Mongolia: Geopolitics and the Environment


"The homestays were perfect for practicing Mongolian."

—Program alum

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.

  • 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 steppe with rolling hills and a semi-desert area. During this period, students live in a ger, a transportable shelter made of felt and wood.
  • Northern Mongolia. The northern part of the country is a remote mountainous area containing forests; it has a different climate and environmental influences from the central region. For part of the year, nomadic families in the north live in wooden structures, and some of them herd reindeer. The region is home to the Buriad, Darkhad, and other ethnic groups. In Buriad areas, students will observe similarities to Russian culture. 

Highlights of the rural 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

During the rural homestay period, students also work on their Research Methods and Ethics assignments and language skills, synthesizing new information within the frameworks presented through the thematic seminars.

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Ulaanbaatar

Language Study: Mongolian

Prerequisites: None


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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