Ten hours ahead and 10,351 miles from Rexburg, Idaho, Safidy Ramiaramanana, a junior majoring in international studies, anxiously waits for the borders of Madagascar to reopen.
At first, Ramiaramanana made the flight to Madagascar to complete an internship, leaving his pregnant wife and two children under 4 years old in Rexburg. On March 20, he asked for his internship to end early in order to go back home.
“They gave me permission to finish early my internship and while I was boarding the airplane, they closed down the border,” Ramiaramanana said. “I was literally shocked. I didn’t know what to say to my wife. Everybody already left, so I had to find a way to go home. It was quite challenging.”
On June 15, the government of Madagascar announced the country will remain closed for the time being. According to covidtracker.com, and as of June 16, Madagascar has 1,317 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 12 deaths.
“We really don’t know what’s going on, but all we can say is that it’s growing every day, and they’re not reopening soon,” said Ramiaramanana.
With the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of Madagascar’s borders, schooling became difficult for Ramiaramanana because of his location’s poor internet connection.
“When I finished my internship and spring semester started, I started taking classes online,” said Ramiaramanana. “But again, some other challenges came up. First of all, I wanted to do the on-campus form of teaching where you log in and do the calls. That doesn’t work for me because of the time. … With everybody staying at home and doing their work from home, the quality of internet connection has dropped drastically. It was horrible for the first three weeks.”
Ramiaramanana dropped all his classes three weeks after the start of the semester. Although he’s hoping to be back in Idaho for the fall semester, if he remains in Madagascar he wants to find a way to take classes and maintain his status as an international student.
Along with his role as a remote student, Ramiaramanana has also been forced to take on the responsibility of a remote parent, while his wife, who lives in Rexburg, takes care of their now three children, aged almost 3, 18 months and one month, who he has only seen over video chat.
“My wife is struggling with our kids,” said Ramiaramanana. “Although we have people around, it’s hard to take care of them because they’re so young. She’s really the one struggling a lot with that. Basically, I have to call them every single day, morning and evening, because that’s the best time to talk to them with the 10 hour time difference. I mostly call the older kids, cause they know me, and interact with me. Other than that, there’s not really much I can do other than emotional support, and encourage my wife that soon we’ll see the light again.”
Ramiaramanana hopes that he will be reunited with his family, and be able to continue his degree soon. Until then, he waits.