Holly Madland


Study abroad program, location and semester:


SIT Madagascar: Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management in Fort Dauphin, Fall 2012




Biology BS ; Music BA (concentration in voice)




Fall City, WA


Faculty Mentor: Istvan Urcuyo


Istvan Urcuyo has been my advisor since I declared a biology major my Sophomore year.  With a focus in marine biology, he has been an incredible source of encouragement and support. He encouraged me to study abroad, knowing full well the immense academic and cultural value I would garner from the experience.  My first field study experience with him was a two-week snorkeling intensive lab on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas.  My infatuation with marine biology has grown ever since.


Favorite abroad experience:


It wasn’t what most people would call paradise.  We were surrounded by the thorns and dripping latex of the Spiny Thicket in southern Madagascar.  The temperature had already climbed to 90 ° F by 9:00 in the morning, and we had been picking our way through the red brush for three hours, searching in vain for the elusive white lemur, the Sifaka.  Finally, our guide told us to stay put while he went to search.  I gulped some water as he disappeared silently into the thicket, surely laughing to himself that these foreigners couldn’t even find a few lemurs in the wild.  Sitting alone in more foreign surroundings than I could have imagined with my three class-mates, who were just as helpless as I was, I realized just how far we’d come from home.  As we whispered in the dry silence, suddenly a cacophony of growling screams erupted all around us.  Through the thorny branches, we saw five ghostly white figures dancing through the branches.  Our guide came skipping out of the brush, beckoning, and we leapt to our feet to follow him.  Ducking and weaving through vines that grabbed our skin and clothes, we finally came to rest under a tall bloated tree, in whose branches perched a troupe of Sifaka. They quietly growled at us, so we sat a little further off, and watched as they commenced with their grazing and grooming rituals.  We sat together, the Sifaka with the humans, for the rest of the morning in silent harmony.  They were amazing creatures, with teddy-bear faces and golden-brown crowns.  As we sat calmly, simply existing in the presence of one of nature’s most miraculous creations, I couldn’t help wonder, “How could this be anything but paradise?”


Why I joined GLGC:


I experienced intense culture shock upon my return to the United States, a feeling of total disorientation compounded by being back in school.  I joined GLGC because I knew having a community where I could listen to others’ experiences and share my own would help me make sense of what I was bringing back with me from my life in different world.


I’m A Source For:


Fencing, Women’s Choir