. Students learn about the life and times of this extraordinary man, an enlightened master, a distinguished Buddhist thinker, an outstanding figure of the Mongolian Buddhist reformist movement of the 19th century.
Highlights of the excursion include:
Additional religious centers and sites
Mahayana Buddhism is increasing its popularity alongside Islam, Christianity, and Shamanic practices. Lectures at and excursions to various religious centers and sites help students find themselves in the midst of a religious re-emergence that is taking place in Mongolia following the transition from a Communist government to a democracy in the early 1990s.
Field excursions to Mongolian nature sites, combined with formal lectures and seminars, expose students to the environmental challenges and threats Mongolia is facing in relation to increased globalization. Students meet with policymakers, environmental NGO activists, and leaders of grassroots movements who are opposing destructive mining operations to protect Mongolia’s natural environment.
|Independent Study or Internship|
Students complete either an independent sutdy project or an internship.
Independent Study Project
In the final month of the program, students conduct an Independent Study Project (ISP). This provides each student with an opportunity to pursue original research on a situation or topic of particular interest to him/her.
Possible areas of inquiry include a wide range of topics and study areas including:
More information on specific courses and syllabi can be found here.
Internship and Seminar
For the last four weeks of this program, you can choose to complete an Independent Study Project or an internship. For the internship, you’ll work with a Mongolian organization where you will gain experience related to the program’s theme and develop professional skills you can use in your career.
SIT academic internships are hands-on and reflective. In addition to completing the internship, weekly seminar sessions, and progress reports, you will submit and present a paper reflecting on your experience and relating it to the program’s themes.
Interning in Mongolia
The internship will deepen your knowledge of a global issue, culture, and language, and enrich your working experience. The Mongolia program offers a wide variety of internship opportunities focused on geopolitics, civil society, environmental and natural sciences, or humanities through its longstanding network of government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private businesses.
|Housing and Meals|
Students live with host families in urban and rural areas to experience the diversity of contemporary Mongolia. Students discover the cosmopolitan nature of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital and largest city, as well as the open expanses of the steppe or high mountains and rolling hills through homestays with nomadic communities.
Other accommodations during the program include apartments, guest houses, educational institutions, or small hotels.
Urban homestay in Ulaanbaatar (three to four weeks)
Students experience Mongolian middle-class urban life, practice their Mongolian language skills, and test their new cultural skills in the context of a family in Ulaanbaatar. Host families are often excellent sources of contacts and information for students’ Independent Study Projects. All host families live in apartment blocks located in various micro-districts of the city. Students typically form strong connections with their host families.
During this period of the program, students attend lectures and language classes at the SIT program center and visit important cultural sites throughout Ulaanbaatar.
Rural homestay (one to two weeks)
Students live with a nomadic community in either central or northern Mongolia, depending on the season and travel conditions. These communities regularly move in search of better pastures and water for their livestock in the steppe. Students typically work with and learn from the nomadic community, actively participating in a wide range of daily animal herding and household chores.
For all approved programs for guaranteed financial aid transferability, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee. The program fee for the SIT program includes orientation, on-site director, program fees, housing, most meals, and insurance.
Here is an estimated budget for the Fall 2018/Spring 2019 programs:
Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of February 2018. We will notify applicants, and update this page if the program fee or other estimates change.
You can discuss with Financial Aid your specific aid package and your expected family contribution.
Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate and will depend on your course registration choices.
Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.
For Questions About the Initial Application Process:
Coordinator of the Global Engagement Office