Sheril Steinberg is an alumnus of Virginia Wesleyan University. She studied with ISA in Valparaíso & Viña del Mar, Chile, Spring 2017. She has since volunteered with Peace Corps, in Mongolia. We reached out to hear more about her adventures.
What are you doing for Peace Corps in Mongolia?
In Peace Corps Mongolia I was a TEFL volunteer and worked with Mongolian English teachers in their classrooms. My primary project was the capacity build for teaching English in the school. I also did individualized tutoring as well as other fun projects like dance and teaching guitar.
What was life in Mongolia like?
My lifestyle in Mongolia was very unique. I had the honor of being placed in a traditional Mongolian ger, which nomads live in. My ger was on my host family’s property. You’ll see people’s gers on the properties of people who live in wooden cabins regularly in neighborhoods. It is best summed up as “fancy camping.”
What have you learned while serving Peace Corps in Mongolia?
The answer to this question is infinite. But I feel like I understand a lot more about the true meaning and nature of life. It goes beyond all tangibles. It is a peace with existence.
What is a favorite adventure you’ve had so far there?
I would say one of my favorite adventures was staying with a nomadic family in a different region for a week during my first summer. My friend was visiting and we did herding work, which included herding more than 1,000 goats and sheep on horseback in the wide-open spaces of Mongolia.
How has studying abroad influenced your decision to join Peace Corps?
Studying abroad in Chile connected me with a new way to identify as a human being. I understood my place in a globalized world better.
Did studying abroad prepare you for working abroad?
Yes, it definitely did. Studying abroad was my first time living with a host family, which prepared me with skills to live with my host family in Mongolia. In addition, I was a lot more flexible with a new rhythm of things in my workplace as well as trusting that things were done a certain way in my Peace Corps site for valid reasons. Every land is different, therefore their culture and the way things are done are different.
What is similar about Peace Corps and studying abroad? What is different?
Well, the obvious thing that is similar is living in a foreign country. In studying abroad, I had a lot more regular interaction with other foreigners like me. In Peace Corps, I was the only foreigner in my community. In my opinion, Peace Corps is an intense commitment because of its duration and the level of integration you undergo. In a study abroad program you are usually living with a host family which helps with integration, but the duration is a lot shorter. A study abroad program helps to show you the country and culture, while in Peace Corps you’re a lot more on your own.
Have you picked up any new hobbies from studying abroad or Peace Corps?
I started reading more! I didn’t really read for fun before. Now that my intellectual horizons have widened (from study abroad) and my mind pacified due to living in such a peaceful place (Peace Corps), I am able to enjoy the meditative state and contemplation that reading can bring.
Interview by Jessica Terrell.