My Malagasy Diaspora Tantara: Diaspora Stories Told Around the World
Today, an estimated 300,000 Malagasy people live outside of Madagascar and live all around the globe. No diaspora story is alike but what we share is that love and connection to Madagascar that we carry in our hearts, new hometowns, and life. Here are our stories.
Today: Daniella, takes us to new heights as a pilot student traversing the highs and lows of studying in the U.S. to pursue her passion for flying, travel, and learning new cultures and customs.
Born and raised in Madagascar, I left my motherland at 18 to continue my study in France for 2 years. Unfortunately, France was not a good match for me.
I decided to come study in US on an impulse. The US has always been my destination dream, but I never planned to go there until I didn’t know where else to go after College (they call it BTS in France).
When I first came to DC, I didn’t know anybody, I had no family, no friends in any of the states. But one of my sister's in Christ in France has a family in the DC area and she introduced me to them and asked me to meet them at the Malagasy Church. Thanks to them, I felt home. I fell in love with the city, the lifestyle, the culture, and everything about it. My first year was a pretty easy year. The Malagasy Diaspora welcomed me soooo well, I got to meet lifelong friends from all over the world and people I will hold dear for a long time.
Being an international student in the DC Area (my first school year was in Downtown DC and then in Gaithersburg, Maryland) is an experience that is both challenging and fulfilling. I learned a lot about myself and understood about being responsible. It was daunting but absolutely marvelous to be in a place where I didn’t know the language, hardly knew anyone, and was so far away from home and what became my second home. I saw unbelievable sights and met some of the best people I’ve met! Unfortunately, we cannot work in the US as an International Student (except in your university, but it’s kind of impossible in my flight school), and that makes my school years complicated: I have to live with roommates, organize my expenses, limit parties and restaurants, and I can’t even see my friends as much as I could. I have to compare the prices when I go to the grocery store, think twice before buying something, because it’s Ariary that has been transferred to Dollars. You know the feeling.
The hardest part of being a student pilot is the cost of the flight training: the Ariary to Dollars currency conversion, and I had to pay for each flight. For $190 per hour, I usually fly for 2hours a day, every day (yes, even on Sundays, holidays such as Christmas,Thanksgiving, New Year, NYE, Easter and such). That means, no social life. I couldn’t really attend any parties, friends gatherings, or Church services for example. But I tried to balance it. You also have to keep yourself healthy for safety and to meet the medical conditions to be qualified.
I’m studying my passion, and I’ve always loved aviation and clouds. Flying through them especially, surfing the tops is like being in a magical parallel universe. My training also allowed me to meet an amazing supportive community of female pilots.
Even if English has always been my favorite subject at school, I realized that the English we learned since grade 3 (French school) had nothing to do with practicing it in a country where it’s their first language. Miscommunication was my main challenge during my first year. Also, since I was not that comfortable with the language, I tend to hang out with the French community: it didn’t help me that much to progress my English skills.
Studying abroad opens your eyes to new cultures and makes you more appreciative of your own. It changes the way you view people and makes you more open-minded. Every place has something different to offer and coming back to Madagascar (for Covid cuz I’m paranoid) made me more aware of what I like and dislike.
~ Daniella C, a short, foreigner woman pilot.