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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Richard in Mongolia

Richard Biggio-Gottschlich ’19 is a Political Science major studying in Mongolia through the SIT Mongolia: Geopolitics and the Environment program.

Program Name and Location: SIT Mongolia: Nomadism, Geopolitics, and the Environment

I am Richard Biggio-Gottschlich and my adventuring has brought me to many wonderful and life changing experience here in Mongolia I have been having the experience of a lifetime. I arrived here a month and a half ago and yet that time feels like many more months for all of the learning and adventurous exploring I have done. I have been from the capital city of UlaanBaatar to one of the largest open pit copper mines in the world in Erdenet and ridden across the Steppe on horseback herding sheep. These are some of the events that my time in Mongolia has allowed me to study.

We learn in the field and from local experts often traveling from the school to their places of work or to sites relevant to our talk. This aligns perfectly with my philosophy of “Learn By Doing”. One of the challenges that really presents this is my two home stays that I have undertaken while traveling. I have to interact with a new family and find my place. This immersion also grants a great way for me to learn the Mongolian language and culture. One of these home stays have been with a family of 6 in an soviet style apartment in UlaanBaatar and the other was living for 2 weeks with a nomadic herding family in the countryside of Delgerhaan. The languages has been a hard pint to learn but thought endeavors I have been able to get a grasp on it. This was essentially critical as when I was living with my nomadic family they only spoke Mongolian. We would use gestures and our limited Mongolian and English skills to communicate and it was a great learning experience and it ! made me have to learn herding by just doing it.

The first day I met my host father on our way to our Ger we stopped by a pen filled with sheep and goats and met 4 other herders. We all climbed into the pen and I followed my dad around. He pointed at a sheep and so I chased after it and grabbed it, wrestling it out so we could let it graze in the pasture. We did this for a while and every time that I grabbed the wool of the sheep I got better at bringing the animal to the gate. We also rode horses as a method of transportation just as traditional Mongolians have for generations but my father also own and drove a motorcycle showing the growth of modern integration also. I had the opportunity to help the veterinarian treat wounded sheep and also to treat English to 8th graders. Everyone across the steppe helped one another with the herding work and despite living a distance apart we made frequent visits to other Gers and were visited ourselves often too.

I have made great friends here and have grown significantly and I already know that there is more adventure to come. I’m glad that I have been able to fulfil my goals that I thought of when I first investigated Mongolia such as visiting and climbing the Chinggis (Genghis) Khan Equestrian Statue which is the highest equestrian statue in the world and seeing Zaisan Hill, a soviet friendship monument in the city of UlaanBaatar. There have been many people who quested my decision to study in Mongolia but I am enjoying it so much and feel that hits has allowed for me to experience great personal growth. I appreciate all of those who have helped me to reach this place. My parents who supported me and allowed me to chose anywhere in the world, My friends who listened to all my stories and facts that I learned. The study abroad office and all those who helped me research the SIT Mongolia program and all the information about the country. To those such as Rebecca McGowan and her P! avelka Scholarship and many other scholarship donors for those who are willing to give to experiential cultural education help to foster a better understanding. Thank you all and seize the adventure.
Richard Biggio-Gottschlich