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Hello Madagascar- Shaking Hands Across Continents

By Gabriella De Souza Vilas Boas

Have you ever wondered what life may be like outside our country's borders?

Professor Robert Emigh of the Norwalk Community College ESL department found himself pondering the same question.

By his fascination with other cultures, Emigh sought out an opportunity to expand his knowledge. A few plane rides later, he found himself in Thailand, then Brazil, and now Madagascar. Having been at NCC since 2004, Emigh felt “it was time to do something different for a change.”

Partnered with the English Language Fellow Program in the US State Department, Emigh was granted a year's sabbatical to work with the students and teachers at the University of Antananarivo. Upon his arrival, his duties have been training teachers and English teacher assistants, as well as hosting workshops.

Emigh is also hopeful of inspiring a similar interest in students. In collaboration with Norwalk Community College Professors Mary Carmell and Hannah Moeckel-Reiche, Emigh has given NCC students the chance to experience culture in a new way.

Joined by the students at the University of Antananarivo, Norwalk Community College students are welcome to participate in a forum being held on December 1st at 8:00 A.M. in room E212.

The event will be held at the U.S. Embassy in Madagascar as we tune in via Zoom with an opening remark by Ryan Bradeen of the Office of Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Madagascar and Comoros. Next on the agenda will be welcoming remarks, students' presentations, then a Q and A of previously submitted questions, and lastly an open forum.

The event will also consist of student hosts, including Josue Campos, Tommy Mcmahon, Shayna Perez, and myself, Gabriella Vilas Boas. The discussion will be open to participation from any Norwalk Community College student interested in attending. According to Professor Carmell, the event is meant to feel like “a casual conversation” and she recommends students come in casual attire and have a cup of coffee. Carmell as states that students are welcome to come with “a question that may help them learn a little bit about the country of Madagascar and the educational system there.”

Emigh is hopeful that upon participating in this event students will learn firsthand that “we are not that different, we live in different countries and have different cultures, but at the bottom, we are all the same.” Similarly, Carmell hopes that students walk away with an understanding that “education is a vehicle for bringing people together, and my hope is that the young students in Madagascar and at NCC will realize that there is more that unites them than divides them. They are all students together, regardless of what countries’ borders they live within.”

So, if you are interested in learning more about culture and education with our new friends in Madagascar, join us in this conversation as we virtually shake hands with those across the globe.

Gabriella De Souza Vilas Boas is a writer for the Voice.

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