Anna Williams: I felt instantly at home and haven’t looked back


The long awaited opening of the British School of Ulaanbaatar is nearly here. The school opens officially in September with about 200 pupils aged between 5 and 13 in the first phase. The school aims to have 1,000 students eventually enrolled and will also see the age range of pupils extending in the future.
The British School of Ulaanbaatar (BSU) was founded in 2010 by the “Eco School Garden” L.L.C. of Mongolia to provide an outstanding educational service, enabling pupils to gain entry to world renowned universities. Another aim of the founders was to establish a school which followed the National Curriculum of England and Wales, yet at the same time complement it with Mongolian content. BSU graduates will have full knowledge of and appreciation for Mongolian language, literature, history, and culture.
The big question people have been asking is: who is going to run the school; who is actually going to be the new Principal? This job required a self-starter, someone dynamic with an impeccable and impressive resume. More importantly, the role needed to be filled by a person who was willing to move half way around the world to the coldest capital city in the world. The BSU was after a Principal who was up to a challenge, up to an adventure.
Meet the new BSU Principal, Ms Anna Williams from New Zealand. Don’t let her lovely and youthful smile trick you into thinking she isn’t tough or experienced. At only 30 years of age, Anna’s impressive CV reveals she’s got more than it takes to get the show on the road at the BSU.
After graduating from Dunedin College of Education, Anna moved to South Korea to help establish an English language school. She’s also taught a range of subjects in various challenging secondary schools around New Zealand. Any experienced principal will tell you that teaching in “challenging” schools gives you the backbone needed to face difficulties.Anna’s been there, done that.
In 2004, Anna moved to a steamy Qatar where she helped to open up a primary school for local girls. Following the huge success of this school, she helped to open a chain of international schools. It was during this time that Anna was recognised for her talent and was promoted to various senior management roles and ultimately to the role of Principal. From 2007 onwards, Anna was responsible for 1,200 students from different nationalities in two international educational institutions. These institutions experienced phenomenal growth and improvement during the time Anna was there. It’s easy to imagine the attributes and oomph she’ll bring to the BSU.
I ask Anna about the staff make-up at the BSU and she tells me that the majority of its highly qualified teachers are from the UK. I’m also curious about any teething problems and she responds by saying, “When opening any new school there will always be teething problems. Fortunately, the British School of Ulaanbaatar is the fourth international school I’ve helped open and my sixth school in which I am part of the inaugural year, so I have learnt from my mistakes and will ensure that we don’t make these errors again. We also have a backup plan to refer to in every case. However, in a new country any new business will have problems such as obtaining visas for employees in a timely fashion, receiving the correct resources (as the majority of our resources are coming from the UK) etc. You just have to be patient, calm and flexible and work with what you have.”
I also find it interesting that the school is a real style “boarding school.” Anna tells me that at this stage, “we will only have a couple of students at the beginning of the year. Most of the students are coming from UB so will not need the boarding facilities, however we will endeavour to build up the boarding house reputation as we grow as a school.”
And grow it will with Anna Williams at the helm, leading the way.

Q&A Time

-Describe your first visit to Mongolia
-I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived in UB for the first time. I had been already informed by my parents (who were in Mongolia last year) that the roads were ‘aged’ and the driving was organized chaos however I loved the scenery driving into UB and the atmosphere of the city. I felt instantly at home and haven’t looked back.
-What is the best thing about living in Mongolia?
-Three things; I can walk here (having just come from Doha, Qatar in the middle east, there are no places to walk so you drive everywhere, even a kilometer away!). The scenery (I come from New Zealand and can see many similarities between the two countries beautiful greenery) and there are Korean restaurants everywhere (Korean is my favourite food).
-How long do you plan on living in UB?
-My contract is for two years however I would like to think I would be here in UB for at least 4 – 6 years and be a part of the positive change in education that is very apparent in Mongolia at the moment.
-What parts of Mongolia would you like to visit?
-I want to explore all of Mongolia, the countryside, the Gobi desert, I want to visit the other cities, the wildlife and of course stay in a Ger.
-What’s your advice to UB newcomers?
-Learn some Mongolian as it helps you get around in your day to day life and immerses you in the culture. Always have an umbrella on hand all times (in the summer) as you don’t know when it may rain.
-Is there anything you can’t live without in UB?
-Having been here for only a month I’m still managing to find things in different shops. Ask me in a year….;)
-Have you managed to learn any Mongolian?
-Yes I have. I’m really excited about learning it and using it. It’s a lot easier than Arabic that I tried to learn when living in Qatar. I have learnt the greetings, directions and miscellaneous words I’m hearing from my colleagues. It’s improving daily. I am also learning to read it and hoping my students will be able to teach me Mongolian as well.
-What’s your favourite UB restaurant/s?
-The Korean Restaurant in the Springs Hotel, Gung Korean Restaurant, Piwon restaurant in the Central Tower and the Rosewood Cafe.
-What’s your favourite pastime or something you like to do to relax?
-I enjoy listening to music, walking my dogs (that I had to leave in Qatar), reading, playing guitar, photography and travelling.
-Picture Ulaanbaatar 20 years from now and tell me what you see.
-I would say UB will resemble a more cosmopolitan atmosphere, modern, however still maintaining a strong sense of Mongolian culture.
-What is your favourite Mongolian food?
-I have only tried Khuushuur which I liked. I will endeavour to try more Mongolian food as the winter comes, however I’m not too keen on trying horse as I hear that is a popular food to eat during the winter.
-What music do you listen to when you are stuck in UB traffic?
-Since arriving a month ago I have only listened to the CD my driver has in the car which is a Mongolian CD called ‘Let’s hit the road’ which is a selection of Mongolian pop songs. I know all of them off by heart now although I don’t understand them!
-Who inspires you?
-My mother and father are big influences in everything I do. My older brother is also very supportive in my role, however he inspires me as he is extremely talented in his own right and I am always learning from him. I have also been very fortunate to be mentored by Dame Geraldine Keegan in my role as a senior manager and have learnt a great deal from her over the past five years.
-What was the last book you read?
-‘Live Wire’ by Harlan Coban
-Do you have a favourite quote or motto to live by?
-I have three that I live by ‘Attitude reflects leadership,’ ‘What goes around comes around’ and ‘Always treat people the way you would like to be treated.’
-If you could have dinner with 5 people who would they be?
-Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Gene Wilder, John Cleese and Socrates.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=695

Posted by on Aug 27 2012. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Anna Williams: I felt instantly at home and haven’t looked back”

  1. I lived in New Zealand for most of my adult life. I cannot imagine what part in New Zealand Ms. Williams grew up in that she should feel ‘instantly at home’ in Ulaanbaatar.

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