Imagine for a moment that you are in a foreign country. Not only are you in an environment that it entirely new to you, but your there to study, to excel in a college environment while adapting to all the new cultural aspects of your new home. Now imagine doing it alone.
This was the exact situation University of Utah Mongolian Alumni Association president Onon found herself in when she first began attending the university during her undergraduate career.
“When I was here it was difficult for me to focus on my studying with everything else. I had a hard time finding that balance early on, but having been lucky enough to go through that experience, I want to share that with new students to help them go through that in a faster and more efficient way,” Onon said. “When I first came here I wasn’t entirely sure what to do, where to go, how to do certain things, with English being my second language, so it was really challenging for the first few semesters.”
Enter the Mongolian Alumni Club, a new program that Onon along with a few of the other U of U Mongolian alumni have put together in order to facilitate not only continued contact between international Mongolian graduates, but also to aid new Mongolian students entering the university.
The University of Utah Mongolian Alumni club was just formed in August 2014. Onon is currently the president with two additional board members having joined the association. Currently all of the Mongolian University of Utah alumni are working outside of the state except for Onon, who graduated with a business degree in 2011.
Right now there are about 14 international Mongolian students at the University of Utah, with a similar number of alumni having already graduated. However, that number is likely to grow significantly in the coming years thanks in large part to the partnership between Mongolia and the university.
“When I was here at the U of U it was only myself and one other guy studying mining and engineering, so it’s just been amazing to see how quickly the number of Mongolian students coming here has grown. The number has doubled in just the last year or two alone,” Onon said. “We’re hoping that more will come, and as president of the Mongolian Alumni Club, I’m just trying to ensure that everyone is keeping in touch to be a good resource for the new students, including those who are still trying to come to the university.”
For Onon, one of the biggest goals for the Mongolian Alumni Club has been to just be a resource for the Mongolian students who are on campus as well as the families of those who are considering coming here. One example she gave was of a call she received from a parent of a student who would be coming to the University of Utah from Mongolia. He found her through LinkedIn and asked to meet with her and go over the benefits and ease the transition for the student to study here. She was able to talk him through everything making the student’s transition to international study significantly easier, while easing their parents’ concerns at the same time.
“Mongolia has a really good relationship with the University of Utah through the mining program thanks to the Kennecott copper mines, so they send a lot of students here. So as an alumni club, we’re trying to be the first contact for upcoming students. We want to be a good resource and keep the connections moving,” Onon said. “With most of our alumni and board members not here in the state it has been kind of difficult to organize something with them, so what we’re trying to do moving forward is to arrange meetings with all of the Mongolian students here along with any others who would like to join the club.”
Onon said that when she was initially contacted by the international office who told here about the additional Mongolian alumni who had graduated from the University of Utah she was completely surprised, as she had only ever known one other Mongolian student during her time as a student.
“I was really surprised, and personally I would love to get to know these people,” Onon said. “I think for me, something like this would have really helped me if I had known about it while I was still a student so I could have reached out to them, asked for any helpful experience or stories if I needed help with anything. So I think just having a club like this is going to help invite more students to come to the University of Utah where they can get a good degree at a good school and help each other out.”
Ideally, looking towards the future, Onon said she would love to be able to bring some of the other Mongolian alumni back to the university to meet with them and have them engage with the current Mongolian students, but for now, she’s happy to just provide a stable resource for those students as they pursue their studies.
For more information about the Mongolia Alumni Club: