AHS Grad in Mongolia

Peyton Stoike sets up a shot at a Buddhist nunnery during a trip to Mongolia. She is one of five students selected to go on the journey and to produce a short documentary on day-to-day life there.

Life-changing experiences only come every so often, giving people a limited window of time to seize them. When the opportunity to travel to Mongolia came to Alliance High School grad Peyton Stoike, she jumped at the chance, opening the door to cultural insights and new experiences. 

Stoike, who is currently a sophomore at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, traveled to Mongolia as part of a class, giving her the opportunity to produce a film and providing a view of the way of life there. She was one of five students accepted into the program, which is open to students every May and December. 

“I took a photo class last year, and then after that photo class, I was eligible for a trip through the university called Global Eyewitness,” Stoike said. “The professor picked a place that is not necessarily poor, or a third-world country. We went there to shoot a four to eight minute documentary on them.” 

Before embarking on the quest, Stoike spent eight weeks researching the destination, working to uncover a story. Then, she spent about two weeks in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, the country’s capital, and home of 45 percent of its population with over 1 million people. 

Stoike noted that it was a frigid trip, which was made over Christmas break. 

“It was so cold there! The average temperature was about negative 10 degrees. It was freezing, but it was also a lot of fun.” 

For her project, Stoike focused on a local Buddhist nunnery, and what life was like at the location. 

“The Buddhist nuns currently live in a center, they don’t live in the nunnery, because they don’t have finances and it’s expensive to heat. My story focused on them and their day-to-day life, the place they normally don’t live at, and what’s next for them,” Stoike said. 

Students on the trip also had to produce a feature video, highlighting life in the capital. Stoike focused on a soup kitchen in the city. She said she was able to get a hands-on experience, serving food to the impoverished on Christmas day. 

“Overall, I had a really good time,” said Stoike. “I’m excited to put together my video and just to see how it turns out. It’s something I would be willing to do again. It’s once in a lifetime—something that I couldn’t pass up.” 

Since returning from abroad, Stoike will spend the next few weeks working on editing her documentary, which will be premiered at the Rococo Theatre along with other productions from the class.  

After the video premiers, the Alliance Times-Herald will share the video online, giving people the opportunity to see what Stoike’s work. 

After she graduates from college, Stoike plans to pursue a career in sports photography. 

Stoike explained that the experience will stay with her forever, noting the impact of seeing a different culture. 

“Going, I knew nothing about Buddhism; I really knew nothing about nuns either. The person I was in contact with through nunnery was really nice and really helpful. Honestly, without her, I don’t think I would have had that great of an experience there. It probably would have been a struggle for me. All of the nuns were great. Just being around them was such a fun time. Even though I didn’t know anything about them, I think they were the greatest part of my trip, and I will always remember them.”

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