What It’s Like To Be A Peace Corps Volunteer In Mongolia

Cate McCaffrey
Cate McCaffrey is Connecticut native and a graduate of Duke University. She is currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in southeast Mongolia. In her free time, Cate like political debates, puzzles, and dumb jokes.

The views reflected below are those of the author alone and do not reflect the views of the United States Peace Corps or the United States Government.


Every time I meet someone new, whether it be a taxi driver, a shop owner or a stranger on the street, they inevitably ask me: “монголд хэцүү баина уу?” “Is it difficult for you in Mongolia?”

Of course I always say “No, no, life here is very nice,” but that’s not necessarily true. It’s just a lot easier to say than “living here isn’t physically difficult, but mentally and emotionally it’s a damn marathon.” (Though who am I kidding, I don’t have the Mongolian skills to explain all of that even if I wanted to)


It’s hard to explain what exactly is so trying about living and working in Mongolia. As far as aid workers go, I’m living the high life. I live in an apartment with heat, water, electricity and wifi. Besides a diet mostly devoid of fruits and vegetables, I have everything I could want. But emotionally, it can be a whole different ball game.


It’s difficult to feel close with Mongolian friends when I’m always 10 seconds behind on the joke (translating madly in my head while trying to keep up with the conversation). It’s difficult to spend my favorite holiday with people who, while meaning well, just don’t get what the big deal is. It’s difficult to lose touch with some of the people I considered close friends in America. And it can be difficult to know if I’m making a difference.

But no matter how difficult it gets, I never stop. I just keep trucking ahead – teaching, learning, and running my marathon. Is living in Mongolia difficult? Sure. But I can do it.


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