By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Uyanga Bold’s life has changed a great deal since she first journeyed from Ulan Bator, Mongolia in 2002-03, as part of the Youth for Understanding (YFU) program.
Through the program, at the age of 15, she came to live with Tom and Mary Wiemiller, of Winsted while she attended Watertown-Mayer High School.
One thing hasn’t changed for Bold over time, and that is the comfortable and caring relationship she has with the Wiemillers, a couple she calls mom and dad.
Bold recently had to attend a Geological Society of America conference in Minneapolis and had the opportunity to spend the weekend in Winsted.
This is her third visit since 2003, but the first time the Wiemillers got to meet her son, Khuslen. They also met Khuslen’s nanny, Ganbat-Sereeter.
Bold is married and the mother of a 17-month-old son. She speaks fluent English, and is studying for her PHD at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, with the hope to eventually become a professor of geology.
The YFU program which brought Bold to Winsted is one of the world’s largest and most respected international educational exchange organizations, according to the YFU website. A network of over 50 independent national organizations, YFU representatives work together to advance learning across cultures.
“In YFU they try to choose students that have some English in school, and choose students that they think will represent their country well. They are like an ambassador,” Mary said. “That is what they aim for.”
Bold said the program has made her who she is today, but added that she was lucky to have been placed in a home “with a very nice family.”
“That influenced me a lot in enjoying America,” Bold said “There were some students who actually went back (home) in the middle of the school year because they didn’t enjoy it here or they missed home.”
Two highlights of her stay in Winsted were attending Winstock, which she called “cool;” and she was introduced to shopping.
“Uyanga didn’t like to shop, but we got her into the mall thing,” Mary said.
The Wiemillers’ daughter, Krista Heebsh of New Brighton, was married when Bold came to live in Winsted, but once the two met, they became very close.
“They were like sisters,” Mary said.
For part of the weekend Bold was in town, she planned to stay with Heebsh and her family.
Bold said the one thing that really stood out about her time with the Wiemillers was their extended family members who were all very close to each other.
“They would meet and have big feasts and nice conversation and a lot of fun,” Bold said. “That is what reminds me of Winsted.”
“My family gathers together but it was more fun here and everyone was very friendly,” she said.
Bold makes it very clear that even though she enjoyed her time here in Winsted and the US, she is returning to Mongolia when she is through with her studies.
“I like every aspect of Mongolia. I have nice memories. I was born there. My family is there, so I will go back after I finish my studies. I hope everyone feels that way about the country they are born in.”
Bold’s husband, Lkhagva-Ochir Said is a geologist in Mongolia.
“He works for a coking coal mining company,” Bold said. “It’s a very expensive type of coal used for steel making. It’s exported to China,” Bold said.
Until Bold finishes her current study program, which she estimates will be in 2015, she and Khuslen will go back home to Mongolia twice a year, once at Christmas time and once during the summer. Said will come to the US in between, so they are able to see each other more often.
While Bold is studying in Boston, she plans to return to Winsted and Minneapolis as often as possible.
Plans are also in the works for the Wiemillers to possibly spend a week or two in Mongolia. If all goes according to plan, it will be in July 2012, when Bold is also home.