An Open Letter to a Prospective University of Arizona Anthropology Graduate Student

Sam writes a letter

in which I write a letter to myself

Dear Prospective Student Self From 2008,

I know you have already read everything telling you what a bad idea it is to pursue a doctorate in anthropology, and have decided to go for it anyway. That was a good move, and this is the right place for you. I also know you’re a stressball at the moment, so let me give you some of the specifics about the UA School of Anthro program I know you’re aching for.

What is the grad student culture like? Just as you hoped, it is close and supportive. People are passionate about what they do. Not in the dorkilicious way you experienced in the Oberlin Classics Department, but in the grown-up, professional, “I am trying my best to do what I love for a living now and for the rest of my life” way. In my experience, this does not result in backstabbing or cattiness, as I’ve heard is the experience in some other places. To the contrary, people are gentle with each other, show up to each others’ events, and drink to each others’ success unreservedly. If you care about that (I know you do), and having a strong community is part of what matters to you being successful (it definitely is), this is a good program for you to be part of.

What about the professors? There are a lot of them and they vary in all kinds of ways, so this question is not as easy to answer as the first. It does matter that you share interests with them. However, I find that the some of the professors I am most supported by and committed to working with are not always those who share the most interests on paper. You should probably Continue reading

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