Stony Brook University’s study abroad program in Madagascar began bright and early on Jan. 1, 2016 as students accompanied coordinator Elise Lauterbur on a shuttle from the university to JFK International Airport at 6 a.m. The 15 minute line for airport security led to a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. After a brief layover the students hopped on another plane headed to Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. When the flight was almost half way to the destination, the pilot turned around to fly back to Johannesburg due to a leak somewhere in the aircraft. The passengers were shuttled to a new aircraft immediately after the faulty plane touched ground in Johannesburg, and they were back in the air for another three hour flight.
The second attempt at flying to Madagascar went smoothly, and the students continued their journey by gesturing their way through immigration to get their visas. Patricia Paladines, Program Officer of Stony Brook’s Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Enviornment (ICTE), as well as Benjamin, Head of MICET (Malagasy version of ICTE), met the group of new interns at the Antananarivo airport.
After exchanging their US Dollars for Malagasy Ariary, the group packed themselves and their luggage on a bus and drove to a small hotel in Antananarivo (Tana for short) to stay the night. The students were quick to connect to the hotel’s WiFi to inform their loved ones that they arrived safely.
The journey had already proven to be a long one, but it was no where near over. The next morning, the group left the hotel and hopped back on the bus for the 12 hour bus ride from Tana to Ranomafana, which is where Centre ValBio is located. The group looked out the window in awe with cameras ready as the bus took them through the bustling and broken down city of Tana, to the smaller and quieter towns outside the city, to the vast fields of rice paddies and greenery in the countryside. Only making two stops for coffee and lunch, the interns and supervisors passed the time on the bus by alternating between taking pictures and taking naps. To catch a small glimpse of the views from the bus window, watch this video here:
Since the commute to the center was an adventure in itself, the nine interns of Centre ValBio’s Winter Study Abroad program cannot even imagine what adventures the next three weeks hold as they work on their individual experiential learning projects and research.