"Twenty bright girls from five very interesting countries living together on campus, while sharing their stories and culture, was the best part of this program. This has really made us sisters that will never be separated. Traveling through the cities on the East Coast and visiting Ivy League universities has really inspired me. In general, my impression about the U.S. wasn’t really different from my expectations. But it was shocking to see that such powerful country like the U.S. has a lot of racism and gender issues. A woman who has the exact same job as a man gets less salary than the man, and there are very few women in the parliament." - Bulgansaikhan, 20 SFS, National University of Mongolia.
"This was the most unforgettable summer holiday that I’ve ever had in my life. Everything was new for me. It was the first time that I had ever been on an airplane and lived on an American college campus, especially with great women from five other countries. It was a great experience to learn about the American lifestyle, people’s viewpoints, and to learn about different cultures from our fellow participants. First it was so hard to break the ice. But we created very good friendships during the month." - Amarjargal, 18 Institute of Finance and Economics.
"I had an incredible opportunity to stay with a host family during my time in the U.S. through the SUSI program. Staying with a host family during two weekends allowed me to learn about simple American life style and their daily routine. Although playing golf, going to the beach and swimming, seeing the zoo, which was the first time for me, were definitely amazing, they were not the most important or memorable thing that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was the dinners that we had where we talked about the U.S. political system, the social security system and the attitude of most Americans of the view point of senior citizens that had the most impact on me and changed my mind." - Uemaa, 21 Mongolian University of Science and Technology.
"The landmarks, starting from three of the most photographed monuments in the U.S. -- the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial and the John Harvard monument -- to the sites related to women’s issues were all so impressive. If someone could ask what was your favorite city in America? I would answer Boston. When I was walking along the Freedom Trial in Boston, which is considered to be the one of the oldest cities in the U.S.A., visiting great historical places and taking many pictures of old architecture, the designs and colors of the buildings that have stood the trials of hundreds of years, I felt both inspired and impressed." - Tungalag, 21 SMLC, National University of Mongolia.
"For five weeks, we lived a dream that we hadn’t even dreamt about. At the same time we also had some sad moments, learning about the harsh realities that many face but many of us don’t know about. However, what we learned from this program has given us the inspiration to work to change these problems. We are all going to work hard to change and prevent unfair and ugly treatment of women in our own societies. Because we learned that wherever we are, women’s issues are universal and we are not alone in this battle. Our sisters around the world are also working hard to change their societies, sometimes at the risk of their lives.
A grant from the U.S. Department of State offered the opportunity for five of us from Mongolia and 15 other undergraduate women from four other countries -- Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Burma (Myanmar) -- to participate in a five-week immersion program focusing on women’s leadership. We arrived at Saint Mary’s College on June 16 and departed on July 20. Ten Saint Mary’s students served as mentors -- sharing residence hall rooms and attending classes and excursions with us.
The program included a week of educational travel to Chicago, Illinois; Boston, Massachusetts; Seneca Falls, New York; and New York City, New York, where participants visited
Ellis Island and the United Nations. It concluded in Washington, D.C., where students attended a conference at the State Department, toured Capitol Hill, and, met with women who are influential on a national level.
The moment that we found out that we have been selected for this program was like a dream. The same feelings came to us in different places at different times. But these same feelings united us to represent our beloved country at this truly international program and to represent the women of the world and their dreams and aspirations.
Every woman at this institute brought a unique perspective to the table, and being exposed to these different views was an awesome learning opportunity. As we heard the stories of these women and their cultures we saw the many values we share and many that were different. But understanding the values of others was the best part of the experience. Because, as we grew to be friends, their happiness and sadness have also become ours. During the Arab Spring, where revolutions followed one after another in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and other Arab countries, my friends witnessed great changes in their countries with the sacrifice of their family and friends. Monks were protesting silently to free the nation of Burma from dictatorship. Finally the country began making progress towards democracy and my friends are now freer. The stories they shared made us cry, because it has also became our story, women’s story.
Emotions… Where women are, there is always an abundance of emotions. Yes, we had days to cry and get upset over the problems around the world, but we also had so much fun sharing our goals and dreams while living a real American dream. We five girls from Mongolia had never experienced campus life before. So this was definitely the best part. Each Saint Mary’s student mentored two participants, shared a residence hall room and attended all classes and excursions with us. We also spent two weekends with South Bend-area host families so we could experience the American family lifestyle.
Other highlights of the College’s program were sessions by Saint Mary’s and guest faculty on understanding cultural identity, analyzing stereotypes, developing intercultural skills, addressing violence against women, women’s rights globally, and many more. There were also opportunities for volunteerism at one of five local agencies partnering with Saint Mary’s (St. Margaret’s House, the North Central Indiana YWCA, Hope Ministries, Sister Maura Brannick Health Center, and the Center for the Homeless). This really helped all of us to find out more about the part of United States, that we don’t see from Hollywood movies.
It was cool to find out about girls from different countries; at the same time getting to know about the other girls from Mongolia was the best part. We have become very good friends, and we worked on a project together to give what we learned back to the society. We cooperated with one of the NGOs in Mongolia that works for young women’s rights to create a photo exhibition about one day in the life of a teen-age mother." - Enkhbayar, 21 SFLC, National University of Mongolia.