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Former volunteer fulfills life-long dream of becoming a journalist after interning in Mongolia

Patricia Sexton

In the summer of 2006, Patricia Sexton (38), from New York, seized the opportunity to follow her dream of becoming a journalist when she embarked on a 3 month volunteer adventure with the Projects Abroad Journalism Project in Mongolia.

Working as an investment banker on Wall Street, Patricia decided that it was now or never; she quit her job and travelled to the land of blue sky in order to pursue her life-long dream of becoming a journalist.

Patricia SextonAlmost 8 years later, Patricia has fulfilled her dream. As a successful TV host and author of the book Live from Mongolia, Patricia says that her time in Mongolia was life changing: “Without my experience in Mongolia with Projects Abroad, I could not have done what I’m doing today. Without that one chance to really follow a dream, I would still be dreaming. But now it is real.”

During the time that she spent with Projects Abroad at the Journalism Project, Patricia was placed at the Mongolian National Broadcaster. Some of her work included anchoring news broadcasts, reporting, proofing scripts and recording voiceovers.

As a volunteer, Patricia was given as much responsibility as the locals: “One afternoon, my boss Gandima told me to put a suit on. I asked her why, and she sort of laughed a little bit and said ‘Because tonight you will anchor the Mongolian news.’ I will never forget what it felt like to run home to my host family’s apartment, put my suit on, and race back to the station to report on air! That night, I watched the broadcast from the apartment, and I cried. Pursuing a dream, and then achieving it, well, it’s an extraordinary feeling.”

Patricia SextonAt her project, Patricia worked with other Projects Abroad volunteers, as well as the local staff. Occasionally, the volunteers got the chance to go out into the field to produce their own stories as well: “Our stories were first presented on the Mongolian-language news, and then translated into English for our broadcast. What was most exciting for me though was discovering (and occasionally covering)
stories of people following their dreams, like Quiza, a local hip-hop star, and his brother and manager Boldoo.”

As a Journalism volunteer in Mongolia, Patricia and her fellow volunteers had the opportunity to experience Naadam, a major Mongolian festival, through the eyes of the Ger-to-Ger trip through the rolling Mongolian steppes and stayed with nomadic families, interviewing them and covering what life is like for Mongolian nomads.

Aside from her work, she enjoyed staying with a Mongolian host family and experiencing, first hand, life in a new 
country, a new language and new people half way across the world. “I learned a lot about Mongolia by living with my host family. My host mother was extremely kind to me, and always eager to teach me new things: new vocabulary, better pronunciation. She took me and my roommate to a picnic in a village where they spent their summers. She patiently taught me about the little things about Mongolian culture.”

“During the summer of 2006 while I was in Mongolia, I tried to see as much of the country as possible, but once I left, I knew I needed to return, but I would need to return in winter. There’s something about the Mongolian winter that helps to explain the culture to a foreigner.”

Patricia Sexton“Not only did I want to experience winter in Mongolia, I also wanted to find an ending to my book. At that time, I was finished writing it, but it didn’t have an ending. So, I returned to Mongolia for Tsagaan Sar, the biggest Mongolian traditional festival, to discover an ending. And I did! But it became something of a surprise - it was no longer the ending to the book I thought it would be.”

When Patricia returned to Mongolia in 2009, she spent time in Ulaanbaatar for Tsagaan Sar and traveled up north to Khovsgol province for the Ice Festival at the Khovsgol lake. “The most rewarding experience with Project Abroad in ’06, and when I returned on my own in ’09, was discovering that it truly is possible to achieve a dream. I went from working in a bank to working in Mongolian journalism! It’s incredible to me that Projects Abroad made my dream possible.” 

Patricia SextonNow, some 8 years down the line, Patricia is working as a professional journalist. Her journey has taken her all over the world to cover stories of other people following their dreams from North Korea, Venezuela, Mexico, small American towns to New Zealand, Patricia says: “Every story I get a chance to tell is a story of someone’s dream being pursued and achieved. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to tell these stories; they’re inspiring for me.”

Patricia arrived in Mongolia with Projects Abroad as a volunteer but left as professional woman who has achieved her dreams: “I learnt about journalism, but I also learnt about friendship and loyalty. It was the biggest and best adventure of my life.”

Read more about Journalism in Mongolia.

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