Although I can now safely say studying Anthropology at Durham was one of the most challenging, rewarding and eye-opening experiences of my life, I remember a time, where I struggled to define it. But I am so glad I did not let that put me off the discipline that is now set to shape my future in academia. ‘Make the strange familiar, and make the familiar strange’ I would tell people asking me what it meant to study Anthropology as I began to delve into my first year at Durham.
It wasn’t long before I was quite literally doing this on the small island of Volos in Greece. After less than 12 months of studying Anthropology I found myself conducting my first piece of fieldwork- an aspect so integral to the subject regardless of which area you may be interested in. Along with my coursemates and professors, I was seeing terms like ‘ethnography’ and ‘participant observation’ come to life as we began to apply theory to the everyday. That’s definitely one of the best things about studying Anthropology at Durham – seeing research methods come to life!
You don’t just learn about how to be an Anthropologist, or about individuals who arguably are great Anthropologists, you learn about how you, yes you can become one. That doesn’t mean studying Anthropology quite literally equals becoming an Anthropologist, it means you get to ensure you apply the principles which you are taught and understand how the subject can quite literally be used for the greater good within society.
So apart from amazing field trips- quite often subsidised by the university what else makes studying Anthropology at Durham so unique? I would say the fact you are introduced to all strands of the discipline in your first year, from biological and evolutionary to medical and social Anthropology – you really are spoilt for choice in your second year when it comes to then specialising in certain areas.
You are surrounded by such a vibrant student-staff community, after all the diversity and differences across tutors and students alike are what make each day, each lecture, each seminar and even each assignment so interesting. No module is quite the same as another as a result of the extremely diverse range of research interests held by the tutors within the department.
My year in Canada
Like most other departments at Durham, you also have the opportunity to study abroad for a year, an opportunity which I felt I had to make the most of. I chose to study in Canada for a year, well 8 months as the terms are slightly different there, as well as the teaching methods, university life and the country itself.
This opportunity once again brought studying Anthropology to life and made returning back to Durham for my final year so exciting as I returned with new perspectives on so many concepts. Realising that there pretty much is an Anthropological study on pretty much everything means by the time you get to your final year, picking a dissertation topic is an excellent opportunity to choose just about anything that fascinates you and study it.
One of the main pieces of advice I’d give any prospective Anthropology student looking to study at Durham is: an open mind is your best friend, go in expecting to be surprised, have preconceptions and assumptions on your global outlook challenged for the better.
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