Madagascar: Cultural & Ecological Diversity Gap Year Semester

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Rugged travel across a canvas of deserts, forests, mountains, and seas paint the vivid ecosystems and traditions that make up this island-nation. Stunningly diverse and colossal in size, more than 80% of the plant and animal species in Madagascar are not found anywhere else in the world. The Malagasy people are similarly unique. Historical and geographic isolation have made Madagascar a place where almost all of what you see, hear, and do are possible nowhere else on earth. Early in the program, we set out to explore some of the country’s unique ecosystems. We trek in two of the country’s most famous national parks and conduct animal surveys alongside wildlife researchers. We learn about the many species of lemurs, an endangered primate well-known for their catlike faces and playful sounds and behaviors.

  • Delve into issues such as the provocative legacies of African slave trade and local conservation issues – particularly the complex tension between economic development and environmental preservation in Madagascar.
  • Investigate how the micro-economics and political events impact the environment in Madagascar.
  • Immerse yourself in Malagasy culture in two unique homestays in a semi-urban and rural environment.
  • Experience Madagascar’s rich biodiversity with multi-day hikes and day-hikes in Isalo National Park, Andasibe National Park and Ranomafana’s lush mid-altitude rainforest.
  • Travel throughout Madagascar on local transportation, which often winds slowly down sing-landed roads cluttered by cars, ox cards, bicycles and foot-traffic.

New: Fall and Spring Domestic Gap Semesters

We are excited to announce two North American Gap Semesters - the Rio Grande Semester: Stories of Culture, Identity, & Environment Along the Southern Border and the Colorado River Basin Semester: Sustainable Relationships with Land and Water in the Western United States.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Madagascar Senegal 2017 review

I got home from my gap semester and since than have thought, spoken, or written about my experience with Dragons every day since. I traveled to Madagascar and Senegal with limited knowledge of both places but now want nothing but to return to spend time with my host families and continue exploring both countries. One of my favorite memories was after our first trek in Ranomofana, Madagascar we got to a village and were hoping to camp in one of their rice patties. They were not expecting us but the agreed to let us stay and later on all the villagers came down to where we were camping and brought instruments and they gave us a performance of singing and a dance and it was just unlike anything I had ever experienced. After the performance and dinner they came back and at first it was just a big game of keep away with a beach ball and than music started and we continued dancing into the night even while it was beginning to rain, and that was when I fell in love with Madagascar. I learned about community while I was with dragons; I saw how community was such a big part in the lives of the people we were meeting and before I had this idea in my mind that being independent and self sufficient was the ideal way and that that was good, even if it felt lonely at times, and now I see that having people who support you and love you and work with you is so much more important than being able to do everything on your own. For future students I tell them to just say yes, say yes when your host sister asks you to go to the market, and say yes when she wants to braid your hair, say yes when your host mom wants to dress you traditionally, and say yes when your fellow student who wants to bring you a mango when you injur yourself. Just saying yes to opportunities even if they sound strange and not everyone is doing them are where some of my best experiences came from.

What would you improve about this program?
My program switched countries unexpectedly because of the plague in Madagascar but that resulted in 7-10 days of sitting in hotels in both Senegal and Madagascar of just doing nothing while things were being worked out. I think if that could have been improved or something to fill that time with something beneficial would have been better cause I’m those times everyone was upset and stressed but it felt like a waste of time and that isn’t what people wanted on their gap semester. Other than that I wouldn’t change anything.
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