Mongolia: Geopolitics and the Environment
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"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:
Erdenet (3–4 days)
In Erdenet, Mongolia’s second-largest city, students 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, students visit Amarbayasgalant Monastery, one of the largest and most beautiful Buddhist monasteries in Mongolia. It is considered a sacred cultural landscape. Students meet the monastery’s small but thriving Buddhist community, attend their morning or evening ritual chanting, and may have the chance to play soccer with the lamas.
Sainshand, Khamryn Hiid/Khamar Monastery (3–4 days)
Students 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. Students 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. Students conduct in-depth interviews with individuals who have devoted their lives to Khamryn Khiid restoration endeavors. Students 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. Students 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. Students meet officials from the provincial government who can shed more light on geopolitical issues around this area.
Additional religious centers and sites
Mahayana Buddhism is increasing its popularity alongside Islam, Christianity, and Shamanic practices. Lectures at and excursions to various religious centers and sites help students find themselves in the midst of a religious re-emergence that is taking place in Mongolia following the transition from a Communist government to a democracy in the early 1990s.
Field excursions to Mongolian nature sites, combined with formal lectures and seminars, expose students to the environmental challenges and threats Mongolia is facing in relation to increased globalization. Students meet with policymakers, environmental NGO activists, and leaders of grassroots movements who are opposing destructive mining operations to protect Mongolia’s natural environment.
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Ulaanbaatar
Language Study: Mongolian
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