I worked for MNB World in Ulaanbaatar for three weeks now and it’s safe to say that it was really worth it. I was assigned to a lovely host family who took great care of me all the way through the internship. Although they were required to prepare only breakfasts and dinners, I was basically constantly fed by them during my entire stay. They were very hospitable and always made sure I am not hungry which was a great gesture on their part. Furthermore, they took me to trips around the city, and one weekend we even drove to Terelj National Park with their extended family!
Whilst living in Mongolia, food was definitely one of the main issues I had to get used to. Mongolian cuisine is heavily reliant on meat (although Mongolians constantly eating horse meat is a myth), so if you are a vegetarian it could be a real challenge to make it through. Fruits and vegetables are easily available in the shops, so that’s a way to bypass this issue. When reading about Mongolia before my trip, I thought that people’s complaints about food were petty. Soon I realised that it could be a genuine problem for someone who is more picky than myself. So definitely take that into consideration, if you are not too flexible in terms of food. Also, there are some European restaurants downtown, but they are significantly more expensive than the local restaurants.
The internship itself allowed me to experience many strands of journalist work. Some days were slow and involved office work (helping with the social media, editing texts for the news anchors, etc.), but I personally really enjoyed the ones when we went out with the news team in the field. I was very lucky, as my internship coincided with MNB World preparing videos about tourist attractions in, and outside of, UB. This meant I got to take part in many activities, such as horse riding, rock climbing or ATV driving, and prepare a programme about them. And although this was probably a one-off opportunity, the team definitely was doing their best to involve me in as many interesting things as possible.
It is also important to note MNB World’s mission, which is to PROMOTE Mongolia, rather than to REPORT on what is happening in the country. So, if you, like me, are interested in investigative journalism, that’s not the place for it. Nevertheless, work at MNB World allowed me to see a lot of the behind-the-scenes effort that goes into creating content for a TV News channel.
People in the office were all very open and helpful. One of my best friends turned out to be a cameraman – he couldn’t speak English, and I didn’t understand Mongolian, but it still wasn’t an obstacle for us to bond really well. Also, although not many people speak English in Mongolian, almost everyone at MNB World does. This meant that I rarely felt alienated, and there was always someone to help me with money exchange, ordering a meal, topping up a SIM card or numerous other things that could be quite challenging.
Perhaps the thing I will not miss about Mongolia is the public transportation system. The buses are quite small, and are almost always absolutely filled up. On hot June afternoons this was a real struggle. UB is a relatively small capital city, but they have enormous traffic problems. Often there were instances where we would be stuck in a traffic jam for over an hour. Also, the Mongolian driving culture is far different from the one in Europe. The drivers don’t stop to let through pedestrians at the crossings, they often change lanes without signalling or stop abruptly, which constantly leads to dangerous situations on the road. Somehow, car accidents seem to be rare, and I was told that over the last couple of years the overall driving conditions have significantly improved.
Another issue one quickly notices is that Mongolians don’t always know how to react to foreign faces. I had to get used to being constantly stared at, which obviously is not the most comfortable experience. On the other hand, almost everyone I spoke to turned out to be really welcoming and caring – even if the language barrier was a huge obstacle.
I would recommend it to people who like to walk off the beaten track and are open to something that could take them out of their comfort zone. The office work is pretty standard, but everything that happened outside it really differed from my life in Poland and England. If you try to maintain a positive approach, remain curious and sometimes just go with the things even if you are not sure what’s happening, you can have some fascinating experiences in Mongolia. Finally, working for a news team is an incredible way to explore the country really cheap. We were always using company cars and drivers, and many of the activities were completely free/covered by MNB.