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Teaching English in Mongolia expands Knutson's experiences

From left, Lindsey, Allie and John Knutson wearing traditional Mongolian outfits after a presentation at the Rotary Club's Thursday Noon meeting.1 / 2
Knutson sits for a photo with some of the female students in her English class. Submitted photo2 / 2

With only a few days to be at home, Allie Knutson, a 2004 Hudson High School graduate, took time out of her schedule to give a presentation at the local Rotary Club's Wednesday Daybreak and Thursday Noon meetings last week.

Knutson spoke about her experiences teaching English to children in Mongolia as part of her volunteering with the Peace Corps.

She lived and taught English to Mongolian students at a school in Batsumber Soum, which is about two hours away from the capital city Ulaanbaatar, Knutson said. She stayed in her own ger, or house, in the yard of the school's English teacher.

Knutson first decided she wanted to join the Peace Corps while student teaching.

"I was student teaching and I thought that it would be interesting to go somewhere else to teach kids," Knutson said. "I applied for the Peace Corps and it took about six to seven months for the whole process."

She received an invitation to teach in Eastern Europe, but by the time she finished the application procedure it was too late to make it on the trip.

Not too long after missing the first trip, another letter came in the mail asking her if she wanted to go to Mongolia.

"I got the letter in May and I left in June," Knutson said. "It was a really quick turn around."

In total, 69 volunteers went over to Mongolia on the same trip to live with host families in different parts of the country.

"After the first summer you get sworn in as a volunteer," Knutson said. "Before that you are just a trainee."

Knutson enjoyed her time teaching children in Batsumber Soum which has a population of about 6,000 people. There was no running water in town so her host family would bring her water from a nearby well when she needed it. Knutson had to hand-wash her laundry in a small tub that she would fill with water.

"I had to chop my own wood for the fire and cooking, but I liked to chop my own wood," Knutson said. "We had some electricity for my laptop and television, but no running water."

The school that Knutson taught at had 1,000 students, with 30 to 40 students per class. During her stay she taught English to fourth through eleventh graders.

"Fourth grade is the first year that they begin to learn English," Knutson said. "There were a lot of kids in each class but they were all really nice."

While she was staying in Mongolia, Knutson went through the coldest winter the country has seen in the last 40 years.

"The people there found it really weird that I was living alone," Knutson said. "It was especially strange to them for a young woman to live by herself, especially through the cold winters."

Although Knutson enjoyed her time in Mongolia, she said there were a few things she did not like about the way things were done in the schools.

"I was frustrated with how they were not as organized as schools back home," Knutson said. "They had a different mindset about how school should be than I did and the language barrier got to be a problem a few times."

Knutson headed back to Mongolia for her second year of teaching on Monday and will not be returning home until next summer.