Home to wildlife that literally can’t be found anywhere else (including the famous lemur), Madagascar is the perfect destination for biology internships abroad. Whether you want to intern in wildlife conservation in Ranomafana National Park, take on projects protecting the Avenue of Baobabs, or assist local hospitals on the coast, this island nation offers even the most adventurous and outdoorsy person the perfect selection of internship placements. Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, and labeled a dream destination for all outdoor lowers; but at GoAbroad we like to call it “the dream destination for adventurous interns who happen to love lemurs.”
From the busy capital city to the rainforest to the beach, there is no shortage of internships in Madagascar. When choosing a location for your Malagasy internship, it’s important to keep your expectations in mind. Would you rather work in a city and help out with more economic and business related projects or does an environmentally-minded placement appeal to you? Regardless of your interests, every internship in Madagascar will offer pros and cons, so just make sure to adequately research each location before applying.
Nosy Be. On the magical island of Nosy Be, interns can have a productive work day followed by a relaxing evening on some of Madagascar’s best beaches. Nosy Be is one of those rare paradises that is still enough off the beaten path that it doesn’t feature “noisy” attractions, such as speedboats and jet skis, and yet it still allows for some modern comforts. Although Nosy Be is one of the more expensive places to live in this island nation, it is sunny year-round and prices are still relatively affordable. Some of the other more interesting aspects of Nosy Be are its sugarcane fields, rum distilleries, and railways, which give off a distinct Caribbean feel. Nosy Be has a huge variety of internship opportunities too, whether you are looking to get into medicine, teaching, or community development and NGO work.
Tôlanaro, Tolagnaro, or formerly Fort Dauphin, has been an important hub in Madagascar since as early as the 1500s. Located on the southeastern coast of Madagascar, Fort Dauphin boasts a sunny and somewhat dry climate, but the winds are likely to be strong in the fall. Most individuals who intern in Tôlanaro end up working in environmental conservation, as there has been a huge increase in mining in the area, creating concern over the damage that mining causes to the surrounding habitat.
Moramanga. Located between the capital at Antananarivo and the eastern coast, Moramanga literally translates to “cheap mangoes”. The city holds an important place in Malagasy history, as the birthplace of the uprising against French rule in the 1940s. It is also the capital of one of Madagascar’s 18 ethnic peoples, the Bezanozano. Being a city, or a “commune urbaine”, Moramanga provides a few modern comforts while at the same time having a definitively remote feel to it. Finally, in addition to having access to delicious, cheap mangoes, interns placed in Moramanga will most likely assist with local environmental conservation projects.
The official languages spoken in Madagascar are Malagasy and French. People will be incredibly impressed if you can speak Malagasy, but learning it is almost never a requirement to intern in Madagascar. Most workplace communication is conducted in French or English. Outside the workplace it might behoove you to learn a bit of basic Malagasy, but people in general will be happy to try and communicate in English.
Internships in Madagascar
While an internship in Madagascar will already stand out on your resume as an “off the beaten path” experience, most placements will also be non-traditional. Due to its amazing nature and biological blessings, most internships in Madagascar will have an aspect of environmental protection and conservation. However, there are also opportunities to intern in more social work focused settings, which may even have a volunteer experience feel to it. Be sure you know what you want out of your internship before you apply, and take a look at some of the placements we’ve outlined below to get an idea of the vast diversity available.
Environmental Conservation. Madagascar showcases some of the most amazing biodiversity on the planet; unfortunately, that biodiversity is under heavy duress and is incredibly fragile. Due to increasing industrialization and mining, Malagasy habitats all over the island are in danger. Therefore, an increase in internship placements related to conservation, environmental education, and research in the field of biodiversity has occurred. A number of NGO’s are focusing solely on protecting the incredibly fragile network of habitats in Madagascar, which include the famous lemur’s homeland. A typical day at an environmental conservation internship in Madagascar might include taking basic Malagasy language lessons, traveling to remote parts of the island, and working with village communities to promote environmental awareness and protection.
Community Development. While contributing to one of the biggest areas of need in Madagascar, community development interns will assist in combatting poverty through projects focused on community prosperity and growth. Interns will most likely work in smaller villages throughout Madagascar and focus on education assistance and construction. Some of these construction projects include constructing schools, building cleaner burning stoves, and digging new wells for purer water. Community development interns will often help educate children in hygiene and general health practices too.
Teaching. Another great placement type for international interns is education, which typically requires volunteers to work at local village schools where teachers are lacking. Interns will spend most of their time helping their local counterparts teach English, especially conversational English and vocabulary. By teaching English in Madagascar, interns can help kids living in impoverished communities find a way out of poverty (aka. education) by providing them with skills that will make them more valuable to employers in the future.
Compared to working in a traditional western environment, the work culture in Madagascar is pretty relaxed. However, in a more corporate work place make sure to dress professionally and conservatively. A community based internship in Madagascar will likely have a less defined dress code. In terms of greeting bosses and coworkers, it’s generally a smart idea to shake someone’s hand with your right hand and your left hand held below your right elbow. Lastly, Malagasy people are incredibly friendly; in fact, they’re so friendly that foreigners are sometimes taken aback at the complete lack of personal space. Don’t take it personally though, it’s just another part of the experience!
Salary & Costs
As with most internships abroad, internship placements in Madagascar are, for the most part, unpaid. Consequently, be sure to save accordingly before your trip and budget like a local would when living in Madagascar. However, it is possible to find internships in Madagascar that provide a stipend, just don’t count on it. Not to worry though, life in Madagascar is very affordable, even if it doesn’t come with some of the luxuries that Westerners may be used to. Just make sure to pay attention to where your local co-workers shop and eat to get the best deals on things.
Based on food and the rent of a one bedroom apartment downtown, the cost of living for a month in Madagascar ranges between $500 and $600. A one bedroom apartment close to the city center will be about $360, although some internships will include housing arrangements. Meanwhile, for food, an inexpensive restaurant will only cost about two dollars. Public transportation in Madagascar is very affordable too, at about 17 cents for a one way ticket somewhere within a major city.
Accommodation & Visas
Madagascar is fairly accommodating when it comes to visa requirements, so it shouldn’t be a problem for most interns to apply. For American citizens who want to intern in Madagascar for less than 90 days, a visa is not required. However, and this should be obvious, a passport IS required. No one can go abroad without a passport! If you are planning on interning in Madagascar for more than 90 days, make sure to check with your internship provider to get a longer visa situation sorted out. Many internship placement providers offer longer than 90 day stays, so they’ll be well versed in how to get you the right visa for the right amount of time. Be sure to be diligent and get everything approved in advance, and check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory for the latest info.
We recommend that you prepare yourself for unorthodox housing, as accommodation can vary per placement from a modern apartment to a tent on a beach. If you are looking to intern in the city, expect to find housing on your own and pay for a one bedroom or shared apartment. As mentioned above, rent is in the $350 per month range. For other internships in Madagascar, accommodation can be incredibly unique, and downright outdoorsy. Some programs even offer interns the chance to stay in tents while they work on environmental issues. Just research, ask a lot of questions, and be flexible and you’ll be fine.
Benefits & Challenges
Life in Madagascar will be a wildly different experience to anything you have lived through so far. Biologically one of the most diverse regions on the planet, Madagascar offers interns an amazing chance to explore mother nature and really “take it all in.” Other aspects of Malagasy life might seem like challenges at first, but in the end you might enjoy them as benefits, such as the friendly lack of personal space and the light three meals a day of rice. In the end, even if you’re sick of being called a “vazaha” (friendly slang for foreigner), just stay positive and patient, and your internship in Madagascar will be truly unforgettable. If all else fails, just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.