Deel Day

What It’s Like to Co-op in the Heart of Mongolia

The United States is considered the most influential country in the world. One could make the argument that this directly correlates with the growth in popularity of the english language globally. In fact, many international students now learn English as part of their regular academics. Northeastern Global Co-op even provides opportunities for our students to teach English abroad. Meet Cameron Clark, a second year linguistics student, who is pursuing a minor in psychology and in speech language pathology. Cameron is currently on his first Co-op as an English teacher, working for Santis Educational Services in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Cameron knew linguistics was a perfect choice for his major because of his experiences throughout middle and high school with Latin, Spanish, and French. Learning foreign languages became his passion:

“When I was in middle school, I was forced to choose between studying Latin, Spanish, or French. I chose Latin, and I quickly fell in love with language learning as a whole, as I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what makes languages work. In high school, I picked up classes in Spanish and French while maintaining my course in Latin, and I haven’t stopped studying languages since.”

Going abroad for a Co-op made sense to Cameron. He has always wanted to travel as much possible, with a goal of eventually seeing almost every country. Teaching english can be done in almost any country, but Mongolia attracted Cameron, as it gave him a chance to go to a challenging country while still young:

“I figured Mongolia would be a challenging place, and boy was I right. Mongolian is a difficult language to learn, and very few people here speak English. However, you can mostly get by with gestures, and if I need to do something more complicated, I’ll enlist the help of one of my Mongolian friends.”

Santis recently celebrated its 20th birthday. Photo courtesy of Cameron Clark

A normal day at Santis involves teaching English to a class of about ten people, or tutoring a student one-on-one. Every class is taught by one native English speaker and one Mongolian teacher – the native speaker’s job is to get the students speaking, and interacting in English; the Mongolian teacher’s job is to teach the students about reading, writing, and grammar. According to Cameron, most of the work is done on site, but they also have contracts with other schools and companies, where they send teachers to work for the day. For example, soon a few of the teachers will go to a mining site in the Gobi Desert for three weeks to do a crash course with some of the miners.

During his time at Santis, Cameron plans to start a pen-pal program between his students in Mongolia and students in the United States:

“When I was in elementary school, we had a similar program with kids in Mexico, and as a child from the ethnically homogenous state of New Hampshire, I thought it was so cool to speak with someone from a totally different culture! I actually got in touch with my former fifth grade teacher in New Hampshire, who still works at the elementary school I attended, and we will be running the program with her.”

Working for Santis has been a fulfilling experience for Cameron. His favorite part so far has been learning how to teach and interacting with the students. Santis is a private school which solely teaches English, so all of the students are very eager to learn and excited to come to class every day. That makes it a lot more enjoyable for him as a teacher (not to mention, much easier).

During his free time on the weekends, Cameron will go out to eat with other expats:

“There are a number of nearby pubs that we like to go to at night. There’s even a pub in the British embassy called the Steppe Inn that the Santis’ co-founder, Andrew, invites us to every Friday night. It’s a good place to meet other expats and they occasionally have trivia nights.”

Lake Khovsgol. Photo courtesy of Cameron Clark.

While in Mongolia, Cameron had the opportunity to travel to Lake Khovsgol. He, along with four of his coworkers, rented a van and drove to the lake to spend three nights. Lake Khovsgol is Mongolia’s second-largest lake and its deepest, with some parts reaching over 850 feet deep. It also holds 2 percent of the world’s fresh water and stretches about 90 miles from top to bottom. They spent three nights there, sleeping in a ger (a traditional one-room home), eating home-cooked food with a Mongolian family, riding on horseback through the mountains in -20 degree weather, and sledding around the lake while being pulled by a horse.

Cameron plans to go to graduate school for a masters in communication science and disorders after his time at Northeastern. However, because of his experience on a global Co-op, he may spend a few years traveling and teaching English first:

“There is a very high demand for English teachers all over the globe, and especially in Asian countries. I think taking a break from school and seeing more of the world will be enjoyable and relaxing before committing to grad school.”