Mongolia | Semester Abroad | Natural Resource Management | Environment

Mongolia: Nomadism, Geopolitics, and the Environment

Examine international relations, natural resource management, nomadic traditions, and economic growth from Mongolia's unique vantage point.

As a student on this program, you will look at the interplay between nomadic traditions, foreign engagement, economic development, and natural resource utilization in the context of Mongolia, a nation facing rapid economic and environmental change. You will scrutinize the multiple 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, you will live among nomadic herding communities and experience some of the most pristine natural environments in the world.

Major topics of study include:

  • The search for a balance between environmental conservation and natural resource development
  • Rapid urbanization and the rise of urban consumption in the context of a dramatic influx and fluctuation of foreign direct investment (FDI)
  • Cultural shifts among Mongolia’s pastoral population
  • Socioeconomic transformations and political reform
  • Diplomatic engagement with major global economies including the US and regional relations with China, Russia, and North Korea

Meet the program’s academic director.

Many of my prior assumptions and fundamental beliefs were dismantled and reconstructed with some help from my peers. I have developed a deeper appreciation and understanding of the social dimensions of ecology. … Mongolia presented a fascinating opportunity to test the legitimacy of popular narratives that influence our national attitudes, beliefs, and policies

John Wendt, Colorado State University

Program components

The SIT Mongolia program consists of the following elements: a weeklong orientation, two thematic seminars including a weeklong internship at a local NGO, a research methods and ethics course, a rural and urban homestay, a Mongolian language course, and a four-week Independent Study Project.

YurtStudents on this program have the rare opportunity to:

  • Experience the international roots of Mongolian culture, examining similarities and differences between contemporary Russian, Chinese, and Central Asian cultures
  • Explore diverse topics ranging from Buddhism to coal mining to cashmere to wildlife of the Gobi
  • Discuss current issues with members of Mongolia's Parliament and local governments
  • Explore the city of Erdenet with Mongolian students
  • Eat seasonal, local food based on the annual cycle
  • Experience life in a country both protected and restricted by a dramatic physical environment that includes the Gobi Desert, vast mountain ranges, and forest steppes
  • Ride horses as a form of transportation*

* You will receive lessons during the semester. If possible, you should plan to bring a riding helmet. Riding boots may be purchased in Mongolia.

Seminar on pastoralism and natural resource management

In the geopolitics and development course, you will focus on Mongolia’s path to political and economic development and the country’s current strategies for external relations and internal growth and attempts to diversify the national and local economies so they will not be dependent on mining.

rural seminarMain topics of inquiry in the Pastoralism and Natural Resource Management seminar include:

  • The history, traditions and livelihood of Mongolia’s nomadic communities and the challenges for this population as a result of Mongolia’s political transformations, development policies, and climate change.
  • Mongolia’s attempt to create a national resource management policy that balances conservation and traditional values and practices with the demands of the mining industry and other modern business and economic development opportunities.

Seminar on geopolitics and development trends

In the geopolitics and development course, you will focus on Mongolia’s path to political and economic development and the country’s current strategies for external relations and internal growth.

You will analyze two key academic themes:

  • Mongolia’s diplomatic attempts to cultivate key international allies through its Third Neighbor Policy, and its engagement with China, Russia, the two Koreas, and Japan within the geopolitics of northeast Asia.
  • Mongolia’s development policies and its attempt to address issues of rapid urbanization and growth.

Learn the language of Mongolia.

You will receive 45 class hours of 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.

undergraduate research projectIndependent Study Project

In the final month of the program, you will conduct an Independent Study Project (ISP). This will provide you with an opportunity to pursue original research on a situation or topic of particular interest to you.

Possible areas of inquiry include a wide range of topics and study areas including:

  • Nomadic organization in transition
  • Cashmere trade and cultural interaction with China and Siberia
  • Buddhist painting, sculpture, and architecture
  • Burden of national identity and globalization on modern Mongolian art
  • Environmental impacts of mining
  • Symbols of collectivism and pastoralism in daily life
  • Cultural perceptions of Mongolian medicinal plants
  • Commodity production and regional politics
  • Mongolians of Kazakh descent and their place in modern Islam
  • Investment climate for foreign direct investment
  • Mongolia’s Third Neighbor Policy
  • Urbanization of the nomadic nation
  • Pasture land management
  • The concept of national security in Mongolia
  • Nature conservation efforts and natural resource management

Access virtual library guide.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.

The program’s coursework provides an essential foundation in Mongolian language, history, and culture, from which to springboard into in-depth discussions of Mongolia’s most pressing development issues. Key issues of examination include: Mongolia’s nomadic and rural society; the country’s young market economy; systematizing social support and providing for those in need; and the strengthening of governmental structures and oversight. Coursework is based on SIT’s experiential, field-based program model.

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Geopolitics and Development Trends – syllabus
(ASIA3010 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
This interdisciplinary course focuses on Mongolia’s path to political and economic development and the country’s current strategies for external relations and internal growth strategies. With special attention to Mongolia’s location between China and the Russia, this course discusses government policies for international investment and the shifting political discourses about domestic investment that form the background of Mongolia’s development trajectory. Educational excursions are an integral part of this course, and lecturers are drawn from local universities, research institutes, and NGOs.
Pastoralism and Natural Resource Management – syllabus
(ASIA3020 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
This interdisciplinary course, with required readings and relevant educational excursions, focuses on Mongolia's nomadic population and the impact of political, social, and economic transformations and national resource management policies, ranging from wildlife to resource extraction to water quality and conservation, on Mongolia's social, cultural, and physical environments. Lecturers are drawn from local universities, government agencies, and NGOs.
Beginning Mongolian – syllabus
(MONG1003-1503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
Intermediate Mongolian – syllabus
(MONG2003-2503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
Advanced Mongolian – syllabus
(MONG3003-3503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
Emphasis is on speaking and listening comprehension in Mongolian, plus reading and writing skills, through classroom and field instruction. Classes are conducted by trained Mongolian language instructors. Students are placed in beginning, intermediate, or advanced classes based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing. Language training starts immediately after students arrive in Mongolia and continues during field excursions.
Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
Through a carefully designed sequence of field projects, workshops, and related lectures, this course prepares students for either an independent research project or an internship. Knowledge will culminate in each student’s successful completion of an individually designed and executed Independent Study Project or internship at the end of the semester.

In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:

Internship – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
This seminar consists of a four-week internship with a local community organization, research organization, business, or international NGO. The aim of the internship is to enable the student to gain valuable work experience and to enhance their skills in an international work environment. Students will complete an internship and submit a paper in which they process their learning experience on the job, analyze an issue important to the organization, and/or design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization. A focus will be on linking internship learning with the program’s critical global issue focus and overall program theme. The internship course includes a module titled Internship in the Context of Mongolia, which is designed to help students build a foundation on which to engage in the internship experience.


Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
Conducted in an approved location in Mongolia appropriate to the project. Sample topic areas: the concept of national security in Mongolia; nomadic organization in transition; cashmere trade and cultural interaction with China and Russia; Buddhist debate and monastic education; Buddhist painting, sculpture, and architecture; symbols of collectivism and pastoralism in daily life; the shagai tradition; cultural perceptions of Mongolian medicinal plants; commodity production and regional politics; analysis of the environmental impacts of mining; maternal healthcare, motherhood, and birth in Ulaanbaatar; the Mongolians of Kazakh descent and their place in modern Islam.

MongoliaIn the final month of the program, you will conduct an Independent Study Project (ISP). This will provide you with an opportunity to pursue original research on a situation or topic of particular interest to you.

Possible areas of inquiry include a wide range of topics and study areas including:

  • Nomadic organization in transition
  • Cashmere trade and cultural interaction with China and Siberia
  • Buddhist painting, sculpture, and architecture
  • Environmental impacts of mining
  • Symbols of collectivism and pastoralism in daily life
  • Cultural perceptions of Mongolian medicinal plants
  • Commodity production and regional politics
  • Mongolians of Kazakh descent and their place in modern Islam
  • Investment climate for foreign direct investment
  • Mongolia’s Third Neighbor Policy
  • Urbanization of the nomadic nation
  • Pasture land management
  • The concept of national security in Mongolia
  • Nature conservation efforts and natural resource management

Ulaan BatarFor the last four weeks of this program, you can choose either to complete an Independent Study Project or an internship. For the internship, you will be placed with a local Mongolian organization where you will gain real work experience related to the program’s theme and develop professional skills you can use in your career.

SIT internships are hands on and reflective. In addition to completing the internship, you will submit a paper processing your learning experience on the job and analyzing an issue important to the organization you worked with and/or you will design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization.

Interning in Mongolia

The internship will give you the chance to engage in the process of civil society development in Mongolia; deepen your knowledge of a global issue, culture, and language; and enrich your working experience. SIT Study Abroad’s program in Mongolia offers a wide variety of internship opportunities through its network of long-term contacts with government agencies and nongovernment and private organizations that work in various fields including geopolitics, civil society, environmental and natural sciences, and humanities. 

Internship placements and areas of focus may include the following:

  • Lotus Children’s Centre – Providing children with primary care — including food, healthcare, clothing, and accommodation — as well as education, counseling, and continued support to help them break free of the cycle of poverty
  • Nutag Partners – Consulting services in the areas of rural development, risk management, natural resource management, land use and livestock management, alternative livelihoods, development of community-based organizations, and social impact assessments
  • The Global Green Growth Institute – Supporting and promoting strong, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth founded on principles of social inclusivity and environmental sustainability
  • Mongolian University of Life Sciences – Research-oriented university with focuses on veterinary medicine, animal science, biotechnology, agroecology, engineering and technology, and economics and business
  • Breakthrough Communications – Public relations and marketing

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

This program allows you an intimate view of a good portion of Mongolia and is loaded with experiences. Well-balanced between classes and excursions, you learn as much in the classroom as you do outside the classroom.

Kara Pellegrino, Kenyon College

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:

ErdenetErdenet (3–4 days)

In Erdenet, Mongolia’s second-largest city, you will 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, you will visit Amarbayasgalant Monastery, one of the largest and most beautiful Buddhist monasteries in Mongolia. It is considered a sacred cultural landscape. You will meet the monastery’s small but thriving Buddhist community and attend their morning or evening ritual chanting, and you may have the chance to play soccer with the lamas.

Sainshand, Khamryn Hiid / Khamar Monastery (3–4 days)

You will 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. You will learn about the life and times of this extraordinary man, an enlightened master, a distinguished Buddhist thinker, and outstanding figure of the Mongolian Buddhist reformist movement of the 19th century.

Highlights of the excursion include:

  • Visiting the recently re-established Khamar Monastery. The original, like so many historic monasteries across the country, was completely destroyed during the political and religious purges of the 1930s. You will conduct in-depth interviews with individuals who have devoted their lives to Khamryn Khiid restoration endeavors. You will explore the monastery’s meditation caves used by lamas of the monastery for advanced tantric meditations and retreats 150 years ago.
  • Observing the revival of the circumambulation, prostration, and puja practices of northern Shambala land. You will experience local religious and cultural practices at Khan Bayanzurkh, the most famous Gobi mountain associated with Mongolian religious beliefs and rituals. 
  • Learning about opportunities, attainments, and challenges of East Gobi development. Expansion of mineral industry mainly located in the Gobi area is turning Sainshand, a provincial town, into a center for an industrial park. You will meet officials from the provincial government who can shed more light on geopolitical issues in this area.

mountains in MongoliaAdditional religious centers and sites

Mahayana Buddhism is increasing its popularity alongside Islam, Christianity, and Shamanic practices. Onsite lectures and guided exploration of religious centers and sites will help you gain insight to a religious re-emergence that is taking place in Mongolia following the transition from a Communist government to a democracy in the early 1990s.

Nature sites

Field excursions to Mongolian nature sites, combined with formal lectures and seminars, will expose you to the environmental challenges and threats Mongolia is facing in relation to increased globalization. You will meet with policymakers, environmental NGO activists, and leaders of grassroots movements who are opposing destructive mining operations to protect Mongolia’s natural environment.

I chose the SIT Mongolia program because of its exciting and unorthodox take on abroad learning. I didn't want to be in a modern city or at a university for my time in a different country. The itinerary of this program was ideal. I wanted to see the land and the people as they are today in the environment they both live and love.

Chimi Lama, Smith College

UlziiUlziijargal Sanjaasuren, Academic Director

Ulzii (short for Ulziijargal) Sanjaasuren, graduated from the Odessa State University in Ukraine and then taught English for 10 years at the University of the Humanities in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. She later spent six years working as a program coordinator for international development organizations including UNDP, DANIDA, and the Soros Foundation. Her responsibilities included identifying priority areas for future projects and conducting onsite supervision and evaluation of project activities, while specializing in education development programs. After two years of freelancing, she joined SIT in 2000 and was one of the designers of the SIT Mongolia program.

Ulzii holds an MA in teaching foreign languages from the Pedagogical University of Mongolia. She completed her PhD coursework at the same university and has started her thesis on the application of cognitive language learning principles in course design. Ulzii is the author of several series of English language textbooks for secondary schools in Mongolia. She is a past recipient of the Mongolian President’s Prize – Author of the Best Textbook, 2002. In March 2009, Ulzii received an ELTons Award from the British Council, as team leader of the Mongolian Curriculum Development and Textbook Writing team. She is a full-time resident of Mongolia.

Yarinpil Ariunbaatar (Baatar), Homestay Coordinator

Ariunbaatar Baatar works with the academic director to help oversee the program's day-to-day activities. He assists the academic director with the design and development of homestays, both urban and rural, in addition to helping with personnel and contingency matters. Baatar has extensive in-country and international travel experience. Personal interests include photography, ethnography, and Mongolian history with an emphasis on the history of the Mongolian Buryad people. He is fluent in Russian and speaks intermediate English. Baatar holds a BA and MSc from the Mongolian University of Science and Technology. He also holds a certificate in management of human resources from the Academy of Human Resource Management. His focus changed from engineering to education in early 2000 when he joined the SIT Study Abroad Mongolia program.

Shijir Batchuluun (Shijir), Program Assistant and Seminar Coordinator

BatchuluunB. Shijir holds a bachelor’s in business management from Citi Institute of Mongolia. He has lived in Germany and the US and has worked as a translator and safety officer in Major Drilling Mongolia. He joined the SIT Study Abroad Mongolia program in August 2014 as program assistant and seminar coordinator. Like all the staff he has many hats to wear; in addition to his duties as the program assistant, seminar coordinator, and office manager, he acts as a translator in the field.

Oyunbold Zorigt (Oyuka), Field Coordinator

Z. Oyunbold holds a BA in international economics from University of the Humanities, Ulaanbaatar, in 2013. When in college, he worked as a translator for tourists during the summer breaks. After working in the private business sector for two years, he joined the SIT Mongolia program in January 2015. Despite his young age, Oyuka has experience living and traveling internationally and locally. For two years in a row he participated in “Work and Travel in the USA” program.

Oyuko and mara
Oyuka and Mara

Maral-Erdene Oktyabri (Maralaa), Language Coordinator

O. Maralaa, originally from Govisumber province, received her BA and MA in teaching Mongolian and English languages from the Mongolian State University of Education in June 2013 and January 2016. She worked at the School of Mongolian Studies at her alma mater for a year, and in January 2015 she joined the SIT Study Abroad Mongolia program. As language coordinator, she coordinates all language program activities and, when required, will teach language classes both in Ulaanbaatar and the countryside. In addition, Maralaa coordinates the Mongolian language textbook writing project and takes care of the program’s library.

Sampling of the lecturers for this program:

Oyun Sanjaasuren, PhD

Currently Member of Parliament and Head of the Civil Will Party and the Zorig Foundation; Formerly Minister of Nature and Environment and Green Development of Mongolia

SanjaasurenDr. Oyun Sanjaasuren delivers lectures for the thematic seminar focused on Mongolia’s present political and social development and Mongolia’s central government policy for nature conservation and green development. Additionally, she is a strong source of support and information for students’ Independent Study Projects.

Dr. Sanjaasuren is currently serving her fourth term in the Parliament of Mongolia. In addition to her duties as an MP, she is the head of the Civil Will Party, head of the Zorig Foundation, and president of the Mongolian Geological Association. She has also been elected president of the United Nations Environment Assembly.

Dr. Sanjaasuren received her BA and MA in geology in the former Czechoslovakia in 1987 and her PhD in earth sciences from Cambridge University in 1996. She started her professional career as a geologist in a Mongolian-Czech joint venture. She has also worked for a UNDP project and for Rio Tinto Ltd (UK). She is a former minister of foreign affairs and former vice speaker of the Parliament. She is one of the main initiators of anti-corruption legislation in Mongolia and is an avid advocate of education, democracy, and good governance. Dr. Sanjaasuren is one of the most prominent and well-respected women politicians in Mongolia. She was recognized as the Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in 2003.

Damba Ganbat, Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies of Mongolia

Damba Ganbat is the director of the Institute for Strategic Studies of Mongolia. He is advisor to the president of Mongolia on research and a member of the Board of the Minister of Foreign Affair of Mongolia. Ganbat earned his PhD in political science from the Mongolian Academy of Science. From 1999 to 2010, he was an executive director of the Academy of Political Education. Now he is the chairman of the board of the academy. He is also a board member of the National Public TV/Radio, secretary general of the Mongolian Political Science Association, and member of the Doctoral Dissertation Committee in Political Science.

From 1996 to 1999, he served as an expert in the Foreign Aid Coordination Unit at the Prime Minister’s Office of Mongolia. He was also a counterpart of the projects supported by Konrad Adenauer Foundation/Germany and TACIS/EU. He is currently a member of the Asian Barometer Survey working group in charge of Mongolia ( Under his management, ABS has been conducted four times in Mongolia since 2002.

He has published various articles examining democratization, democratic and authoritarian values, elections, political party development, and principles of foreign and security policy of Mongolia.

Dr. Ganbat delivers lectures for the thematic seminar focused on Mongolia’s present political and civil society development and on key studies on Mongolia’s democratization process. Additionally, he is a strong source of support and information for students’ Independent Study Projects.

Mr. Badruun Gardi

GardiMr. Badruun Gardi delivers lectures for the thematic seminars on the status of civil society in Mongolia and the urbanization process and discontent in ger (suburban) districts of Ulaanbaatar. He regularly advises students on their ISPs.

Badruun Gardi is the executive director of Zorig Foundation. He has previously served as the foundation's scholarship programs coordinator. Named after the leader of the democratic revolution of 1990, the late Zorig Sanjaasuren, the foundation aims to spread and strengthen democratic values in Mongolian society. Badruun is an adjunct fellow at the Urban Community Research Center for Asia at the Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan, and is a graduate of Stanford University, where he studied psychology and communication.

Ms. Onon Bayasgalan

BayasgalanMs. Onon Bayasgalan lectures on ecosystem-based climate change in Mongolia and adaptation strategies and water resource management policies.

Onon Bayasgalan works as a policy analyst at Wildlife Conservation Society, Mongolia. She holds a BA in environmental economics from Whitman College and a master's of environmental management in environmental policy from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She is interested in environmental policy in fields such as sustainable pasture management, air pollution, global environmental governance and climate change strategies. She has dedicated time to youth education on global environmental problems, both for young students in primary school and for young adults seeking to further their careers.

Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel, PhD

Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel teaches research methods, ethics, and research writing and has been working with SIT since 2015. She completed her PhD in environmental psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2007 and postdoctoral training in urban health at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health in Toronto, Canada, in 2008.

She has a strong interest in improving the lives and living conditions of vulnerable people such as those experiencing social, political, and health-related injustices. Dr. Schaefer-McDaniel’s research and evaluation career spans more than 10 years, during which she has worked on projects focusing on homeless adults, people with mental health and substance use problems, access to healthcare, disadvantaged children and youth, and people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. She has written extensively for a research and policy audience and co-edited a handbook on urban health research.

Dr. Schaefer-McDaniel consults and teaches at the American University of Mongolia and is a visiting adjunct professor at the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences, School of Public Health. In addition to her academic work, she also writes about expat life and is an editor for the website Tales of a Small Planet (

Mrs. Batjaviin Bayartuul, Mongolian Language Teacher, National University of Mongolia

BayartuulB. Bayartuul has been teaching Mongolian to SIT students since spring 2009. She graduated from the University of the Humanities (UH) as a teacher and translator of English. She holds an MA in linguistics from the National University of Mongolia (NUM). Currently, she is a PhD candidate at the same university. She has worked there a number of years as a Mongolian language teacher for international students.  

Her research work focuses on second language acquisition and lexicology. She also published two textbooks on Mongolian grammar and a dictionary of synonyms for foreign learners.

Ganbold Dashlkhagva, Mongolian Language Teacher, Mongolian State University of Education

DashlkhagvaDr. D. Ganbold has been teaching Mongolian to SIT students since fall 2012. He graduated from the teachers college in Arkhangai as a primary school teacher. He received his next BA in Mongolian language and literature from School of Khovd, the National University of Mongolia. In 2001, he got his PhD in Mongolian language and culture studies from the Institute of Language and Literature at the Mongolian Academy of Science. He has taught Mongolian language and literature in Khovd and the Mongolian State University of Education. His research work focuses on ancient and religious Mongolian literature, traditional Mongolian script, and Buddhist studies. He has authored over 40 articles that were published in Mongolian, Russian, and Chinese.

I am grateful for the two incredible homestay experiences in the capital city and the countryside. The surprising differences and similarities between the two settings provided for both academic and personal growth. In the steppe, I used my basic Mongolian language skills to learn how to ride a horse from a man who did not speak English. Later, with the help of an SIT field coordinator, I was able to learn about the man’s worldview and his attitudes toward social and technological changes affecting the capital city. Only with SIT Mongolia is such a unique blend of experiences possible.

Pierce Gendron, George Washington University

You will live with host families in urban and rural areas to experience the diversity of contemporary Mongolia. You will have the opportunity to 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 family Urban homestay in Ulaanbaatar (three to four weeks)

You will experience Mongolian middle-class urban life, practice your Mongolian language skills, and test your new cultural skills in the context of a family in Ulaanbaatar. Host families are often excellent sources of contacts and information for your Independent Study Project. 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, you will attend lectures and language classes at the SIT program center and visit important cultural sites throughout Ulaanbaatar.

Rural homestay (one to two weeks)

You will 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 and the mountains. You will typically work with and learn from the nomadic community, actively participating in a wide range of daily animal herding and household chores.

  • Central Mongolian plains. Central Mongolia is the land of the central Mongolian Khalkh people, Mongolia's largest ethnic group and nomads who move between five and ten times a year. The region includes open steppes with rolling hills and a semi-desert area. During this period, you will live in a ger, a transportable shelter made of felt and wood.

rural homestayHighlights of the nomadic homestay period include:

  • Engaging with community members involved in local politics
  • Discovering the influence of governmental policies on rural communities
  • Gaining firsthand perspective on herders' coping strategies with issues of desertification, climate change, and Mongolia's ongoing socioeconomic transformation
  • Teaching English to Mongolian students at area schools (may not be possible every semester)
  • Gaining insight into the nature of the tensions and relationship between rural communities and mining companies
  • Debating how changes in transportation, such as the motorcycle, can affect nomadic life and discussing the introduction of renewable energy technologies
  • Learning centuries-old traditions including nature conservation practices
  • Learning how to cook Mongolian dishes

During the nomadic homestay period, you will also work on your Research Methods and Ethics assignments and language skills, synthesizing new information within the frameworks presented through the thematic seminars.

The homestays were perfect for practicing Mongolian.

Program alum

A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Learn what some of them are now doing.

Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
  • Country Representative to Mongolia, Global Green Growth Institute, Mongolia
  • PhD candidate at Indiana University, Indiana
  • Fulbright Fellow, Mongolia

Program Dates: Spring 2017

Program Arrival Date:  Feb 20, 2017

Program Departure Date:    Jun 4, 2017

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   Nov 3, 2016

SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $12,910

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Introduction to Mongolian history
    • Mongolian life and culture
    • Geopolitics and development issues
    • Natural resource management 
  • Research Methods and Ethics course on research methods and Human Subjects Review
  • Language instruction in Mongolian
  • All educational excursions to locations such as Erdenet and historical and cultural sites in rural and urban areas of Mongolia, including all related travel costs
  • Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board: $2,590

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Ulaanbaatar), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
  • All homestays (up to four weeks in Ulaanbaatar and up to two weeks in a nomad camp, depending on local conditions)
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $ 160

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $ 120

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.


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SIT, 1 Kipling Road, PO Box 676, Brattleboro, VT 05302-0676
802 258-3212, 888 272-7881 (Toll-free in the US), Fax: 802 258-3296 

SIT was founded as the School for International Training and has been known as SIT Study Abroad and SIT Graduate Institute since 2007. SIT is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC) through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

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