DegreeGlobal Health and Biology ’19
Whenever I talk about my time in Madagascar and people ask what the most difficult part was, I usually tell them that it was the exhausting hikes, the early wake-up times or the weather. In truth, the physical demands of the trip weren’t the biggest challenge. The mental challenges of the trip were the hardest. Don’t get me wrong, I had a truly incredible experience on this trip, but there were days when I really wanted to be home. Out there in the middle of the rainforest, I expected to feel isolated from the world. However, sometimes the extreme isolation could be jarring. I really had to learn to rely on my team to not feel so alone, and I’m lucky to have had such an incredible group of people with me.
Our team was almost always together as a big unit, but there were times we had to split up to get the job done. Toward the end of the trip, there were times that all bilingual members of the team were off doing other things. This made communication a struggle. But by the end of the summer, I was able to communicate simple ideas in Malagasy to our Malagasy teammates. It sounds simple when compared to many other things I accomplished this summer, but I’m truly proud that I learned enough Malagasy to have basic conversations. The Malagasy team members really appreciated that I had put in that effort, and it felt great.
Favorite Moment of the Trip
A key part of our research this summer involved trapping small mammals so we could screen them for infectious diseases. Every morning, I would get up at 5:00 a.m. to go check traps in the village. We’d walk around the village going door to door to find out if we had caught any animals the night before. While it was exhausting, one thing always put a smile on my face. We’d always stop at our assistant’s house to say hello to his family, and to grab some fruit off his trees for a breakfast snack. He was so generous and was so happy to share his fruit, it made us feel like a team. Somehow those bananas were special and tasted better than any bananas I’ve ever eaten before. It’s amazing how much a simple fruit could lift my spirits when I needed it, and I always looked forward to going to his house to visit his family and share a snack.