Nika is currently the only Mongolian student at Warwick. We spoke to the postgraduate to understand the importance of her heritage and how we can learn more about Mongolia.
How did you find out you were the only Mongolian student at the university? How did you react when you found out?
I was looking at the alumni list online and there was only one student from Mongolia. I asked my housemates to search for Mongolians on the campus, but they couldn’t find anyone else. They didn’t believe me at first, but apparently it was true. I reacted as I normally do, there are only a few of us Mongolians. There are some at other universities, like Manchester and Oxford, but often there are not.
Do you feel that being the only Mongolian student on affects your culture or identity?
Yes; definitely. I think I am not capable of expressing my culture wholly to other students all by myself. Most people know where Mongolia is, but they do not know in depth about the culture. When people meet me, they have hard time telling where I am from. Most of them they ask if I am Japanese or Kazakhstani. I think we are still portrayed as nomads living in a beautiful countryside, but most of us live in Ulaanbaatar, the fast growing metropolitan city. We are still having issues with pollution, traffic control and city planning, but I hope young people will make a change in a better way.
Do you feel it is difficult to explain to people where you come from? For those who might not know the background of Mongolia, would you mind explaining?
It is interesting rather than difficult. We have a very rich culture and amazing history. Starting from vast untouched lands like the Gobi desert with an amazing collection of dinosaur remains, to throat singing, unique musical instruments and the language, there are tons of things to talk about when discussing Mongolia. I am always enthusiastic to have a nice conversation with people who are genuinely interested. I should say that there are many things I do not know, but I am still exploring Mongolia myself, it is truly an interesting country. In particular, the art and history of my country fascinates me.
What would be your advice to students who are looking to learn more about Mongolia?
Most history books contain part that has information about Mongolia, because Mongolian history is a world history. So I suggest students to find those books. Secret history of Mongolia is very interesting, it is written similarly to Irish sagas. Also try listening to traditional music on youtube, especially throat singing. I personally prefer some Mongolian rock music. There is a Beatles monument in Ulaanbaatar, we built it there as a reminder of change to democracy. During the communist period, youth used to secretly listen to western bands; music was a big influence to the people of my parents age. Lastly, you can travel to Mongolia and see everything by yourself. We have great music festivals during June or July, similar to Coachella or Glastonbury, but of course its pretty small scale compared to them. You can travel to nature or go by Trans Siberian railway and experience the nomadic lifestyle.
Do you have any advice for Mongolian students looking to come to Warwick?
I feel that Warwick is a wonderful university with all the things we need to study. The staff is highly qualified and students are nice and easygoing. I would say to make the most of the opportunity and be an active student. Perhaps, in the future, we can open a Mongolian society to educate others on the country and promote our country.