• Ridge Michiels

Charlotte Tomme on her experience in Madagascar

Manao ahoana! Bonjour! Hallo!

I never thought that my international adventure would take such a turn. On 1 February, I left with some trepidation, feeling slightly stressed, but definitely up for my adventure to the other side of the world. I was ready for my 12-week traineeship in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

The first six weeks passed without a glitch and the coronavirus was not even on the horizon here. I met plenty of new people and was introduced to the amazing culture of Madagascar. I enjoyed the good food and ‘vendredi magnifique’ (the local after work party). But unfortunately, even this magnificent country was hit by the pandemic. Everything changed on 23 March 2020 and I also was required to go into quarantine. Fortunately, I was not alone, and I was able to rely on the support and the companionship of a fellow student and the amazing host family where we were staying. We kept to our ‘kot’ together and did plenty of fun things, like baking biscuits, exercising, talking walks, reading a good book in the sun and so on. But there was always the lingering uncertainty: would we be able to return to Belgium at some point? The number of infections continued to increase with leaps and bounds, the borders were closed and international flights were systematically cancelled.


Madagascar is a poor nation. Currently very poor people find themselves having to choose between continuing to work or staying at home and starving. The city centre is still very busy. The locals keep their small shops open so that people can feed their families in the evening. Even though they risk becoming infected. That is why it doesn’t feel like quarantine, but you do notice that the virus plays an important role in daily life.


We kept in constant touch with our faculty, the Belgian embassy in Kenya and the consulate in Antananarivo in recent weeks, to find a way out of this complicated situation. And we found a solution! We will be returning to Belgium tomorrow on an Air France repatriation flight. How exciting! My stay here was far too short! Too short for the many things that I still wanted to do and see. But I have such fond memories of my stay here. Despite the corona crisis, I will never forget this fantastic experience!

Veloma! (= see you soon!)

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