Truly an “off the beaten path” location, choosing to intern in Mongolia not only means a vast and wild landscape that is still enchanted by traditional values, but also distinct and powerful internship opportunities. While interning abroad in Mongolia, a gem in the rough, you are likely to see the locals using horses and camels for transportation and herds of yaks, goats, cows, and sheep wandering the countryside. Also during your internship in Mongolia, you will have the thought-provoking opportunity to witness the tensions and balances between traditional ways of life and modernization as Mongolia walks enveloped in both worlds.
Mongolia is nicknamed the Land of the Blue Sky for its open spaces, as there is one square mile for each citizen. This space, however, is not an isolating emptiness as the culture highly values close, warm relationships and is considered hospitable and friendly.
Many of internships in Mongolia will be located in the capital of Ulaanbaatar. This ever-changing city that seemingly builds upon itself is bursting with creativity and color from its Mongolian cashmere boutiques to theatres to a pulsing nightlife. Sprinkled among the bustle of a huge city are monasteries and city parks that serve as tranquil havens. There are also three national parks within an hour two bus ride of the capital, and within these parks are sacred peaks, wild mountain ranges, herds of wild horses, and your fill of adventure sports.
You may also choose to intern with a nomadic tribe. In Mongolia, 40 percent of families are nomadic. You may live immersed in a lifestyle lost to history books, breathe the breath of wind, and taste the richness of the Mother Earth, that Mongolians so deeply honor. One of the wonders of Mongolia is the countryside, or steppe, which would be your backyard as you travel with a community and live in a collapsable gert (yurt). You would have the chance to wander near the Gobi Desert, famous for its findings of Dinosaur bones, in the south and to hear traditional Mongolian music, played on a Morin Khuur (a guitar-like instrument).
Internships in Mongolia
As a distinct country, it is understandable that internships in Mongolia are equally as distinct. Mongolia had a communist-like government that was overthrown in 1990 and for the last 24 years they have been building their focus on human rights, a market economy, democratic values, and a more widespread use of media. Mongolia also has very limited access to quality medical care for its citizens and has the challenge of serving a highly rural population. As the nation’s people work towards improving all of these systems, the talents and passion of international interns are needed more and more.
There are many internship opportunities in Mongolia in the fields of human rights, communications, journalism, teaching English, media, and medicine. Though Mongolia’s biggest industries are agriculture, livestock, and mining, so within nomadic placements, internships in livestock and agriculture are common.
The work culture of Mongolia values cleanliness and close relationships. Perhaps living in a land so wide open has given the locals an appreciation for human proximity. Regular physical touch, whether it be in a crowd or in the workplace, is a norm and having distance from others is seen as very sad. The word margaash, or tomorrow, preponderates the laid back culture of Mongolia. They say margaash, what we do not do today we will do tomorrow!
The official language of Mongolia is Khalkha Mongolian, however most internships in Mongolia will provide a translator for interns, and language proficiency is usually not a requirement of internships.
Costs & Affordability
While U.S. dollars and cards are accepted in the capital, you will need to use the local currency, called tugrik, everywhere else. Although Mongolia is a cheap place to live, there is an artificial inflation inflicted on foreigners. However, bargaining is an accepted and expected practice. If you land a paid internship in Mongolia, which is uncommon unless you are teaching English, you will make about $150 a month. This will break you even in expenses. However, most internships in Mongolia are unpaid and require you to pay program fees for placing you, assisting with housing arrangements, and helping with receiving college credit (if applicable). These fees should cover most of what you will need while in-country.
Accommodations & Visas
Homestays are the norm for internships in Mongolia, which gives you an authentic taste of everyday culture and lifestyle. If you did want to live solo, a night at a guesthouse (which provides food) would cost $15-20 USD. Suburban areas in Mongolia are an eclectic mix of modern homes and gerts.
The Mongolian government does require a visa to enter the country on business, which would include interning in Mongolia. To obtain a visa, you must have a passport that is valid for at least six months past your date of entering the country, a passport size photo, a letter of invitation from your receiving agency, an itinerary, and for students and anyone staying longer than three months, an AIDS test. If your stay is longer than 30 days, you must register with the Office of Immigration, Naturalization, and Foreign Citizens.
Be sure to consider if you will be crossing borders while interning abroad in Mongolia. The legendary Trans-Siberian Railway connects Ulaanbaatar with Moscow and Beijing and may be just too epic to pass up. If you will be travelling out of the country, make sure you obtain a transit visa so you can easily return to Mongolia.
Benefits & Challenges
Safety. Driving and traffic in Mongolia are considered hazards, and public transportation is risky. Crimes against travelers have been reported along borders and one should always ask for the credentials of policemen and cab drivers as tourists have been taken advantage of by fake authorities.
Health. Mongolia also has limited medical care so individuals who intern in Mongolia are advised to seek out of country assistance for any serious issues that may arise.
Language. Although the locals are considered very friendly and welcoming, language can be a barrier for interns in Mongolia. Mongolian is a difficult language to learn and English is not commonly spoken, although Russian, Chinese, Korean, and German are spoken by some Mongolians.
During your internship in Mongolia, you will lose yourself in the natural beauty and wild, open spaces, while learning from a culture that truly emphasizes harmony with Mother Nature. Mongolia is still off the radar of international traveler’s hot spot locations and will thus let you be somewhat of a pioneer during your internship abroad.
Through most internships in Mongolia, you will have the chance to help develop the growing infrastructure of Mongolia, a crucial part of building the nation. As you witness this growth and modernization, you will see how it coincides with the rooted traditional culture that makes Mongolia such a travel gem.