Noel Chapman - Law & Human Rights in Mongolia
“Why in the world are you going to Mongolia?” I was asked this question regularly. I mean, everyone that I ever told followed up immediately with this question, and honestly I didn’t really have a good answer. One of the reasons I had chosen this project was because I had to complete an international internship and the programme offered at Projects Abroad looked good. Most of the time I would just respond with, “Why not Mongolia?”
Travelling to Mongolia
As unsure as I was heading to Mongolia, Projects Abroad did a great job at trying to make me feel at ease with my first experience of international travel. I can’t tell you how many questions I emailed my advisor with, and he was nice enough to answer every one.
My international flight experience was full of language barriers, wondering around giant airports, stressful charades, and exhaustion. By the time I got to Ulaanbaatar, I was tired and overwhelmed and in dire need of a bed and a shower. The Projects Abroad sign accompanied by the wonderful Undarmaa was like a solid meal after a juice cleanse. It was really late by the time I got to my host family, but they welcomed me in, showed me my room, and I slept soundly.
My Human Rights placement
I was placed with a non-profit organisation called the National Centre Against Violence. They work towards ending domestic violence against women and children in Mongolia which entails legal and psychological counselling, shelters, policy reform, and awareness campaigns.
National Centre Against Violence is an incredible organisation, and I was happy to do whatever I could to help them with their work. I came in on my first day with Undarmaa who explained what I was going to do whilst I was there. My major responsibilities were to research funding opportunities for a legal reform project and an awareness campaign as well as some legal research.
I learnt so much through my work there, and the staff was kind and welcoming. There was only one person who spoke English in my first and last week with the NCAV, but I made an effort to communicate with my co-workers. Regardless, they included me the best they could and made sure I felt welcomed and prepared for my work. In combination with Undarmaa’s translating skills, I was able to fill out all of my forms that I needed to get credit at my university with no trouble at all.
My Mongolian host family
My host family was one of my favourite parts of my experience in Mongolia. The family was nice and checked with me regularly to make sure I had everything that I needed. Whether it was watching scary movies with my host sister or playing football with my host brother, I definitely felt like a part of the family.
My favourite experience with them was probably my very first weekend in Mongolia. My host Mum took me out to the countryside with her co-workers. We saw the Chinggis Khaan statue, and then drove out to a random spot in the countryside where we ate horhog, played volleyball, and sat in the middle of the gorgeous Mongolia countryside. It was such a great time, and everyone was very fun. I knew that the rest of my time in Mongolia was going to be good.
My free time
Another great part of my time in Mongolia was the time I spent with other volunteers. It was so great to relax with fellow English-speakers who were going through the same things that I was, not to mention had almost the same schedule as me.
Projects Abroad also held events which meant I was able to meet with others. I did so many fun things with people I would have never met otherwise. Some of my most memorable experiences were with other volunteers. For example we went climbing up the Zaisan Memorial toting a watermelon the whole way, going to the amusement park and screaming my head off on the rollercoaster, and going on a tour of the Mongolian countryside and being serenaded by our throat-singing tour guide. There were so many great times in Mongolia; even hanging out at my favourite café (Café 9), with people was so much fun.
So, why in the world did I go to Mongolia? Well folks, why not go to Mongolia?
Read more about Human Rights in Mongolia