DegreeGlobal Health and Sociology ’19
While living in remote Madagascar for two months, most people might expect my biggest challenge was the change in diet, or bathing in a cold river, or hand washing and drying all of my laundry. In reality, the hardest part wasn’t any of those things. For me, the biggest challenge in Madagascar was not burning out. Even though we were only there for a couple of months, the fieldwork could be pretty draining physically, mentally and emotionally. Some days, there were problems back home, and the nine-hour time difference between home and Madagascar didn’t help. Despite problems back home, I still had to focus on my work in the field. One time, I tumbled across a river after thinking I could cross by myself, limped back to camp and literally cried when my wounds were cleaned with 90% alcohol. All that to say, the biggest challenge was really just rolling with the punches (sometimes literally!) and picking yourself up, dusting yourself off (mostly your ego) and pushing forward to work another day.
The biggest personal victory for me was learning enough Malagasy and observing my Malagasy teammate conduct enough interviews to administer one by myself. When I say by myself, I just mean that I asked the questions and recorded the answers on my own, with my teammate standing by for help. Of course I butchered a lot of the words with my pronunciation, and the person I was speaking to stared at me blankly trying to decipher what I was trying to say. (I mean everyone knows the tr makes the ch sound!). For me, it was really more about becoming confident in making mistakes, laughing with local people, even if it was at myself, and not always making surveys feel so formal. Getting to that place made work so much more fun and really helped to make me and the participants much more comfortable with doing surveys in their homes.
Favorite Moment of the Trip
My favorite memory of Madagascar was the day we left. I know what you’re thinking: she just couldn’t wait to get out of there. But it was literally the opposite. The day that we left was filled with so many emotions from all of us, as well as our assistants and their families. Seeing how sad they were to see us go was such a bittersweet feeling. On one hand, I definitely felt like I wasn’t ready for my time in Madagascar to end, but on the other, I was so happy to have made such impactful relationships with our coworkers and their families. Even though bawling sucked and leaving my surrogate family sucked even more, knowing that I would be truly missed was such a gratifying moment.