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Friday, June 12, 2009

Students should make use of their years in college

Students should make use of their years in college by Monica Sanford

from the Daily Nebraskan - Sunday, June 7, 2009



Yes, I’m going to pontificate. I’m going to stand on my soapbox and give all of you new baby freshmen an unwanted earful of advice.



You see, I’ve been in college far, far too long. After all, I use words like “pontificate.”



Therefore, I feel I am uniquely qualified to share what little wisdom (if any) I have gained. So, in no particular order, let us begin.



Don’t be in too much of a hurry to declare a major. We all have to take the same boring required classes anyway. I’m sure civilized society will collapse if we aren’t all “well-rounded.” Take advantage of the opportunity to try different things and learn what truly excites you.



Diversify your educational and employment experiences. I sold my soul to the College of Architecture many years ago, but I’ve also studied art, Japanese, real estate and philosophy. I’ve worked for fast food places, banks, mortgage companies, a mountain resort, non-profit companies, UNL’s Military Science Department, the School of Natural Resources, the Nebraska Rural Initiative, the Athletic Department, the Department of Art and Art History , the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and, obviously, the Daily Nebraskan. Someday, I might be an architect and I might earn the contract for a newspaper office or ecology laboratory because of what I learned working a job that, on the surface, was unrelated to my career.



“Never let your schooling interfere with your education,” said Mark Twain. Don’t become discouraged and don’t allow anyone to make you feel like an idiot just because you don’t have all the answers. If we already knew it all, we wouldn’t have to go to school.



The only reason I made it to graduate school was acceptance that I would spend a lot of time being dazed and confused and that was OK. Even if you don’t understand the purpose of the hoops, sometimes it’s useful to play the trained poodle just to see why they are holding them up.



Don’t believe anyone who tells you that your education should be your number one priority. Breathing should be your number one priority, followed closely by eating and sleeping. Not being homeless is also on that list above education. Your education is a tool. Even if your ultimate intention is to become a professor and live in the ivory tower, your goals must be greater than merely graduating. A piece of paper, no matter how ornate, makes for poor motivation.



Personally, my highest priority (after breathing, eating, etc.) is to help people. I believe I can best do that by using my skills to build a better world, in the most literal sense, for which I need this education. You need to discover what motivates you and where you can best use your skills to achieve that goal.



That being said, maintaining balance in your life between education, work and society is important. Blowing off all your friends for study time, besides being horribly dull, is also strategically ill-advised. I guarantee one of those friends is going to help you find a job someday where you can put this hard-earned education to work. So go out and have fun, but be smart about it.



Travel. You will learn more in one week spent abroad than one month spent in senior-level classes.



Hang in there until you get to the senior level classes. I don’t care what anyone says, grad school is easier. It is a lot of work, yes, but it is also your work, not some professor’s idea of make work. The further you go, the easier it gets not only because you’ve learned how to handle it, but because you get to spend your time working on what truly interests you, and that’s a great motivation.



That being said, learn how to type really well, buy a laptop, cancel your cable television, learn your way around the library and the online journal article finders, never underestimate Wikipedia as a great starting point, site sources correctly, make friends with your TA’s, never take a professor’s criticism personally and never, ever, ever plagiarize.



The most important advice I could offer you is to make up your own mind. It doesn’t matter what the subject is or how well respected the speaker. If you don’t question, even if you conclude something to be true, you won’t learn why it is true or why other people think it is true. Never take anything anyone tells you merely on faith.



Including everything I just said.




Monica Sanford is a third year graduate student of Architecture and Community and Regional Planning. Reach her at monicasanford@dailynebraskan.com.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mother & Child Day

Mongolia has a wonderful tradition: Mother & Child Day. It makes so much sense, to be a mother you have to have children and every child has a mother. Kind of an all inclusive holiday. And it's a national holiday. And for us, it also signals the start of summer.
As part of the festivities, the center participated in lots of activities. Daria took a load of goodies for the guys at the maximum security prison. Then, Davaa and I went to a very small neighborhood office which was a small government center with the police, social services and a medical clinic in one of the huge apartment blocks. They collected about a dozen women's names for us to help on Mother & Child Day. Only about five showed up, but we left bags of food and other items to be delivered to the others.


Davaa handing out bags


The first woman to arrive was 76. She had no family, so kids at the neighborhood high school had adopted her and had helped her throughout the year. She was heading to the schools graduation to thank all those who had helped her. It was wonderful to let us help her too.


Lookin' pretty smart


That took care of 'mothers' so next we went to an orphanage for the 'children'. Both the Shedrup Ling Center and the Dolma Ling Center have been trying to help a nearby orphanage this last year but this was my first visit. Housing about 150 kids ranging from about 4 years old to 18, it seemed a cheery place when you walked down the halls. But when the current director showed up at it's doors four years ago, it was a different story. There were guards at all the doors and the windows were barred and three kids had killed while residents in the year before. He said it seemed like an impossible task, to take over a place like that. What to do first? But what he accomplished was nothing short of a miracle. The guards and jail-like bars were gone, and in it's place was a warm open-arm kind of place that seemed far away from any institutional setting.


The kids all showed up at the auditorium, girls on one side and boys on the other. What stuck in your mind was how well behaved these kids were, and how they took care of each other, especially the little ones. Up first was a little entertainment Davaa and Munguu had arranged, a band of students from the cultural college.


The girls looking after a few of the youngest boys





The bands opening number


After the band played, Venerable Gyatso got up to say a few words to the children. He to had been so overjoyed to see how the kids took care of each other, just like a family. And in a culture where family is the central part of everyone's life, these kids had no one but each other. It was wonderful to see how happy they were.


Gyatso addresses the kids while Davaa translates


Then, to our surprise, a few of the children got up to sing for us.


One little girl singing her heart out


And then, kids being the same the world over, they love getting presents. Both Shedrup Ling Center and Dolma Ling Community Center had brought things for all the children. Each child was given a pair of sandals, a pair of socks, candy, and Roy passed out stuffed teddy bears that his mother had sent to the youngest ones. And other than a few kids asking for a different size or color or shoes, every child was well behaved and happy with what they got.


Her hands are almost too small for everything




Roy passing out stuffed toys




Trying on his new sandals





The children singing for us


By the end, all of us were exhausted. It was late so you could see some of the littlest ones had already fallen asleep and taken to their rooms. About 9pm, we said our goodbyes and headed home. A wonderful end of the day.