Wyo students return from Mongolia
From the rural counties of Wyoming to the rustic countryside of Mongolia, 10 Wyoming students spent a majority of their summer becoming world travelers.
A group from across the state and a few other parts of the country just returned from a month-long tour in Mongolia led by UW adult sponsors including 4-H Youth Specialist Warren Crawford and UW 4-H Volunteer Management Specialist Kim Reaman. The two adult participants in the trip were Erin Sinclair and Elizabeth Barlow, while Wyoming’s youth participants included Rebel Rauterkus from Freedom, Jed Christensen of Alta, Thomas Schaffer from Pinedale, Melanie Whitmore of Bear River, Elizabeth Barlow of Gillette, Alanna Elder from Laramie, Kristy Armstrong of Lyman, Jessica Grant from Glenrock, Wyatt Slagowski of Farson and Zachary Anderson of Thermopolis.
“The overall purpose of the trip was to provide cultural experience and to expose youth from the United States to another way of living. We introduced them to a different culture with an emphasis all of the things that we could learn from them and how we might grow from the experience. It really revolved around the whole idea of developing global citizens,” says Reaman.
The participants on this trip worked hard for the opportunity to travel abroad and went above and beyond expectations to earn their trips.
“The kids first did a written application process, then we interviewed them over the internet with Skype chat. It was as close to face-to-face interviews that we could do, since the members were spread out over such a vast area,” says Reaman.
After the selected students were announced they began preparing for their month-long excursion around the world for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The group left the country on June 15 for their four-week trip and returned July 15. The trip was broken into different sections over the four weeks.
During the first week the students were given the opportunity to meet Mongolian students who were relatively close in age and would share the experience.
“The first week we took part in language lessons. The American students took part in Mongolian lessons and the Mongolian students were learning English. We also had lessons in cultural differences, and learned that the little things really could have a big difference,” explains Reaman.
After a week in the capitol city the group parted ways as the students headed out to spend two weeks with host families across Mongolia.
“Each American youth was matched up with a Mongolian ‘sibling’ who was of the same gender and within a year or two of their own age. We also tried to match their interests and personality types,” adds Reaman.
Staying with host families offered a more in-depth and hands on experience for the members, she notes.
“During the host family stay we really got to experience what it is like to live in another place and get a hands-on feel for their culture,” explains Reaman.
The trip provided the participants with not only the opportunity to view the world, but also with educational value.
“The educational emphasis of the trip was really on the environment, including land reclamation around mining sites, water quality and renewable resources,” says Reaman.
As the trip came to a close, the group reunited to recount their individual experiences and a final opportunity to experience the country of Mongolia.
“The last week we came back together as a group and did some more cultural things. This gave us the opportunity to reflect upon our experiences and discuss all of the things we had learned and participated in,” adds Reaman.
The group utilized their hands-on experiences to better themselves and be educated about how problems that are faced here in Wyoming can be recognized on a global scale, she says.
“Being a global citizen will help these youth out in the future, because it really is such a small world. It can affect how they view work relations to global pollution – issues that may seem exclusive to Wyoming, but are really global issues,” says Reaman.
The exchange program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by UW’s 4-H Youth Development Program. It includes a three-year grant whose future depends on funding availability, and the 4-H program will have to reapply for the grant.
“We plan on taking another trip to Mongolia next summer so more students can experience this cultural exchange. We are hopeful that we will have even more Wyoming students participate next year,” says Reaman.
The grant does not specify whether or not the students have to be 4-H members, and is open to any interested applicants within the grant’s other qualifications.
“The grant is administered by the Wyoming 4-H Program but the only real requirements for the grant are that the youth are between the ages of 15 and 17, have at least one semester of high school left and are United States citizens. About two-thirds of the members on this trip were 4-H members,” explains Reaman.
The UW specialists are hopeful that in the coming years the popularity of the program will grow and more students from Wyoming will participate. This year the program also took students from other states.
The UW 4-H program will again take applications next year. All interested youth are encouraged to contact the state office for more information about the trip.