Makes Learning The
Center Of Her Vacation
For most college students, vacation
consists of sunbathing and sipping margaritas, but for Barnard
College student Deborah "Jane" Cooper,
her summer vacation had a different purpose this year.
For seven weeks this summer, Jane traveled with her boyfriend
Alex and his father to China and Mongolia.
"The trip came about because my boyfriend was planning
on going with his father, but he didn't want to go if there
was no one to go with him," Jane said. "Before the
trip, I had no knowledge or specific interest in China or Mongolia,
but any opportunity in travel is a clear opportunity and I
jumped on that," she said.
But the trip was more than just a chance to travel through
Asia and see the local hot spots. During their time in Mongolia,
they interviewed local herders about the problems of land privatization.
Jane and Alex intend to use the first-hand information they
gathered via an interpreter to write a paper that they hope
to submit to scholarly journals for publication.
Jane said that the land privatization has proved to be problematic
for the Mongolians who live a nomadic lifestyle. Many of the
landowners wish to keep the herders away, but the herders cannot
survive or raise their animals without open space. To these
nomadic herders, the idea of private landownership is alien
to them because for generations they have been able to travel
freely and let their animals graze.
"It was Alex's father's idea to make this trip more of
a learning experience and not just a travel trip, so we started
look at what the current issues are and (land privatization)
is a hot issue right now," she said.
"Alex and I want to write a paper about Mongolian pastoralism," Jane
said. "(In Mongolia), they have a nomadic society...Mongolia
was communist for a number of years. In 1990, they became democratic...and
they've privatized a lot of the land."
Initially, Jane did not intend on traveling to China or Mongolia,
let alone write a paper. Jane first arrived in Mongolia after
taking a 30-hour trans-Siberian train ride from Bejing to Ulaan
Baatar, Mongolia's capital. During the few weeks she was in
Mongolia, Jane stayed in hostels and got an up-close and personal
look at how the locals lived.
"Alex's father wanted to try authentic Mongolian food,
but we tried to assure him it's not good," Jane said. "It's
basically mutton and different dairy products. The herders
live off their animals, which are horses, sheep and goats,
but instead of killing their animals, they get more out of
the animals through their milk," she said.
The herders make different types
of dairy producers like curds and milk tea. They even ferment
their milk to make alcohol. "In
one place I tried fermented goat's milk. You can taste the
alcohol, but I could not get over the bad milk flavor," Jane
said. After Jane and Alex were able to interview locals and
collect first-hand accounts of how privatization has both helped
and harmed herders, they left Mongolia to explore all the major
cities of China. Jane said that of all the things she saw in
China, she was most surprised about the country's views towards
Mao, the former communist dictator.
"In Bejing one thing that surprised me was how everyone
idolized Mao," she said. "I always had this impression
of him as being a ruler that made a lot of mistakes. A lot
of people died because of him, but in China, he's a national
Jane returned from her trip on July 21 and is now gearing
up with Alex to write the paper about their time in Mongolia.
Jane said her experiences abroad have only strengthened her
curiosity about other places.
"It's cool to go to China because it's so off the beaten
path, but now I have dreams of going to Thailand, Cambodia,
Vietnam, Europe and Africa would be great," Jane said. "It's
opened up the whole world of travel to me."#