Khishigjargal Enkhbayar (Class of 2018) reflects on conversations with fellow Scholars and bringing some Mongolian culture to the College:
Two young fish were swimming along and happen to meet an older fish, who greets them and says ‘How’s the water, boys?’ After a while, one young fish looks to the other and asks ‘What’s water?’
Sometimes in the middle of my conversations with Schwarzman Scholars, I ‘snap out’ of a dream state to appreciate being a Schwarzman Scholar, studying among the best and brightest at China’s top university. I have learned so much within the past five months here – more so than years of education combined – from the professors, meetings with officials, various travels and most of all – our fellow Scholars.
Growing up in Mongolia, a land of rich nomadic tradition mixed with a bustling urban landscape, you can imagine how different it is to study at Schwarzman College, a predominantly American program based in China. I thought that the three years I spent at a middle school in the US had prepared me for education abroad, but there were many unforeseen challenges ahead. For the first time, I am living in a dorm (which is like a palace), writing academic papers in English, partaking in largely discussion-based classrooms, and interacting with such high caliber young people. It is challenging, but I see it as a great opportunity from which to learn and develop my skills.
The fact that I am here in this different environment has made me aware of my ‘water’. Nuances in cross-cultural communication, strengths and weaknesses in our cognitive skills, differences in approaches to learning are all things of which I have become increasingly aware. I know this is probably not what you expect to hear, because supposedly we are already quite developed people, but I am exploring the Mongolian identity and what it means to be Mongolian. Being the only Mongolian in this year’s cohort means there are so many questions
‘Mongolia’ is something unique I can bring to the cohort, which is why I held a Master Class on Mongolian history, current socio-economic status, and travel. Prior to coming to the program I had already hosted 16 Scholars in Mongolia as part of their Trans-Siberian trip, and I am hoping to lead a trip to Mongolia at the end of the program. I have also been delving into Sino-Mongolia relations and the potential impact that the Belt and Road Initiative can have on Mongolia’s development. I will be returning home during the Winter break to do field work on that subject.
Aside from the intellectual journey at Schwarzman, I have been fortunate to physically travel with our fellows to some of the most iconic places in China. For our Deep Dive – a study trip organized by the College – I went to Suzhou, the Venice of Asia. Our small group had a chance to visit manufacturing facilities at Special Economic Zones as well as see the sights. Last week, I went to Qufu – the home of Confucius as part of our Chinese Culture and History class. It has been fascinating to learn about the leading Chinese school of thought, which has such a profound influence on current Chinese Politics. Trips to Shanghai and Pingyao (a 1000-year-old village) have given us a lovingly divergent view of this gigantic nation. On these occasional trips outside the College, we get to practice our Chinese with the taxi drivers, who are always enthusiastic about communicating with us.
The most fun and fulfilling times I have at the College are our live music performances. As a member of ‘Sushiyin’ – our College band, I get to spend time with extremely talented musicians during rehearsals and have fun performing on stage for our university students. So far we have performed at the Tsinghua University International Student Gala, as well as the Schwarzman Scholars Winter Formal. Singing and performing on stage are a happy continuation of my life back home, as well as a big part of our culture. I take delight in making people happy through my songs.
The staff at the College have been very helpful in helping our search for jobs. Career services at a College is something unheard of back home. I have yet to secure a job, but my prospects of working at an international company or organization are so much higher here than ever before. For the first time, I have considered working at internationally famous companies. Back home, people who work at Google and Amazon are considered celebrities, because they have achieved such a great feat. To be honest, at one point I was feeling sorry for myself because I lacked the opportunities for a good education that so many of the other Scholars have had, where they learned so many essential skills to operate on a global scale. However, upon hearing stories about some Scholars’ personal lives, I was humbled and realized that I should work harder and be more proactive, which are my goals for the second half of the program.
I now have more opportunities than I have ever had in my life. It is always unsettling to move out of our comfort zones, but that is how we learn something new, so I welcome it. I am happy to be able to learn so much and I am truly grateful for this unique, life-changing opportunity.