Jeremy Caldwell ‘19, Tufts University
I graduated in May with a degree in anthropology. A lot of people don’t know what that means, and to be fair, I really didn’t know either, even after I declared my major. Anthropology is basically culture studies. You can learn about religions, rituals, artifacts, languages, and the day-to-day life of people around the world by studying how they learn, how they act, and how they interact with each other. Especially as the world becomes more connected, it’s really helpful to know about different ways of life, thinking, and belief that surround us.
I’ve always loved studying different cultures. One day during my freshman year my RA overheard me talking about religious rituals from ancient Greece, and she said that I would be a great anthropology major. She brought me to a department lunch the following week and introduced me to some of her friends. I fell in love with the program immediately.
High school connections
One of my favorite classes in high school was AP Human Geography. I didn’t know that it was connected to anthropology, but I really enjoyed learning about the connections between cultures, nations, religions, languages, and people. Now I know that it lead me to my major!
My favorite class was called Indigenous People and Environmental Change. We learned how climate change is affecting indigenous peoples around the world, despite those cultures’ strong connections to the environment over tens of thousands of years. My professor previously worked with the UN and the Smithsonian, and she taught us a lot about unjust power structures and how indigenous knowledge could help end the global warming crisis.
My favorite project was a 20-page research paper I wrote on the history of tattoos in America, especially among teenagers. I interviewed 30 of my friends with tattoos and learned about the significance behind each of their tattoos. Afterwards, I proposed my own theory about how millennials use tattoos to express their identity. I had to work really hard, but I was so proud when I finished.
I’ll be honest, when I first declared my major my parents were a bit concerned. In the past, anthropologists tended to only do ethnographic research and write dissertations about their research. Luckily, the field is rapidly expanding right now. When you think of anthropology as culture studies, it can be applied to so many different fields. I know other students that have gone to work in human resources, communications, museum studies, market research, education, film, and even medicine. Think of anthropology like a set of tools you can bring to many fields, rather than a narrow career path.
Anthropology is pretty closely connected to sociology, psychology, and religious studies. I also see some connections to international relations, political science, and archaeology. I paired my anthropology major with film and media studies, so I learned a lot about how representation in the media matters.
Tips for future majors
I think anthropology is more fun when there are fewer rules. Look for schools with smaller class sizes so you can really engage with your peers and professors. And the more anthropology courses they offer, the better! It’s such a broad major, so there’s plenty of things to learn and try.