Two Sterling College students had internships in far-flung lands this past summer. Peter Detwiler ’13 spent his summer around the city of Irkutsk, in Siberia, and Kayla Scheimreif ’13 was in Mongolia.
Detwiler worked as a trail guide for the Great Baikal Trail Association. The group is working to promote the sustainable development of ecotourism in the Lake Baikal region.
Detwiler first heard of Lake Baikal in a Winter Ecology class taught by Jeff Parsons. After doing more research, he was intrigued by Russia in general and by the Great Baikal Trail Association in particular.
“It was definitely interesting,” he said about his summer in Irkutsk. “There was a lot of trail building, and trail scouting—that’s where I learned the most. I didn’t get bored!”
Asked how good his Russian was, Detwiler laughed and said, “Pretty non-existent.”
Communication was continually a challenge. “I was living in a youth hostel with some Russian students, and another intern from Finland,” he remembers. However, he was able to edit the Russian-to-English translation of the organization’s website.
He also worked on upgrading the area, participating in the trash cleanup initiative, and general upgrades for the trails.
Scheimreif was a research assistant, banding the azure-winged magpie. She worked with Dr. Michael Muehlenberg’s team from the University of Göttingen. “I’ve always been really interested in Mongolia,” she said. “It’s such a different landscape.”
She first became interested in Mongolia when she learned of the traditional yurt dwellings known as ger and the nomadic lifestyle some Mongolians still adhere to. She then researched internship opportunities and reached out to Dr. Muehlenberg’s team.
This was Scheimreif’s first internship and her first work experience abroad. “My experience was so different,” she said. “Just the fact that I was working there and not a tourist [was different]. Only my supervisor spoke any English.”
Before setting out for Mongolia, she got some tips from Dr. Laura Spence, faculty member in Ecology, who has done research in Mongolia herself.
“I could have done similar internships in the United States,” Scheimreif said. “But the personal growth and learning with a different culture was amazing. If I can work in Mongolia, working in the U.S. shouldn’t be a challenge!” •