Up until a few months after sending my UCAS application (necessary to get into UK universities), my mind had been set on becoming a doctor. I had taken the UKCAT, BMAT, done the necessary work experience, had the grades etc and thought that nothing would stop me. Then with the heat of the NHS reforms and the White Paper, I found that I was more interested in the holistic effects that this would have on society in the long term rather than how it would affect me as a future doctor. I didn’t know any Anthropology students or graduates and thought that Anthropology was a sister to Archaeology and all about fossils, bones and digging up our Neanderthal relatives. It wasn’t until reading about groups of people being found who showed slight immunity to HIV that I saw Anthropology crop up in a scientific field that I was least expecting it to. It was naive for me to think of Anthropology as purely concerning boring human history with no exciting scientific rigour, and after a few searches on Google I realised that I had found the perfect broadest field for me that was completely different to anything I had expected of it.
Biology, Sociology, Geography, Demography, Economics, Psychology, Statistics, Politics, Linguistics… the number of different disciplines it encompasses astounded me. How on earth had we never been told of this course at school before? And why were so few people doing it? I know that I am not alone in having done a diverse range of GCSEs and A levels and having interests in both the Humanities and the Arts and their overlap.
I read around the subject more and more, and my gut was telling me that here was a field that would let me explore all the interests that I have in one way or another, whilst seeing their interrelationships which seemed much more enjoyable and exciting than 6 years of rote learning. That’s not me being dismissive of the medical course at all, I’m very much considering doing graduate medicine and have a lot of respect for medical students but I found that at the age of 18, why do I want to settle down and commit myself to Medicine when I can really investigate for example why there are health differences between the different classes and areas in Britain? Surely, after 3 years of learning all aspects of humans and humanity, it would be great, with that grounding and foundation to then learn about our present human bodies and keeping them alive. I’m a bit of a geek and I think that doing a course like Medicine, when I have the option of doing such a broad and contempory course like Anthropology for a few years scared me.
So a few months down the line, and some clinching visits to the American Museum of Natural History and episodes of Human Planet, I decided that Anthropology was the course for me for now and closed that medical student 2011 chapter. I luckily got my offer (and a scholarship!) from Durham just before the fees hike, and once I had seen the preliminary reading list and realised that I had pretty much read all of them before even knowing about Anthropology, I knew that I had made the right decision. First year now over with, it was definitely the best decision that I ever made.
It did have its challenges – essay writing being probably the biggest (I was a science and further maths geek, and hadn’t written an essay for 4 years) and the fact that it was such an independent course (so different from school) but it has given me such a good relevant anthropological grounding and allowed me to explore my interests.