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Supriya Benjamin

A Mongolian proverb holds that one should "travel to see places while the horse is strong", which aptly describes how Supriya Benjamin discovered her interest in Mongolia's culture and language.

Determined to broaden her learning horizons while at ANU, Supriya was introduced to Mongolian through an immersive year-end program.

"I started off doing the summer course and absolutely fell in love with it. We had our classes in the ger, and I'd never had an experience like that," she recalled.

The ger, or Mongolian yurt, is an iconic campus landmark that was presented to ANU by Mongolia's Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Mr Chuluunhuu Batlai, in 2016. It is an authentic, engaging "classroom" where students can appreciate Mongolian calligraphy, throat singing or milk tea ceremonies.

Supriya, who is also learning Japanese as part of her Bachelor of Asian Studies/International Relations, was attracted by the prospect of having a "niche language" on her transcript. ANU, the only university in the Southern Hemisphere to offer Mongolian, delivers the language using its flexible online study model.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do before I came to university. There is such an amazing, diverse selection of Asian Studies courses at ANU, which attracted me to the degree. Even within Mongolian program, there is a lot of variety among students," Supriya said.

"When you go into Asian Studies, Chinese and Japanese are the big languages that stand out. I chose to minor in Japanese, but experiencing Mongolian has opened my mind. When I visited Mongolia, I saw how many opportunities there are career-wise."

Supriya took part in an ANU study tour to Mongolia led by the language program's senior lecturer, Dr Li Narangoa, over two weeks in July 2017. The group camped overnight in gers dotting rolling grasslands and used their Mongolian language skills to learn about locals' lives.

Highlights of the trip included watching herdsmen in rural areas engage in traditional customs, including wrestling and archery, and exploring the rapidly modernising capital Ulaanbaatar.

Although her journey as an ANU student will eventually end upon graduation, Supriya is confident that her Mongolian language skills will continue to be a "strong horse" on her career path.

Closer cooperation between Australia and Mongolia is building a bright future for those with the cultural and language knowledge to succeed.

"Mining forms an important part of Australia's relationship with Mongolia. Although I haven't decided what I'll do (after graduating), I'm hopeful my degree and language skills will give me many opportunities," she said.


Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team