November 12th, 2019
Name: John (Jake) Kennedy
Degree: Sustainable Development and a Minor in History
Graduation Year: 2016
Fellowship Award: 2019 - 2020 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to Mongolia.
What are your current or future career plans?
After my Fulbright grant, I hope to pursue a Masters in International Development and Rural Agriculture. Although I am teaching English here in Mongolia, my previous work experience and education are focused in agriculture, community engagement, and rural development. It is my hope to work for the UNDP, WWF, the EAP, or any number of NGOs related to capacity building in regards to working with self-reliance and agriculture.
What was a highlight of your experience in the program?
This whole experience has been a highlight of my life, honestly. The people I have met here, along with my co-workers, have been so nice, accommodating, and open to share their life with me. Fulbright Grantees in Mongolia are closely linked to the U.S. Embassy since Mongolia is a post country. As such, one of the biggest highlights of my time here happened last month. Two other ETA's (English Teaching Assistants) and I traveled with the U.S. Embassy to the western most provinces of Mongolia for a week-long outreach trip. During the program, we held example English classes, gave lectures on the American collegiate system and international English learning, and met with numerous NGOs and government officials to talk about what they were doing in the provinces. While we initially flew out, our travel from province to province was done in a Land Cruiser, covering unmarked, snow covered terrain. We traversed the Altai Mountains, moving from high desert to Steppe, and Steppe to snow-capped peaks. We were also able to enjoy local Kazakh cuisine and visit as many museums as possible! It was truly a remarkable experience, and we were able to see so much of the country that way. I have also been lucky enough to pursue learning the Horse Head Fiddle, the national instrument of Mongolia. Taking lessons has not only helped me practice the Mongolian language, but has also showed me a part of Mongolian culture I wouldn't have been able to be a part of otherwise. It is unlike any other instrument I have ever learned, but the process has been so rewarding. Lastly, as much of the country outside of Ulaanbaatar (the capital city) is herding ground, riding horses in the countryside is very accessible. I've been very lucky to be able to go horse riding almost every weekend. It has been a wonderful way to get in touch with the land, people, and culture!
What was the most challenging part of the application process?
The most challenging part of the application process was getting the essays just right. With only one page to solidify your grant proposal and personal statement respectively, there was a lot of information that needed to be succinctly and deliberately placed. I found you really need to be passionate about the position and country, or else it will show through your statements if you are not.
What advice do you have for future applicants?
Research, research, research! For a Fulbright grant, you are applying for a country and position specifically. If you are knowledgeable about the place and position for which you are applying, it will truly show. Have friends and colleagues read and re-read your essay statements, and have a very clear motive that showcases your intent to pursue your Fulbright Grant in your country. It can be a lengthy and arduous process, but it is a truly rewarding one, so take your time with it!
John (Jake) exploring an eagle hunting method that is still practiced in the western part of Mongolia.
John (Jake) and his students cooking banana pancakes for our international food day.
The department of Humanities at Mongolian University of Life Sciences where John teaches.
A Mongolian Ohvooh in Uvs Province near Russia. It is a shamanistic mound used to represent the Mountain's Spirit. Travelers walk around the pile three times. Each time placing another stone to the pile. This is done to ask for safe passage and travel.
A herd of Yaks on the Altai mountain pass, near the border of Kazakhstan and Russia.
A herdsman preparing his horses for a countryside ride.
Fulbrighters making Boortsog, a traditional Mongolian pastry.