In the following interview, culture specialist of Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO and founder of Road to Dream NGO Kh.Ider delved into his lifestyle and point of view.
Among 50,000 students, Kh.Ider received the “International Student of the Year” award from his university this year. During his stay in Australia, he was a member of the Council of International Students Australia, contributing to addressing many issues such as mental health, education and racism.
When you were in high school, you founded Road to Dream NGO to support the education of youth, and initiated the Mongolian Immunity project. Why did you start all this? What are the benefits of these works to the society?
When I was in high school, I was insecure, shy, and didn’t get involved in works to help others. I was a normal child living in my own comfortable zone. Unfortunately, I lost a friend in 10th grade. Since then, I have been interested in helping others and volunteering. That was my turning point. Helping others brings you joy and a sense of fulfilment. Since then, I have volunteered a lot, no matter how small it may be. For instance, my first volunteer work was to help kindergarten children. While volunteering, I met many people and expanded my network.
After watching TEDx, I applied for the right to host TEDx in Mongolia when I was in 11th grade. But after getting rejected three times, I was finally able to organized it here. At the time, I wanted to do two things. Firstly, I thought that I would be able to become a TEDx speaker one day. Being young does not mean you’re weak or immature. Young people can take advantage of anything and achieve anything. Secondly, I decided to set up my own NGO. I viewed it best to invest in youth education. I wanted to create new opportunities for young people so that they can share their knowledge and experience with each other. Education is considered one of the most important issues.
There are many children who want to learn English. However, not everyone has the opportunity to learn it. Goal 10 of the UN Sustainable Development Policy aims at reducing inequality within and among countries. I have seen and felt that Mongolia faces inequality in education. Therefore, when I was in 12th grade, I founded Road to Dream NGO and saw that young people can develop and work well together. At that time, we met with 20 to 30 organizations and asked them to cooperate with us, but none of them agreed to it.
Back then, we were also implementing the Mongol Immunity project. It was initiated with the aim to introduce the national style and culture to young people and bringing it to the next level. Within the framework of the project, we provided trainings to youth of several provinces.
Is your NGO operating now?
Currently, our NGO has suspended its activities. After graduating, some of our colleagues went abroad to study. In the future, we plan to pass on our activities to the next generation.
You studied business administration on a scholarship in Melbourne, Australia. Why did you start working in the cultural sector? What influenced you the most?
While studying business, I enjoyed working on projects. In addition to organizational culture, there is a need to study international culture. For example, when doing international business, it is necessary to study the culture of each country.
At that time, I studied international culture and became very interested in it. According to Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory, Mongolians are collectivist and has high context cultures. In this respect, Mongolia is similar to some Asian countries, but some western countries are low context cultures and have different culture compared to Mongolia. Therefore, I wanted to explore the cultural differences.
I wanted to do an internship at UNESCO because I had been actively participating in the Model United Nations since 2016. Last October, I joined the Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO as an intern. Fortunately, last December, I was given the opportunity to work as a cultural specialist. I make a lot of mistakes and have a lot to learn, but my co-workers are helping me and giving good advice.
You mentioned cultural differences. When you first arrived in Australia, did you face any challenges adapting to the new environment and culture? What are the cultural differences between Mongolia and Australia?
Australia differs from Mongolians in a number of ways, including the people’s mindset, communication skills and attitudes. It seems that Mongolians pay a lot of attention to age. Older people need to be respected, but there are people who seem to underestimate younger people. Most Mongolians often are not on time. Australians are not like that. Like so, there are so many small differences.
During my stay in Australia, I learned their culture of communication and learned to express myself freely. Before, I used to hide my thoughts.
Young people are rarely able to start a career in a large international organization. There are many benefits to working for such organizations. Can you talk about that? What is the best part of your job?
I have learned a lot from this job. My work allows me to study about everything. I am deepening my understanding and knowledge of the industry by interacting with many skilled experts, professors, academics, specialists, ministry staff and international experts. I am also exploring more about the Mongolian culture. There is also an opportunity to put into practice the theoretical lessons I learned in university. I’m also becoming more responsible.
What do you plan to do in the near future?
Within the framework of the UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, the Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO will virtually organize the “Exploring and Safeguarding Shared Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in East Asia Conference” on September 10 in collaboration with UNESCO Beijing Cluster and the International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region.
This initiative was scheduled to be organized in 2020, but got postponed to this year due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Distinguished culture specialists, professors and experts from South Korea, China, Japan and Mongolia will be representing their countries at the event and present case studies, which will reflect on multinational nominations, current situation of safeguarding of shared intangible cultural heritages (ICH) and the significance of shared ICH to enhance the sub-regional cooperation. We will compile all of the case studies into a publication on the exploration and safeguarding of shared ICH in the East Asian sub-region.
In your opinion, what is most lacking in the Mongolian cultural sector?
I want young Mongolians to become more open, businesslike and active. Young people need to be very proactive. On the other hand, Mongolian youth are becoming more global-minded in my opinion.
You seem to be very socially active. How do you spend your free time?
I do a lot of things during my free time. I am a very active person. I enjoy playing basketball, taking walks outside, running, interacting with others, and talking. I also like to cook. During my three years in Australia, I worked as a bartender, barista and waiter in an Italian restaurant, and served as a cook when needed.
Moreover, I love to write. Writing allows me to talk with myself. And sometimes I read about psychology.
What are your life principles?
Everyone should have equal rights. I follow the principles of non-discrimination, inclusiveness and equality. I think everyone should be treated equally regardless of profession, job, age, gender, religion, opinion or race.
I do not compete with anyone and do not compare myself with anyone. I do not want to be compared to anyone because I have my own strengths.
I can never ignore the things in society that I can’t accept. If there is a problem, I believe that we all should speak up and express ourselves. I speak up for justice. This is one of my principles in life.
What is your vision?
Some Mongolians go to schools in developed countries to study. I wish people from other countries would come to study at Mongolian universities. I want to contribute to making Mongolia a leader in sustainable development, with good infrastructure and active youth involvement, as well as a leading Asian country that combines national identity with modernity. I want to build a happy society with less traffic congestion and no air pollution.
To be more specific, I want to establish a non-profit school to create a comprehensive school system that provides quality education for children from an early age. I will cooperate with others to make it a reality.