Understanding Ulgii (Teaching in Mongolia), the newest addition to the TASIS Global Service Program, is a Service Learning Group dedicated to supporting and building a lasting relationship between TASIS students and a community of English language learners in Ulgii, a city in western Mongolia. After a year of preparation, 10 TASIS students and three faculty members—Anna Kavalauskas, Stephen Moon, and Kim Goldsworthy—traveled to Mongolia during the first 13 days of summer vacation to help provide English language lessons to aspiring students. Fundraising covers the cost of supplies such as books, posters, new desks, and Rosetta Stone subscriptions.
Written by Aida Loggiodice '17 and Maria Paula Ramos '17
Upon setting foot in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, after twelve hours of traveling (a maximum two of sleep) and some mystery meat from the plane filling our empty stomachs, our group of ten students and three teachers had already found the service trip anything but selfish.
|So while we can tell you we are still trying to rub off the blue paint from our hands, we will never erase the looks of happiness on the locals’ faces.|
Understanding Ulgii, a new addition to the Global Service Learning Program at TASIS, is a service trip designed to build connections with the Kazakh community in the western part of Mongolia. This year’s project, which also happened to be the first project ever, was to create a sort of conference room for a local university that could also serve its purpose as an English resource center.
Perhaps the first thing we noticed was that Mongolian toilet paper did not come with a cardboard roll in the middle, but Mongolian people came with very big hearts and the facade of the houses did not say anything about the people living inside. The fact that a group of kids had flown all the way from Switzerland to paint a room in their university seemed incredible to them, and for a while, it seemed incredible to us too. Of course, Understanding Ulgii ended up being much more than just painting. So while we can tell you we are still trying to rub off the blue paint from our hands, we will never erase the looks of happiness on the locals’ faces as they looked around their new conference room/English Resource Center.
We organized books into their correct genres, sanded and painted the walls of the room, and even held English classes for the locals. All of it would have been impossible without the support of the community, who seemed to be willing to help us with whatever we needed.
So while we can tell you we are still trying to rub off the blue paint from our hands, we will never erase the looks of happiness on the locals’ faces as they looked around their new conference room/English Resource Center.
And of course we could not have had the full Mongolian experience without staying in gers for two nights. You might be wondering what a ger is, and trust us, so did we until we actually saw one up close. No matter how much prior research you do before the trip, nothing will prepare you for the round tent made of wood and goatskin that is a ger.
During the day, we watched the locals herd sheep, goats, horses, and cows, and we were welcomed by the local families to taste their homemade dairy products and even hold a hefty eagle and ride horses. The warmth of the people contrasted the cold nights, which made us wonder who thought sleeping bags were a good idea.
Much like the service part of the trip, our countryside experience will remain with us as the memory of peace lives inside our hearts and the beautiful environment lives on, sunburnt on our backs.
So I guess what we are trying to say, in the words of Dory (don't worry, we found her), this trip was remarkable and simply unforgettable.
Click here to see more incredible photos from the trip.
TASIS Global Service Program
The Global Service Program was envisioned by Jan Opsahl ’68, who became the first international student at TASIS when he came from Norway in 1965. The pioneering program was launched in 2013 with major support from a most generous donation from Mr. Opsahl and his family to set up the Global Service Trust. This Trust, along with support from the TASIS Foundation, make this incredible, life-changing experience for our students possible.
The Global Service Program transforms lives by providing every High School student a unique opportunity to connect across borders through comprehensive experiences that build empathy and encourage personal responsibility. Participation in the program—which is designed to awaken students to humanitarian needs, inspire them to build enduring, mutually beneficial relationships, and lead them toward a life of active citizenship and committed service—is a graduation requirement.