Back home I live in a small suburban city in Warren, Michigan in the United States of America. I’ve recently graduated from Michigan State University with my Bachelors of Sciences in Biomedical Laboratory Sciences. I’m a pre-med student and currently in a gap year before pursuing more education.
During this gap year, I wanted to do some volunteering to build a stronger resume to fulfill my future goals of getting into medical school. In order to get into medical school, you have to have so many hours of shadowing physicians and this is where my journey with Projects Abroad in Mongolia began.
Projects Abroad Mongolia was my first choice because I’ve always been curious about the culture of this small group of Asians called the Mongolians. I’m Asian American, Hmong specifically. Hmong is also a small Asian group that most people have never even heard of. Unlike Mongolians, we don’t have our own country. Many of my people originated from China, Thailand, or Laos. It is pronounced “Mong”, and many people have asked if I was from Mongolia and I’ve always replied, “I’ve never even met one Mongolian in my whole life!”. I wanted to come here to experience the difference between Mongolian culture and Hmong culture and see what this country and its mysterious people were all about.
My Medical placement
My placement was in a medical project at Central Railway Hospital in the capital city Ulaanbaatar. I shadowed three mentors there who were all medical surgeons. Physicians in America are really intimidating so I expected them to be the same but they were the funniest, friendliest, most laid back doctors I’ve ever met. Their curiosity for the English language was also inspiring to me and their talent in what they do amazed me every day I was there.
I was put into the surgery department where I was able to watch operations being performed. It was so exciting because in my first thirty minutes in the hospital they rushed me into the surgery room where a patient was being cut open right in front of me! I would have never thought I would have the chance to experience anything that surreal in my life as a pre-med student.
I also watched them do cholecystectomies and fix patients with conditions such as varicoceles and so on.
I was also in put in the Emergency Department on some days. It was very different from Emergency Departments in the United States. For example, there were usually an average of three patients a day and they were taken care of as if they were an inpatient. Many of them stayed at the hospital overnight until they were better whereas in the United States, patients were brought in and sent home a couple of hours later. I was able to assist the nurses with weighing the patients and taking their blood pressure and pulses.
My Mongolian host family
While I was in Ulaanbaatar, I stayed with a host family. On my very first day of arriving in Mongolia, I had learned that they gave up their only one bedroom for me to stay in while all six members of the family slept in the living room. I was so humbled by this wonderful gesture. My host family instantly took me in and treated me like I was part of the family. My oldest host brother would walk me places and cook for me and my host mother would make my bed and fold my clothes. I actually felt like I’ve been part of this family my whole life.
On my last day in Mongolia, my host father gave me the biggest hug and said to me that no matter what, if I ever come to Mongolia or have friends that visit; that I should go straight to their home and their front door will always be open for me. Mongolia has taught me a lot about the love of family and lasting relationships.
The volunteer experience
One of the most valuable things for me on my short trip in Mongolia was the volunteers. I’ve met people from France, England, Switzerland, Netherlands, Korea, and more. These people are outstanding to me because they want more out of life than an ideal average person. They see that it’s a big world with many opportunities and they’ve come here to experience that and they do it with an open mind. My friends that I’ve made see a purpose in life and they seek out to fulfill that purpose.
I’ve never met so many people with such big dreams and big hearts. We talked about our life experiences and our thoughts of society and shared what we want in life. There was never a dull moment with them. I’ve found friends I can have for life because of the things we experienced in Mongolia together and it’s a big bonus that whenever I travel to these places one day, they will be there with open arms.
Overall my experience in Mongolia was more than I could have asked for. I’ve got to do things I’ve never done and see things I’ve never seen. It was definitely a part of the world that I’m glad I’ve got to experience. It’s taught me a lot about life and how big the world is, and how many opportunities we have in our short lifetime.
My trip to Mongolia has taught me to be fearless and to jump into situations with an open mind and it’s taught me confidence in whom I am as a person. And most of all, I’m humbled by everything I was able to do while I was here. It reminded me that God definitely has a big purpose for all of us, and if we just open our eyes a little bit, we will be able to see the wonderful things he’s made for us to enjoy. I know I’m enjoying my purpose.
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This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. To find out more about what you can expect from this project we encourage you to speak to one of our friendly staff.