Dear Wellesley: Elisabeth Clemmons ’20 Writes from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
The next note in our 2018 Summer Postcard Series comes from Elisabeth Clemmons ’20, who writes from Ulaanbaatar, the captial of Mongolia, where she has a journalism internship at the UB Post sponsored by the Elisabeth Luce Moore ’24 Internships in Asia. Check out the Wellesley College Instagram account to follow her on her journey.
Sain baina uu? This means “Hello!” in Mongolian.
It’s been approximately six weeks since I first arrived in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, for my eight-week journalism internship at the UB Post. Life here has been fast-paced and full of surprises, and I’m enjoying every second. In my Luce internship personal statement, I wrote about how rather than simply reconnecting with my Asian heritage, I wanted to establish new roots. I think I have achieved that goal.
The office of the UB Post is about a 10-minute walk from my apartment. Our office is small, around seven people. As an intern, my primary tasks in the office are to pitch around five to seven articles a week and write the stories that are approved. Occasionally, I will assist in editing other articles, especially those that have been translated from sister Mongolian-language newspapers. I also conduct interviews, attend events, and do research. If I’m not meeting with someone or covering a specific event, you can find me working in various cafés throughout the city.
I’ve had incredible opportunities at this internship. One of my recent articles involved the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). I not only had the honor of interviewing the UNFPA Mongolia representative, Naomi Kitahara, but I additionally got to meet and interview Björn Andersson, the UNFPA Asia-Pacific regional director. We mainly discussed feminism, and specifically how progressive family planning policies decrease domestic violence, a major issue in Mongolian society. With Andersson, in honor of the 2018 Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction that was held in UB, we also covered the need for gender sensitivity in initiatives that reduce disaster risk.
It was an eye-opening interview, and I felt it was especially relevant to my education at Wellesley, emphasizing not just women’s rights but empowerment through education, a fundamental philosophy of liberal arts.
When I’m not working, I’m hanging out with friends and generally just exploring the city. I’ve met people from all over the world—Peace Corps volunteers, expats from Australia, Japanese translators, etc. Of course, I’ve also met many Mongolians, some of whom are also studying in the USA. We go to events together and frequently hang out on Light Street, a street closed to cars with food trucks, performances, and places to go dancing.
The best part of Ulaanbaatar (or any city, really) is the hidden places, or its general quirks. UB certainly has a lot of them. For example, I’m pretty sure there are shopping malls literally every 10 feet. There are no McDonald’s whatsoever in Mongolia, but there are plenty of KFCs and Circle Ks. And finally, UB adores the World Cup. The city is littered with flag banners, and there are giant tents for watching it on the big screen.
As my internship is starting to wind down (already!), I’m reflecting on how much I’ve grown both professionally and personally. I now have a decent-sized portfolio of writing on subjects I’d never imagined I’d cover. I’ve learned how to conduct good interviews. I’ve figured out how to really find meaningful leads for stories. But most importantly, I’ve gained a lot of confidence in myself. From navigating day-to-day interactions in a language I don’t know to establishing a support network, I’ve learned how to adapt and make the most of my time.
I’ve had so many great professional opportunities and met so many amazing people. I’m already considering returning to Mongolia one day. When I return to Wellesley in the fall of 2019, I can’t wait to share the little bit of Mongolia that I will bring back with me. I think I’ve definitely created new roots beyond reconnecting to my Asian heritage, and I hope that I’m one step closer to being a true citizen of the world.
Daraa ulzii! (See you later!)