49 Voices: Geser Bat-Erdene of Anchorage

Geser Bat-Erdene of Anchorage (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

This week we’re hearing from Geser Bat-Erdene in Anchorage. Bat-Erdene is a foreign exchange student at the University of Alaska Anchorage who will serve as commencement speaker on Sunday. He had previously served as UAA’s student body president; a term that ended last weekend.

BAT-ERDENE: I was a part of the student government for three-and-a-half years. Honestly, I felt a huge withdrawal over the weekend. It felt like I broke up with a loved one.

There is one city in Mongolia called Erdenet, which is my hometown, a sister city of Fairbanks. Different benefits are included in this process. That includes mutual benefits in trade, exchange in culture and knowledge. For me as a student, a huge incentive was that I get to pay resident tuition.

Everything was new to me and the legislative process relationship between constituents and the leaders and the community leaders, in our case state legislature leaders… the relationship was much different than what I’ve seen in my life.

Annually, a group of students sent to the state capital, usually during the session in March, and we advocate and then share our individual stories, why the university is important and what difference has it made in each of our individual lives. This year was particularly an interesting one, because we’ve been facing unprecedented cuts. It definitely has been a challenging thing to overcome, but we’re still in the process. And I wish the best to student leaders who are still fighting.

This is what makes the American democracy different compared to developing countries like mine.

Out of all 50 states, Alaska is a very close ally to Mongolia in a different sense. Joint military trainings annually, happening since 2003. We have things like sister city agreements and institutional cooperation between UAA and the National University of Mongolia. So things like this will be developing into the future and I’m definitely seeing myself as a bridge between Alaska and Mongolia.