Experience the natural wonders of Madagascar’s rainforests, dry forests, mangroves, and coral reefs while you explore environmental challenges, conservation, and development in a biodiversity “hot spot” that has been isolated from neighboring land masses for more than 100 million years.
Study in a world apart, an island nation evolving from a set of unique, isolated environmental circumstances.
This program offers classroom and field-based instruction in natural and social scientific methods to encourage you to analyze environmental issues in an array of ecosystems—rainforests, dry and transitional forests, mangroves, and coral reefs—and within multiple economic, sociopolitical, and cultural contexts.
Enhance your French while learning Malagasy.
Studying in part of francophone Africa, you will improve your French and learn Malagasy, which allows you to connect more deeply with Malagasy people. Improve your speaking skills in both languages in the classroom, on field excursions, and with host families, friends, and Malagasy students.
Explore Madagascar’s capital and beyond.
Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, is a beautiful city built on hills, with distinct neighborhoods, bustling open-air markets, intriguing paths, and alluring staircases that wind their way among the hills. Commonly referred to as “Tana,” the city boasts an interesting mix of 19th-century Malagasy and more recent European influences, as evidenced by its layout, architecture, economy, attitude, and atmosphere. From this base, you’ll learn from academics, experts, and practitioners in the field of biodiversity and conversation management in preparation for field studies and excursions.
Study and work with Malagasy students.
You will use a range of social and natural science field techniques alongside Malagasy peers. During a village stay, you will use participatory rural appraisal techniques to gain an understanding of natural resource management by rice and vanilla farmers on the fringe of the Andapa basin and build on interview techniques learned in the villages. During field courses, study plant community ecology and lemur behavioral ecology. You will also learn hands-on techniques for the study of coral reef systems and mangroves and work with local fisher folk and aquaculture producers to understand the human side of marine resource management.
For each of the field courses, you will collect data, analyze it, and present your findings on the physical and social aspects of the topic in French.
Visit sites that reveal Madagascar’s contemporary ecology and conservation challenges.
You will be directly exposed to a diverse range of natural resource management models from state-managed national parks, private reserves, and community-managed forest and marine areas. This will allow you to witness the threats weighing on the environment including forest clearance for farming, artisanal mining, dynamics with cash crops, and the production of timber and fuel for local subsistence. The range of environments, management approaches, and challenges you will see will give you a solid insight into the different perspectives held by local customary land users, NGOs, and the state parks management.
Visit national parks and community-managed reserves at Marojejy, Ambodirafia (Cap Est), Daraina, Ankarana, Amber Mountain, and Makirovana.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Climate | Environment
Previous college-level coursework in environmental studies, ecology, biology, or related fields, as assessed by SIT. Three recent semesters of college-level French or equivalent, and the ability to follow coursework in French, as assessed by SIT.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Malagasy biodiversity, evolutionary history, and extinction
- Diversity of forest ecosystem types and land use dynamics
- History and diversity of Malagasy culture
- Marine and coastal ecosystems and management
- Environmental and social impacts of mining, cash crops, and tourism
- Issues pitting conservation against development and possible solutions
- Conservation through different models of protected area and natural resource management
- Root causes of biodiversity loss, including habitat clearance for agriculture, climate change, and macroeconomic drivers such as cash crops and mining
- Balancing environmental protection with livelihood needs from local to global scales
- Lemur conservation and behavioral ecology
- Ethnobotany and the interactions between culture and the environment
Classes are conducted mainly in academic French, with university professors and experts in relevant fields teaching the Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management seminar.
The Environmental Research Methods and Ethics seminar, conducted mainly in English, focuses on research techniques and cross-cultural adjustment skills and is intended to prepare students for the Independent Study Project. Readings and classroom sessions for the Research Methods and Ethics course are supplemented by a short field research project undertaken in a rural village.
The program’s French language course builds students’ capacity through a focus on conversational French and aims to enhance their use of French in the context of the natural sciences. Coursework in Malagasy provides students with the foundational and essential tools required for daily use.
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management Seminar – syllabus
- (ENVI3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This interdisciplinary course introduces students to a range of key policies and practices for the management of the unique and endemic natural resources in Madagascar. Using conceptual approaches drawn from environmental justice and political ecology, students explore diverse terrestrial and marine resources in a range of locales and consider the realities and challenges of developing effective and equitable natural resource management systems. Key themes through which these issues are explored during the course include livelihoods and stakeholder analyses, protected area and community based management systems, basic tools for understanding and monitoring natural resources, and cultural practices and their influence on natural resource management.
- Malagasy – syllabus
- Malagasy (French Version) – syllabus
- (MALA1003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Emphasis on beginning speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Formal instruction is augmented by language practice with homestay families.
- French for Natural Sciences – syllabus
- (FREN2003-2503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- French for Natural Sciences – syllabus
- (FREN3003-3503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Focusing on oral proficiency in the context of the natural sciences with a biodiversity and natural resource management concentration, language teaching is targeted toward the many activities in the thematic and research methods seminars in order to help students work more independently in the field. The objective is to facilitate students' interactions with a range of professionals in the field working to manage resources while promoting development within the local cultural context. In support of these objectives, course content provides additional focus on fundamentals of spoken and written French to increase student capacity. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in the appropriate level, with additional language practice in homestays and on field visits.
- Environmental Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
- (ENVI3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Conducted primarily in English, this is a course in social and natural sciences research methods. The focus is on learning how to collect, analyze, integrate, and report social and ecological data to critically understand and evaluate various environmental issues. The course serves as an introduction to the Independent Study Project and includes a focus on field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy. Field studies may include designing a research project; writing a proposal; interviewing; surveys; and maintaining a field journal. Specific ecological field study methods may include habitat surveys; biotic sampling and analysis; fauna and flora identification; biodiversity monitoring; population censusing; and animal behavior.
In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- Conducted primarily in northern Madagascar or other appropriate locations. Sample topic areas: reforestation; coral reef conservation; medicinal plants in the marketplace; ecotourism; carbon sequestration and financing; land tenure reform and agricultural production; conservation assessments of endangered species; cash crop production and links to local livelihoods; sacred forests; community-based resource management; behavioral ecology of lemurs; sustainable land use techniques.
- Internship and Seminar – syllabus
- (ITRN3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- You will gain valuable work experience and enhance your professional skillset in an international work environment, drawing on the wide network of community organizations, activists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and academics connected to the program.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
From the program base in Antananarivo you will undertake a wide range of field excursions to learn about the local environment and its management. These excursions may include:
Marojejy National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you will study its unique rainforest plants and encounter its incredible fauna
Daraina Reserve (Loky Manambato), where you will see the unique dry to humid forest ecotone and study the behavioral ecology of the critically endangered golden crowned sifaka, one of the islands rarest lemurs
The Andapa basin, where you will learn about Tsimihety culture, rice and vanilla farming, and different approaches to managing the forest of the COMATSA rainforest corridor
Ambodirafia (Cap Est), where you will explore the mangrove and coral reef ecosystems and work with local communities to understand marine and coastal resource management
The final excursion of the semester will take you to the far north of the island, where you will see the unique tsingy formations of Ankarana National Park, the rainforests of Amber Mountain National Park, and the historical Montagne des Francais. The landscapes of this region provide a juxtaposition of the island’s diverse geology, climate, and history, with a range of charismatic and locally endemic baobab, reptile, and lemur species.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Andolalao Rakotoarison, PhD, Academic Director
Ando is a Malagasy researcher. She completed her master’s degree in biology in 2011 at the University of Antananarivo. She received her PhD in 2017 at the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany, with a specialization in taxonomy revision of the microhylid cophyline frogs from Madagascar. In 2018, she became a lecturer at an affiliate institution of the University of Antananarivo at Soavinandriana, Itasy, Madagascar. The same year, she was appointed co-chair of the Amphibian Specialist Group Madagascar where she coordinates a network of national and international research specialists representing the Malagasy government, universities, and NGOs. For the past eight years, Ando’s research has focused on the resolution of the enormous taxonomy gap within the Malagasy cophyline subfamily by maximizing taxonomy revision. This revision will contribute to the establishment of a conservation strategy for each nominal species.
Christophe Manjaribe, PhD, Academic Coordinator
Born in Madagascar, Christophe obtained his PhD in ecological restoration and reforestation of fragmented forests from the University of Antananarivo in 2014. He was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship in 2017 by the Académie de Recherche de l’Enseignement Supérieur (ARES) in Belgium for his work on integrating scientific skills and research into the production of vanilla in Madagascar’s Sava Region. He is a professor at Antsiranana University and coordinator of natural and environmental sciences at Centre Universitaire Régional de la Sava. He previously worked with Conservation International to support their program of creating an inventory of carbon stocks in Madagascar. Christophe’s research on forest restoration from seeds dispersed by lemurs has been published in the International Journal of Ecology, Hindawi Zoological Studies, and Tohiravina. Christophe specializes in not only plant production and systematics but also the conservation and rational utilization of biodiversity. He served as the coordinator of Réseau des Environnementalistes et Acteurs de Développement of the Sava Region and has been working with SIT since January, lecturing on the vegetation of Madagascar, botanical field methodologies, and lemur ecology and conservation.
Mamy Rajaonah, Program Assistant
A native of Antananarivo, Mamy has played an essential role in SIT Madagascar programs in Antananarivo, Fort Dauphin, and Antalaha since 1998. He handles logistics for all aspects of the program, including transportation, communications, local staff, catering, and health and safety. He also provides valuable insight into Malagasy culture and advice and logistics for Independent Study Projects.
Ertice Iarozafy, Malagasy Language Coordinator
Ertice has worked for the last five years as an environmental education teacher trainer and guide at the Macolline Nature Reserve and as an English language teacher at a private high school in his home town of Antalaha. He has taken part in diverse trainings, including trainings with GIZ and Duke Lemur Centre’s Sava Conservation Program. Ertice joined the SIT Madagascar team in January 2018. He coordinates the teaching of Malagasy and supports students during all the field training courses.
Patrick Totobemahefa, Homestay Coordinator
Patrick was trained as a geographer at the University of Toamasina and has spent the last fifteen years of his career working in rural development in his home Sava region. As well as coordinating the homestays in Antalaha and providing organizational support for the team, Patrick chairs a local development organization, ONG Zanakambanivolo.
Soadava, French Language Teacher
Soadava spent her career as a French language teacher at the public lycee in her home town of Antalaha. As well as teaching French to SIT students, she is chairperson of the local Cultural and Language Center of the Alliance Francaise in Antalaha and a qualified instructor and examiner for the DELF and DALF language qualifications.
Lilyane Juana Marie, Student Affairs Assistant and Malagasy Language Facilitator
Lilyane is a graduate in natural sciences from SIT’s local partner, the CURSA (Centre Universitaire Regionale de le Sava). After working with WWF on their Climate Witness Program in remote parts of Sava and collecting data for research undertaken with Lancaster University on vanilla farming, Lilyane joined the SIT Madagascar team in January 2018. She supports the Malagasy language program, student welfare, and field courses throughout the semester.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
You will live with a host family in Antananarivo throughout your time at the program center. While here, you will go on trips to various ecosystems, nature reserves, and historical sites. Some students also choose to spend time with their host family during the Independent Study Project period.
This homestay is a gateway into the warmth and generosity of Malagasy family life and society and is a primer for language learning. Many Malagasy homes are modest and simple. Some host families cook outside on charcoal stoves, and it is not uncommon to have farm animals in the courtyard.
You will live for a week in a rural village near the town of Andapa, in the Sava region of northern Madagascar. Village conditions are very basic, with no electricity or running water. You may spend time in rice fields; at vanilla plantations; at the local school, medical clinic, or market; or in other local activities. Your host family will teach you about Tsimihety culture and the lifestyle of Malagasy farmers. You will also get the chance to learn songs and dances typical of the region. SIT staff members visit the village daily.
The village stay emphasizes the importance of reciprocity as an integral part of the study abroad experience. In addition to sharing the experience of living in rural Madagascar, SIT and Malagasy students work together during field courses in Marojejy and Andapa, providing not only the opportunity for cultural exchange, but also learning field methods together. The students from the local university as well as other local associations and the homestays provide you with the opportunity to engage with the community.
Other accommodations during the program include campsites and small hotels.
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
During the final month of the semester, you will focus on an Independent Study Project (ISP) in which you will conduct primary research on a selected topic. You will be able to take advantage of the program’s extensive in-country networks to work with top practitioners, academics, and environmental NGOs. The ISP is conducted throughout Madagascar in appropriate locations.
Sample ISP topic areas:
- Community-based resource management
- Conservation assessments of endangered species
- Coral reef management and conservation
- Cash crop production and links to local livelihoods
- Medicinal plants in the marketplace
- Behavioral ecology of lemurs
- Carbon sequestration and financing
- Land tenure reform and agricultural production
- Payments for ecosystem services
- Sacred forests
- Sustainable land use techniques
- Social impacts of land use change from mining and agriculture
The four-week internship provides you with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience with an organization in Madagascar. You will have the option of choosing an SIT-arranged internship or seeking out your own opportunity (with approval from the academic director). The scope of the internship will depend greatly on the nature of the organization and may deal with local, national, or international issues, on topics as diverse as natural resource management, conservation, scientific research, environmental advocacy, education, community development, industrial food production, or sustainable agriculture.
In addition to completing the internship, you will submit a paper that describes, assesses, and analyzes your learning. The paper will also outline the tasks you completed throughout the internship, knowledge you acquired, professional relationships you developed, and challenges you encountered and how you overcame them.
- Supporting agroforestry efforts, monitoring the locally endemic wildlife, and promoting the area through communications at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in the Makirovana-Tsihomanaomby protected area
- Conserving and breeding endemic Malagasy fish in Andapa with Guy tam Hyock from the APPA Association des Producteurs Privee des Alevins
- Undertaking ecological monitoring and environmental education and developing interpretative materials at the Antanetiambo Nature Reserve with award winning conservationist Desire Rabary
- Developing and monitoring sustainable natural resource use projects—including fuel efficient stoves, aquaculture and environmental education—with the Duke Lemur Center Sava Conservation Program
- Monitoring populations of critically endangered lemurs and building local capacity in the Anjanaharibe Special Reserve with the Lemur Conservation Foundation
- Supporting ecological restoration and monitoring in the Macolline Nature Reserve and community development and livelihoods activities in collaboration with CALA
- Developing sustainability initiatives—including urban agriculture, recycling, youth climate and environmental outreach—through the Think Green Madagascar center in Hell Ville Nosy Be
Students on this program represent a variety of colleges, universities, and majors. Many of them have gone on to pursue academic and professional work that connects back to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:
- Director of international programs and global health fellowships at Norfolk Academy, Norfolk, VA
- Executive director of EduFood, Oxford, MS
- National Science Foundation fellow and PhD candidate in Virginia Tech’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Blacksburg, VA
- Assistant professor of environmental studies at Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT
- Chief of party for USAID forest land tenure programs in Africa
Alumni are also working in climate change and sustainable development, renewable energy, sustainable living design, permaculture, business development and strategic growth, medicine, and law.
This information is provided to assist you in identifying possible accessibility barriers and preparing for an accessible educational experience with SIT Study Abroad. You should be aware that while in-country conditions and resources vary by site, every effort is made to work collaboratively with qualified individuals to facilitate disability-related accommodation. If you have a disability, you are encouraged to contact SIT Disability Services at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information related to access abroad and to discuss possible accommodations.
During the coursework phase of the program, you will generally be in class three to four days per week for five to seven hours per day and are otherwise in the field, depending on study unit. You will be given one break approximately every two hours.
Learning is typically assessed through take-home assignments, in-class assignments, written assignments/exams, oral presentations/exams, individual assignments, group assignments and ongoing language assessment. You will only be in a formal classroom setting for the first eight weeks. Course readings and in-class materials are typically available in a digital format.
If you have questions about alternate format materials, testing accommodations, or other academic accommodations, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services as early as possible.
The SIT program office is accessed by a sandy footpath and veranda, with only one step. The building does not have an elevator. The exterior door and most of the interior doors and pathways measure at least 32 in. (82 cm.) wide. The program’s classrooms, and study/library space have accessible door handles but are not located on the ground level. The site’s restroom is located on the ground level, with the toilets one small step up, and has a raised toilet seat (approximately two ft. from the ground). The program does not have a separate computer space or lounge for students.
The program includes single- and multi-day excursions to rainforests, dry forests, rice farming areas, and coastal/marine areas. Program excursions involve standing, walking, and hiking for prolonged periods of time in a multitude of environments with variable climates. A pair of comfortable, rubber-soled, waterproof shoes is recommended. Program excursions may occasionally vary to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities.
Each program’s homestay coordinator will be responsible for placing students in homestays. These placements are first made based on health concerns, including any allergies or dietary needs, to the extent possible. Homestays offer students fairly regular access to electricity to charge devices. If a refrigerator for storing medication is not available at the homestay, the program center can arrange an alternative. During the rural homestay, you will not have access to electricity or running water. The physical accessibility of homestay options is currently limited. If you have questions about homestay accessibility, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services as early as possible.
Rice is a staple of the Madagascar diet. It may be accompanied with sauces and with zebu (local beef) as well as pork, chicken, crab, fish, corn, peanuts, and potatoes. Fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful. Broth with leafy greens is also popular.
SIT Study Abroad works with students, program staff, homestay families, home colleges and universities, and others to accommodate student dietary needs whenever possible. For more information on dietary needs and dietary preferences, please review the Student Support section of the Student Health, Safety, and Support web page.
In Antananarivo, students typically walk or use a bajaj on the 15–50 minutes between their primary homestay and the bus stop from where they travel to the program center. Taxis and buses can be arranged as necessary. Walking, mini-buses, 4X4 vehicles, tractors, boats, and planes are used for program excursions. Wheelchair lifts and ramps are not available. The general routes of travel in Madagascar are poor, with uneven terrain and large pot holes. Sidewalks lack curb cuts and are very uneven and cracked with many large gaping holes. There are no traffic lights or crosswalks.
You are advised to bring your own academic technology, including laptops, thumb drives, recording devices, and assistive technology. Special care must be given to electronic devices due to the high humidity and large quantities of dust. It is recommended that you fully insure your electronic property against loss or theft. Computers for word processing, printing, copying, and scanning are available in town on a fee-for-service basis. Video projectors are also available for presentations.
If you have questions about assistive technology, note-taking accommodations, or other academic accommodations, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services as early as possible.
Medical centers and hospitals are concentrated in urban areas, and trained medical professionals are often less available in rural areas. Payment for medical services is covered by your health insurance, although in Madagascar it is necessary to pay this upfront while you are receiving the medical service and claim it back from the insurance provider afterwards.
Once admitted, you are encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns about accessing health services or medication while abroad during the health review process. Read more about the health review process and the Summary of Benefits for student health insurance.
Requesting Disability-Related Accommodations
To request disability-related accommodations once you’re admitted, you should contact the Office of Disability Services. For more information about the accommodation process, documentation guidelines and a link to the accommodation request form, please visit the Office of Disability Services website.
If you have a disability, you are encouraged to contact Disability Services at email@example.com or 802 258-3390 as early as possible for information and support.
Additional Support Resources
MIUSA (Mobility International USA) is a cross-disability organization serving those with cognitive, hearing, learning, mental health, physical, systemic, vision, and other disabilities. It offers numerous resources for persons with disabilities who wish to study abroad and/or engage in international development opportunities.
Abroad with Disabilities (AWD) is a Michigan nonprofit organization founded in 2015 with the goal of promoting the belief that persons with disabilities can and should go abroad. AWD works diligently to empower clients to pursue study, work, volunteer, and/or internship opportunities outside of the United States by creating dialogue, sharing resources, and spreading awareness.
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Biodiversity and natural resources
- Malagasy society and cultural values
- Environmental Research Methods and Ethics seminar in preparation for the Independent Study Project or internship
- Intensive language instruction in French
- Intensive language instruction in Malagasy
- All educational excursions to locations such as Marojejy National Park, Daraina Reserve, Antananarivo, Cap Est, and Diego Suarez, including all related travel costs
- Independent Study Project or internship (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $2,453
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Antananarivo), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project or internship, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays in Antananarivo while at the program base and one week in a rural village
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
Airfare to Program Site
Airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $ 60
Books & Supplies: $ 50
International Phone: Each student must bring a smart phone that is able to accept a local SIM card with them to their program, or they must purchase a smart phone locally.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.
In order to make study abroad more accessible, SIT's partner colleges and universities may charge home school tuition fees for their students participating on an SIT Study Abroad program. If your institution has an agreement with SIT and charges fees different from those assessed by SIT, please contact your study abroad advisor for more details. The SIT published price is the cost to direct enroll in the SIT program. Tuition fees may vary for students based on your home college's or university's billing policies with SIT.