Battushig Myanganbayar, a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from Mongolia, asks me, “Have you ever heard of the ‘Freshman 15’?” He’s referring to the storied 15 pounds students often gain in their first year of college. I tell him I have heard of it, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

We are in Flour, a stylish bakery in Central Square in Cambridge, Mass., drinking tea (his jasmine, mine Darjeeling). “I am moving in the opposite direction,” he says, grinning at his adjustment to the United States. Not only is he heeding his mother’s warnings about pizza, but he is also doubling up on required physical education classes, taking two per semester. Translation: He’s spending a lot of time jogging and playing tennis.

That’s not all he’s doing. There are classes – hard stuff such as differential equations and chemistry – but just months after landing half a world away from his home in Ulan Bator, Battushig is also staying up late working on a new cellphone technology that he believes is patentable.

… I have to remind myself that Battushig is 17 years old, and brought here by a Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC. As a 15-year-old from a country in which one-third of the people are nomads living in round, white felt tents called gers, he enrolled in the first MOOC offered by MIT – a sophomore-level course on circuits and electronics – and aced it.

That, along with an inventive device he built to warn his 10-year-old sister of cars encroaching on her driveway play area, earned him attention from MIT and, last spring, an offer of admission.

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