Profile: Jack Holloman '16

  • A group of students sits in a hut in Africa

Majors: Biology, Studio Art

Year Abroad and Program: Fall 2014, SIT Madagascar: Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management

Reason you chose this program: I chose this program firstly because the program theme was right up my alley. I also wanted to study in a place completely different than what I knew. Madagascar was a place I'd only seen in inaccurately portrayed films and glorified Google images. A Google image search of Madagascar yields animated characters from a film entitled “Madagascar” and photos of beautiful beaches and baobab trees. I chose to study in Madagascar to understand what this country was truly like.

Why did you choose to study abroad when you did: I chose to study abroad in the fall simply because I prefer the spring semester at Brandeis.

Favorite Class: My favorite class was the Malagasy (local language) class. I loved learning a language that resembled no other language that I know. The professors were great and I became good friends with them.

Housing Situation: I lived with four homestay families over the course of the semester. The homestays varied: in some cases I had my own small room and bed, in another I shared a room with my two brothers. In between the homestays, we camped in tents and occasionally stayed in bungalows.

Best Memory: Though our program showed us the monumentally big qualities (national parks, Malagasy culture) of Madagascar, my favorite memories are the small things. One of my best memories occurred in Faux Cap, way down south in Madagascar when I lived with a family in a small village for a week. My dad, a Malagasy student, and I walked about two miles to the nearest market when it started pouring rain. There were a few small shacks in the market in which women were preparing coffee and rice and they were all crammed with people evading the rain. My dad found some space for the three of us in one of these shacks so we squeezed inside. There must have been about twenty people in this 10x10 shack, most people complete strangers to one another (especially me). Even though I could only speak minimally to these Malagasy people, saying things like “Hello,” “How are you,” and “I'm American,” I felt so tightly connected to them for sharing that moment. We're all just people. And even though it was raining, everyone was smiling and talking to each other, curious about the white person, but being so friendly and happy. Everyone in the house laughed when they heard me speaking Malagasy and after huddling together with these complete strangers for fifteen minutes, I felt as if they were my friends when we left.

Greatest Challenge: My greatest challenge was adjusting to the food. I mostly just ate rice, beans, meat, and lots of fruit so my stomach always felt funny. I had some very unpleasant bowel movements and there wasn't much I could do about it. I learned to accept it.

What you know now that you didn't know before: I now know that there is a beautiful culture and people in Madagascar that are living at the same time as me. Before going to Madagascar, I had no idea what to expect, because I've been living in a bubble my entire life. But now I know exactly what it's like. That makes me think of all the other countries that I haven't been to—they all have people with their own cultures and traditions and they're living their own lives just as I'm living mine. Thinking about that boggles my mind.

Fact about Madagascar that you think people would be surprised to learn: Although rice is the biggest agricultural crop in Madagascar, it's actually imported as well because Malagasy people eat so much of it.