Anthro is a key to the world

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Michelle Bennett '06

Michelle Bennett '06, Sustainability Manager

Majors: Anthropology & English Literature

Advanced Degrees: MSc. Environmental Studies, Macquarie University

Employer: University of Delaware

Cultural Anthropology helped open my eyes to the world. After completing my degrees I traveled abroad for the first time, alone, and with the stakes stacked high. I needed a job because my family had run out of money to pay my tuition, and they couldn't offer me any additional support. So what do you do with an English Major? You teach English.

I traveled to Thailand to earn a teaching certification because it was more affordable to go all the way there than to study in the USA. I had never been in a place where people speak a different language, much less in a developing country. After I earned my certificate, I traveled to South Korea where English teachers earn a very decent wage.

South Korea was night and day from the heat, smells and chaos of Thailand. This was a land of high-tech, spotless and efficienct public transit, and almost no accommodations for tourists or foreigners.

Cultural Anthropology helped me navigate these two worlds, which were each a literal world away from my home in the deep south. Without the training to observe, to learn and appreciate your own ignorance, and to reserve judgment on the things you don't understand, I would have hated my years abroad.

People spit, they stare, they do things we would consider very rude. But in a year teaching English I never had a Korean behave rudely to me. Without the skills to understand Korean standards of politeness, I would have had a very different experience. Needless to say, I loved it and ten years later it's still one of my fondest memories. Without the challenges of those hard times, I never would have had the confidence to get a master's degree or the experience to lead a large university in its new Sustainability program.