My name is Naranbulag Khukhuu, a recent Fulbright alumni, I completed my master’s degree in law from the John Marshall Law School, in Chicago, in 2012 and I’m delighted to share my experience and memories of my Fulbright period in the United States with you. I want to emphasize that aspiring to a vision of achieving an international understanding and fraternity through the exchange of people, knowledge and skills, Fulbright is a marvelous program because its benefit extends not only to individual, but also to their states, even in broader sense, to the entire world. It provides invaluable academic, life, and cultural experiences to an individual, makes a great educational investment to a state, and fosters friendship and peace in the world. My Fulbright experience broadened my global perspective and expanded my intellectual and practical boundaries in many aspects, such as knowledge, network of friends and partners, individual manner and life, and cultural experience. The time I spent at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, left a stronger and more lasting impression on me than my earlier study stint in Delhi University, in India, perhaps because of Fulbright. It’s hard to choose which one of my many wonderful memories to share. So, I will share a few fondest ones.
The Fulbright program is unique…
The Fulbright program has expanded to more than 155 nations since its inception and thus has become the most diverse international educational exchange program. As such, diversity and the aim of mutual or international understanding between nations is a special feature of the program.
I embarked on my Fulbirght and my U.S. adventure from New Orleans, a southern city of the U.S. where I did my pre-academic course at Tulane Law School, then I shifted to Chicago, the third largest city in the U.S. to complete my degree. During my stay in these two cities and several events in other cities, I met with more than 300 fellow Fulbrighters from around 100 countries and made lifelong friends with most of them. The most impressive and unforgettable memory is the Enrichment Seminar in Philadelphia, organized by IIE and the U.S. Department of State. More than 140 fellow Fulbrighters from 74 countries gathered in this historic and colonial city of the U.S. The seminar aimed to introduce the U.S. political procedure and culture to foreign Fulbrighters and to strengthen the mutual understanding and friendship between people of the U.S. and foreign countries. I felt like I was in the United Nations. I came into contact with peers from Argentina to Japan, from South Africa to Northern Ireland, UK. I wasn’t even familiar with some countries. For instance, I made friends with a Fulbrighter from European nation of Andorra, which has a population of 85,000, yet $58,000 GDP per capita, an amount 20 times more than that of Mongolia. The seminar included lectures, panel discussions, site visits, interactive workshops, community engagement and home stays with American families. We exchanged views, shared our cultures, toured around, played and hung out together. After all, the truth I found is that we all, as human beings, are alike and the best understanding is achieved informally over a coffee table rather than formal or diplomatic events. Because, as someone simply said, we think differently, but we all have the same feelings.
My Fulbright experience would have been incomplete had I not attended those activities and events that involve excellent alumni, eminent scholars, skillful professionals, notable leaders and politicians. The Fulbright program, with support of the U.S. government formally or informally organizes numerous events and activities through its alumni, community, and scholars. During the Philadelphia Enrichment seminar, I chanced to meet an energetic constitutional lawyer Linda Mock, who is a White House public servant and was a keynote speaker of the seminar and also a classmate of President Barack Obama at Harvard. Along with other Fulbrighters, we engaged in fruitful dialogue with Ms. Mock about our constitutions, election systems, countries and cultures. Our chat lasted from 8pm to 2am at the 30th floor’s roof library of beautiful Loews Hotel. Ms. Mock, during our introduction, said that indigenous Americans maybe related to Mongolians, and her granddad is American Indian, so she could have Mongolian blood. She compared her nose to mine. No matter true or false, I felt proud of our rich history. Other fascinating conversation was when we exchanged our views about "Rule of Law." As a law student, I asked Ms. Mock "When do you consider that rule of law is well established in any particular society or country?" She answered "Rule of law would be considered well established only when every single citizen follows and strictly abides the law even if he or she views that her/his right is being violated by that particular law. Because law is law." It was the best articulation of the concept I ever heard. I realized that this is a key principle of the law-abiding society of the United States, very simple!
A little bit about academic and student life…
My education was enriched both in and outside the classroom. As we all are aware, there are certain features and differences in the U.S. universities or education system as compared to that of Mongolia and other countries.
Distinguished teaching methods, well qualified faculty, rich resources, facilities and learning environment, strict plagiarism policies and heavy course loads. Among all this, an impressive feature I experienced was the Socratic method, a teaching method employed especially in law schools of the U.S. Under the Socratic method, students learn by answering
the guiding or challenging questions of the professor, by hearing opinions of others and debating among themselves. For this, pre-class reading is a must, and if one doesn’t read and prepare for the class, it would be hard to understand the class and a waste of time. In class, students are called on by the professor with questions about the reading and the class continues with a long discussion, debate and jokes. It’s real fun to attend class and when reading isn’t done, it’s a nightmare. In the Socratic method, it’s not necessary to have only one correct answer, there could be more than one. One of my friends from Germany was complaining that "I wanna know my mistakes, whenever I or someone else in this class says something, the professor always says I’m or he/she is correct. Exactly whose answer is the correct one?" During the entire year, a piece of paper with our names, photos and corresponding seats was on the professor’s table so that professor would call on us during class. In one class where most students were foreigners who were unfamiliar with the Socratic method and had not done the reading assignment, the professor called on us one by one and nobody answered. In the end, he sarcastically and jokingly said "Who is the next "victim," you had nothing to say, you could call on someone else in the class whom you dislike and pass on the question" so funny.
I now realize that I learned a lot from my classmates, apart from the professors, and learned to think critically. The Professors guided and mentored us but they hardly tried to impose ideas or particular views on us. We were given freedom of expression, and they encouraged independent thinking.
I like that professors are very passionate in their classes and approachable, and I loved our treasure-like library, wonderful staff, and campus environment. Without all these, I couldn’t have done better.
Figuring out the 17th century’s judicial cases written in "horrible" English, dealing with complicated online and electronic reading resource system for my research, doing volumes of reading, learning time management, having a tight schedule were all challenges. Nevertheless, social and cultural mingling with community and "Thank God It is Friday" parties with friends were extremely fun and de-stressing.
A little bit about the U.S. society…
The U.S. society is multicultural. Diversity, pluralism, voluntarism, respect for individual rights, mutual trust, creativity and dynamism are the beauty of this society.
What left a deep impression on me was respect for others and gestures of politeness. It’s reflected on everything in their daily life, from government service to personal interaction with others. Helping a stranger on the street, smiling at a passerby, holding the door open for the person behind, and constant expressions of "thank you" or "excuse me" are the common manner of Americans. Unfortunately, it’s not culture and habit yet in Mongolia. When I was riding a historic "street car," a kind of train in New Orleans, at the final destination the driver/operator got off the train to switch shifts, every passenger in the train simultaneously said "thank you so much" and then when the driver for another shift got on the train he turned back and said "Hi everyone, how are you?" It sounded unusual to me for the first few months.
Other aspects of American culture that impressed me were their spirit of giving, commitment to helping others and volunteerism. It seems they have permeated all strata of society. My neighbor who is from a poor family in suburban Chicago would always contribute something, at least even old T-shirt or bra to any clothes donation campaign despite her economic situation. Any average American promotes volunteering, whether it’s for a local community improvement activity, an environmental activity or even for a political campaign and also positively responds to appeals for funds, whether it’s for the homeless, heritage or animal welfare. I realize that helping fellow human beings is always a pleasure to them and society exists in that way.
And finally, I personally observed that Americans live on mutual trust and law-abiding principles.
A little bit about Chicago…
I enjoyed being a resident of the "Windy" city Chicago. The deep sense of diversity, the tidy and well organized streets, beautiful Lake Michigan, Millennium Park, the Navy Pier, Barack Obama and Michael Jordan’s houses, Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, the Lincoln Park Zoo, museum campuses, and great theatres have left a strong, lasting impression on me. Cheering on the Chicago Bulls at the NBA playoffs and the Black Hawks at the NHL playoffs was fun too. I will miss blues and jazz music, renowned deep-dish pizza, jiborita, shopping malls on North Michigan Avenue, and, of course, my law school.
Looking ahead, my vision for MASA is that as a hub of excellent individuals it should engage in new initiatives and projects more actively.
The label "Fulbright" opens doors and hearts to you; many strangers would strike up a lively conversation with you and talk to you like your old friend simply because he or she shares the strong bond of Fulbright experience with you. My Fulbright experience was incredible. I would encourage others to experience it as well and to become a bridge of friendship between societies and cultures.
Thank you to all staff working for the Fulbright program. Cheers!