Kimberley Preston is a junior in the Oregon State University Honors College studying both Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences and International Studies. During Fall 2013, Kim studied Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management at the School for International Training (SIT) in Madagascar.

My whole life I have been a naturally fast walker. As soon as I decide on a target destination, I charge forward, taking long strides, and moving with purpose. After spending a semester in Madagascar, however, my technique has changed.  As a student in a biodiversity and natural resource management program, I spent the majority of my four months abroad trekking through rainforests, spiny thickets, deserts, mangroves and the infamous tsingy (stone forest). All the while I learned about nature and immersed myself in the diverse environments and cultures of Madagascar. But, in a country rooted in the theme of mora mora (slowly, slowly), where success in life is measured by zebu count, family and land, where people live and breathe the environment around them, no one goes out hiking for fun. For most Malagasy people, hiking is not an activity of pleasure; it is a necessity of daily work.

In every new region we explored, the theme of mora mora persisted. Nearly three months into our semester, we reached Le Parc National d’Andringitra. This place was unlike any others we had seen yet. We hiked to base camp with all of our gear on our backs. The elevation gain revealed itself in the hours of steep climbing and in the cooling air around us.

The very next day, we woke with the sunlight hitting the cathedral mountains that formed a ring around our little plateau. Packing plenty of water and layers to shield against the cold, we followed our local guide to the trail head. Before leaving, Fidel, our guide, explained rule number one: he would set the pace. Composed of experienced hikers, the group was antsy to charge the mountain to reach our final destination, Peak Bobby, but we respected the rule and obediently kept pace with Fidel throughout the hike.

I soon realized, though, that this was not the usual, aggressive Western pace I grew up with. This was a hiking experience following the rhythm of a Malagasy man. For the first time I truly felt the heartbeat of this amazing place and I realized the value of living by the pace of mora mora. It gave me time to taste the cool, moist air; to hear my shoes scuff the dirt; to exchange ideas with my peers and live in the moment.

Today, back in the U.S. it is easy to fall into pace with those rushing around me—everyone charging forward with a purpose. Now though, I slow down every so often and appreciate the value of experiencing not only different places but different paces as well.

SIT (School for International Training) study abroad has officially been partnered with OSU since 2006, and OSU students have taken advantage of its programs to study in non-traditional study abroad destinations, such as Bolivia, Madagascar, Mongolia, Nepal, and the Netherlands thus far. All of the SIT programs are approved at OSU and available to all eligible students.

SIT Study Abroad offers unique, field-based opportunities for OSU undergraduates to engage directly with the most critical issues facing our world today.  If you are looking for a way to take your academic training beyond the classroom and you want to see first-hand how different cultures and societies are coping with the realities of the 21st century, then a SIT Study Abroad program is right for you.

With SIT, you will become deeply engaged in a topic, undertake you own research, and perhaps discover a lifelong passion. You will deepen your understanding of your chosen topic by learning from experts, academics, practitioners, families, local organizations, and beyond.

SIT Study Abroad has offered programs for undergraduate students for over 50 years.  To date, more than 25,000 students have participated in SIT programs. SIT currently offers over 70 summer or semester long programs in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, the Pacific, and the Middle East that address these Critical Global Issues:.

All programs are run by Academic Directors who live full-time in the program location and are experts in the field. Each program consists of some combination of the following coursework: Intensive Language Study, a Thematic Seminar on the specific topic of the program, a Field Study Seminar which teaches research methods and ethics, and an Independent Study Project. In a typical semester-long program, Intensive Language Study, Thematic Seminar and Field Study Seminar coursework occurs simultaneously in the first two-thirds of the program, while the Independent Study Project takes place in the last four weeks. Our summer programs use selected elements drawn from this same model.

These are the hallmarks of a SIT Study Abroad Experience:

  • Rigorous academic programs with an interdisciplinary, experiential approach
  • Undergraduate research through an Independent Study Project
  • Cultural immersion through fieldwork, educational excursions, intensive language classes (if in a non-English speaking country), and homestays
  • A small group of 10-30 students in each program
  • A commitment to reciprocity as the foundation of our educational philosophy

The mission of SIT Study Abroad is to prepare students to be interculturally effective leaders, professionals, and citizens. In so doing, SIT fosters a worldwide network of individuals and organizations committed to responsible engagement in a changing world. Come join us!

Connect with students, colleagues, alumni, and friends through our many social networking channels. Learn about the latest program updates, read interviews with current students and alum, watch videos and view photos of our programs. SIT also offers Pell Grant Match scholarships to students who receive Pell grant and participate in targeted programs.

Karin in Madagascar
Karin Bucht at Isalo National Park in Madagascar

Karin Bucht, Environmental Science and International Studies Degrees, is spending Fall 2010 on an SIT study abroad program on biodiversity in Madagascar.  The following is an excerpt from her own blog.

So I’m back in Antananarivo, the capital for the next week. Since Tulear; we road tripped through Madagascar, visiting several different Parks and protected areas. The first place we stopped was Isalo National Park, which was incredible, even though a large portion had been burned several weeks before by an out of control brush fire.  The rocks and the views were incredible.

Our second stop along our roadtrip was Anjy, which is a community managed protected area. The best thing about Anjy, we found out the next morning. First off, while waiting for breakfast; a group of ringtail lemurs came and passed by our campsite. Later that morning we did a circuit tour where we learned that the lemurs passing by our campsite was just the beginning of our lemur experience. According to our guides, about 400 ringtails live in Anjy, in

Lemurs at Anjy

groups of about 20. Being a community managed protected area, the lemurs here have never been hunted by locals and are very accustomed to humans. So when we did our circuit tour, we found ourselves in the midst of a group, with lemurs passing overhead. The hike also included some great views, but the lemurs were definitely the highlight. It seems pretty incredible to find lemurs here more approachable than they were at a private reserve (called Berenty) that we visited in the south. I’m still in Tana now, enjoying a reasonably fast cybercafé and getting lots of practice with the french keyboard. Veloma!

group shot in Isalo
Karin and her SIT classmates at Isalo National Park