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The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Why study anthropology abroad?

Find out everything about studying anthropology abroad, from the difference between a BA and BSc to entry requirements and more!

Anthropology is the study of human beings in all their diversity

What is anthropology and why does it matter?


Anthropology, in a nutshell, is an attempt to answer the question, what does it mean to be human?


This means it is a study of human beings in all their great variety, across all of human history: the Austrian anthropologist Eric Wolf saw it as "the most scientific of the humanities, the most humanistic of the sciences.” Anthropology developed as a social discipline in the nineteenth century, and now encompasses linguistics, archaeology, biology and more; it is a study of culture and an investigation into society, but it is also heavily concerned with the human body – there’s even ‘cyborg anthropology’, which seeks to understand the relationship between human beings and the technology they have built!


If you’re interested in studying abroad, you almost have the instincts of an anthropologist by your very nature: leaving one culture to immerse yourself in another, to see how human beings live and interact elsewhere in the world. The desire to do this requires the same curiosity about human life that drives all great anthropologists.


The best way to channel and shape this instinctual intrigue about humanity is undoubtedly through an anthropology degree – let us tell you why!


What you will learn if you study anthropology?


Wall paintings are an example of art produced by ancient human beings


As we’ve said, the breadth of anthropology as a discipline is breath taking – how could it not be? There is so much to get to the bottom of. For students of anthropology, this means there is a lot to learn. A graduate of anthropology at UCL, Ellen Perceval, says that studying the subject "pulled apart all of my pre-conceived ideas about the world, human culture, and even myself,” covering topics from “human ecology… to ideas of power and discourse.”


As if to prove Eric Wolf’s point, unlike other subjects in the humanities, an anthropology degree may be a BA or a BS(c) depending on a variety of factors, from the institution you study at to the modules it offers, and the focus of the degree. Some universities even offer both! This is a factor it’s very important to bear in mind when applying for anthropology courses, as it will heavily inform what you study, and have an influence on the directions you take after university. For example, some courses may heavily stress the forensic aspect of anthropology – the University of Central Lancashire even offers a joint honours BSc in Forensic Science and Anthropology! – while others are more concerned with cultural questions. It’s important to identify exactly where your interests lie.


Regardless of the overall focus of your degree, or how it is classified, most undergraduate anthropology courses will take a broad approach, allowing you to figure out exactly what most fascinates you most in anthropology, while clarifying its various strands (what’s the difference between social and biological anthropology, for example?) and training you up in the most vital areas. Many will have a practical component to it, especially if there is an archeological component to the course.


To take an example, if you studied Anthropology BSc at the University of Roehampton in London, your first year would look like this:


  • Being Human (“…an introduction to cross-disciplinary perspectives on the human condition.”)
  • Special Topics in Anthropology (covering “a number of essential aspects of anthropology from both the social and biological perspective.”)
  • Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology (introducing this branch of anthropology by offering “social anthropological perspective and include space, body, time”)
  • Human Ecology and Adaptation (exploring the “essentials of human diversity and adaptation, including epidemiology and genetics.”)
  • Fieldwork: Theory, Practice and Product (discovering “the process by which an anthropological project is devised, undertaken and realised, from the point of conception, via the undertaking of fieldwork, to the final production of the ethnographic account.”)
  • Introduction to Evolution (“…the history of the idea, the development and principles of evolutionary theory, an introduction to living primates (including humans) and the evidence for human evolution as a test case of a mammalian order.”)

As your studies progress into second and third year, you will focus on much more specialised areas, while gaining independence to focus on subjects which interest you through optional modules - and of couse, if you decide to continue your studies this academic freedom will only increase.


What will you need to study anthropology?


You may be required to have certain qualifications to study Anthropology


Unfortunately, a strong interest in human life and society alone isn’t enough to get you on to the anthropology course of your dreams, and there will be a variety of entry requirements which vary from institution to institution. The distinction between BA and BSc also becomes important here, because you may be required to have an educational background in the sciences, humanities, or both, to apply for certain courses. Make sure you pay close attention to this!


Of course, as an international student it is also very important to check what additional requirements will apply to you – these will be both university-specific (for example, if you are studying at an English-language institution but speak English as a second language, you may be required to prove your understanding of English with an IELTS qualification or equivalent), and to do with the particular country you are seeking to study here, and its visa requirements for students. The Hotcourses Abroad website has many articles which will be able to advise you on country-specific visa issues.


Where can anthropology take you?


Just some of the areas anthropology graduates move into


So, you’ve been studying anthropology for three years, you’ve written an excellent dissertation on the customary habits of the indigenous people of the Artic, and you’re a pretty dab archaeological hand. What do you do next?


Further study is a popular option for many anthropology graduates, whether remaining within anthropology or moving into related fields. The Guardian reports that popular areas of further study for recent anthropology graduates have included “law, industrial relations, teaching, journalism, criminology and marketing.” This exemplifies the adaptability of an anthropology degree. It's also a degree that encourages students to develop a sharp, analytical mind, Ellen Perceval says studying anthropology provided her "with both a comprehensive knowledge of the world and the ability to interrogate that knowledge, never taking things at face value."


This adaptability also translates to the job market. OK, the romantic image of the anthropologist as an explorer travelling to untouched parts of the world to record human life there probably isn’t accurate anymore, but the skills and knowledge you will develop studying anthropology are incredibly transferable. Anthropology graduates often end up working for government agencies, social institutions, and museums, but the deep understanding of how humans operate and function is also highly applicable in a business environment, for example.



If you're convinced studying anthropology abroad is your calling why not begin your search for your ideal course today - there are over 700 excellent institutions to choose from.

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