Warm greetings from Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar and the city where you will soon land! The clock is ticking and this time next month, you are going to be with us. You will be starring, not in the Madagascar cartoon, but in Madagascar Fall 2017 course. So, bring your camera to capture the scenes! Like in any adventure movies, there will be some potholes and roadblocks along the way but we will team-up and support each other to turn challenges into positive and empowering experiences.
By the way, anarako (my name is) Sidonie Emerande. I am Malagasy and one of your course instructors this fall. I am from Antalaha in the North East of Madagascar. Antalaha is famous for its vanilla, rosewood, and 22 kinds of fruit. Coincidentally, in November, you will enjoy Madagascar’ special litchis and mangoes of different kinds. So get excited for that season, if you love fruit like I do!
As a bit of background, I studied applied Linguistics in a Language Teaching and Gender Issues program at Antananarivo University for both my undergraduate and Masters degree. I also worked as a U.S. Peace Corps Language and Cultural Facilitator for four years, an English as a Foreign Language teacher, and an Academic Assistant for SIT Study Abroad programs in Madagascar. I have instructed on three summer programs for Dragons and I am looking forward to leading this first semester program. Each Dragons program has inspired me in different ways – ranging from helping me become being more passionate about writing about new experiences to being a more mindful being.
In Madagascar, there is no word for “personal space,” but not to worry! I will do all I can to give you space for yourselves so that you can live and explore Madagascar’s diverse customs as well as your own interests. I also hope to collaborate in creating spaces for you to step out of your comfort zone. I hope that over our semester together I can support you in finding the best version of yourselves in challenging contexts. It is such an admirable choice that you have made to spend a semester in Madagascar, and I have no doubt that you will be grateful for taking this chance. During your semester here, you will learn about various cuisines, cultures, and habits of a variety of Malagasy people. Some of your hidden talents may also emerge and I hope that the overall experience will make you look at life differently.
The biodiversity and the landscapes of Madagascar will certainly be part of the highlight of your time with us. However, Marcel Proust said: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” I believe that how we look at things and our willingness to explore new things is so important in life. To have a cocoon mindset is cozy, but that of a caterpillar is more fulfilling!
I hope each of you will come to Madagascar with an optimistic attitude and plans to enjoy the grandeur of our adventure!
Mandrapihaona Daholo! (See you all soon!)