Education

When people hear that I am an anthropology major, they usually look at me with a half-curious, half-sympathetic expression. My focus being on sociocultural anthropology, I look at a wide range of social phenomena in cultures, from social structure to identity issues to religion and even race politics. While my beloved major has surely filled my brain with endless, maybe unworkable Geertz and Boasian theory, it has also taught me plenty about how to understand the crazy, ever-changing world we live in. Hoping these will be helpful to you, too, below are three essential life lessons that I’ve learned from studying anthropology.

The world is much larger than we know.

Throughout the years, I’ve read ethnographies from remote villages, country towns, and inner city neighborhoods. I have been amazed that, while humans are similar to at our core, we all experience life so differently. Can you imagine a world where women’s’ social roles are dominant as opposed to that of men? Where siblings are expected to marry one another? Where magic is used to explain weather occurrences? This all exists! I’ve learned that our world is very diverse, which leaves no room for judgment, only greater curiosity.

Always consider context.

Even if you’ve only taken Anth 101, you’ve probably heard the professor stress this point. Considering context means to reflect on how environment, time, people, culture, and relationships affect the situation at hand. Not only is this point useful for academic research, but I’ve also found that context is a useful tool in dealing with conflict or frustration. If you take a moment to think about what forces have shaped someone’s words or actions, you may realize that that person is not totally to blame.

Think critically about everything.

This has helped me to explore my own personality, in the sense that critical thinking helps differentiate what is socially expected and what is essentially your personality. For example, are you posting a picture of yourself at a party to show that you are a typical college student or to show that you love photography and it’s a great shot? Are you wearing that blouse because everyone else loves it or because you love it? Honestly answering questions like these has kept me centered, and hopefully will do the same for you!

Image: PicJumbo

Education

For those of you applying for college, declaring a major can be a little nerve wrecking. Photography majors have things to consider but they also have a lot of fun!

Creativity.

Want to do a fantasy photoshoot? Paint with developer chemistry? Photograph… without a camera? The photo world is vast and growing. It has become acceptable as an art, so you’re not only studying the technical aspect of photography, but also art and history and current events. You start applying your creativity to other places. If you write or paint, you start putting detail into the smaller things. In work, you might have out of the box ideas that would benefit you and who ever you’re working for. You learn to be a bit more open-minded. Have fun with it!

New friends, new perspectives.

When you go to university, you meet people from all over the world. That comes in handy when you have art galleries, thesis projects, ans collaboration assignments. Your new friends love photography just like you, but in different ways. You guys eventually will grow together and learn from each other. In some cases, you make lifelong friends. You’ll also see the world differently. You’ll notice the light coming through the windows, the shape of shadows, the way your reflection mimics the mannequin on the other side. Because of the types of classes you take, you’ll start noticing the various fonts, colors, and designs on advertisements. You’llstart seeing scenes in movies and think, wow, that landscape was amazing. I wish they cropped it more. It’s silly, but it’s fun, and when you meet people who think like you, it’s pretty amazing!

The meaning of life.

Ok, maybe you don’t learn the meaning of life. But you do learn about everything else. From news and events to self portraits, your experiments with the medium that is photography will take you places, let you see and think about things you never even thought to consider before.

Photography is a beautiful and deep subject to spend a few years on. Even if you learn that you’re not the best technically or conceptually, you still grow as a person, and what else is college for except to learn about yourself and the world?

Being a photography major is a lot of work, and sometimes it can drive you crazy. At the same
time, being a photography major is so amazing that it leaves you breathless and wanting
more. Whether that comes from learning, from meeting new people, from seeing in new
perspectives, or from realizing that you’re growing and being more than you were before, you
will come to find that being a photography major is more than simply photography. It is much,
much more.

Image: Rev Stan

Education

Ever wonder what is the average day of a photo student like? Let me tell you.

Monday morning. 9am. You and your classmates are hanging your work on the wall. The pins are magnetic Last week, you got a darkroom printing tutorial. This week is a crit, a critique.

You and your 15 classmates and a professor you call by the first name gather around one person’s work. Professor sets the timer and there is silence.

Someone starts talking. You have an opinion. You wait for the right time and you say it to the room without raising your hand. Suddenly the timer rings. Fifteen minutes has passed.

Time for the next student. This lasts for three hours. You hear everything. Feminism. Racial issues. Gay expression. Self portraiture. Inspiration from artist x, y, and z. Performance art. Cultural exploration. You learn to understand the issues and decide whether the work addresses it, and whether or not you’re convinced the work works.

It is the afternoon before you get out of class. Do you want to work on your art history midterm paper or do you want to go buy film before the store closes? (It closes at 4pm).

You decide to eat lunch with your friends in the dorm cafeteria. They said they would treat you on their meal plan card.

You spend an hour or two decompressing. You gossip about today’s crit, potentially hot professors, an interesting exhibition at a nearby museum (MoMA) or art gallery.

You think about what you need to shoot for your assignment due on Thursday and you go back to school to rent equipment. A tripod and a film camera. You head home carrying your equipment. You start planning your next shoot. You’re very, very excited.

My first semester had five courses:

Freshman Seminar ­- the crits, tutorials, and work making.
Drawing ­- pencil and charcoal drawing.
Light ­- deals with how light interacts with objects, space, and movement
Design ­- graphic design, basically
A writing class that everyone had to take

I hope this gives you an idea of what a day in the life was for me as a Freshman (at Parsons and in NYC). College is a challenge but it’s a good place to grow. College isn’t always fun, but it’s always a time to learn about yourself. Good luck!

Image: Paul Reynolds

Education

High school students are beginning to fill out their college applications, and part of that process includes deciding what major to pick. While you can always change your major once you get to school, oftentimes colleges encourage you to choose one so they can get an idea of your interests.

For those thinking about majoring in photography, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Costs add up.

It is impossible to imagine how much things cost. Film, darkroom paper, photo paper, book printing, photo books, mounting, business cards…the list goes on. As the four college years go by, it adds up. Some schools have amazing facilities (Parsons) but others do not. For those that don’t, it would be frustrating for you to have to buy all your own gear and pay for studio and scanning and developing chemistry.

2. Think outside the box.

Photography is no longer the black and white documentary 35mm it once was. From fashion to fine art, photo students are now expected to grasp, come up with, and execute concepts. Why did you take that picture? Why is it next to that other picture? Is it a series, a diptych, a stand alone? Digital, prints, or book form? Why? Be prepared to think critically.

3. Critiques will happen.

“Crits” are days when your work is hung up and people talk about it. Sometimes you can defend your work, sometimes you can’t. People will disagree or dislike your work. They will tell you what they honestly think. You can’t do anything about it. The best thing to do is to learn to take everything with a grain of salt, and to give good crits. That is the most productive thing to do. Explain what is working and what isn’t and why.

Being a photography major has its good and bad points. But as long as you love it, then it will all be worth it!

Image: Mia Domenico

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When we met food editor Laura Shunk for her Professional Spotlight, it was over breakfast (naturally). While enjoying eggs and toast, we discussed studying abroad, being a food writer, and being on the board of New York City Coalition Against Hunger. Having studied International Relations at Claremont McKenna College, Laura is smart, thoughtful, and passionate about her career and involvements. We love Laura’s outlook about post-college years being a skill gathering time, and if you’re a student, take notes on the top three traits she looks for in interns. For a more in-depth look at Laura’s life, great advice, and to learn how she got to where she is today, read on!

Name: Laura Shunk
Age: 28
Education: International Relations major at Claremont McKenna College
Follow: Fork in the Road – Village Voice / Twitter / New York City Coalition Against Hunger

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Laura Shunk: I don’t know if there’s one good way to describe it or way to answer that. I think about how to seize any time in your life and it’s engaging in things that you care about and you feel invested in for whatever reason, whether that’s because you’re helping a cause you’re interested in or enriching your own life and knowledge and setting yourself up for future success.

CJ: What did you major in at Claremont McKenna College and how did you determine what to study?

LS: I was an International Relations major. Before I was an International Relations major, I was an Economics major, a Government major, a Literature major, a Biology major – I probably changed my major about 10 times. I ultimately settled on International Relations because it was the only major that required you to study abroad and I really wanted to have the opportunity to do that. It ended up being a great major.

CJ: Where did you study abroad and what was your big takeaway?

LS: I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I learned Spanish, so that was a very tangible takeaway. I spoke it fluently after that. Study abroad isn’t necessarily about the classes you take or what you study, it’s more about seeing a different culture. I studied development theory in college and I had never seen it applied in real life, and I spent the summers in parts of Latin America in poor communities, but I had never understood what it meant to be in a developing country and Argentina put such a vivid experience to that. A broader understanding of the world and understanding that other places in the world aren’t just like here and that people are great everywhere.

CJ: Are you happy you went out-of-state for college?

LS: Yes, I highly recommend it. My parents told me when I was getting ready to go to college, “Go out of state because you can always come back.” That was the best advice anyone ever gave me.

CJ: Where did you intern and how did you go about securing those internships?

LS: My only internship was at Chipotle, which I had throughout college, in their corporation headquarters. I was part of the culture and language program, so we were writing and managing programs that helped employees learn English, which helps them advance in restaurants. It was an amazing internship, it ended up being so hands-on and I secured it by working my network. I knew I wanted to do something that used my Spanish and do something in the business world and I was interested in food, but I wasn’t quite sure how to put the two together. I knew people at Chipotle and asked about internships and they pointed me to the right place.

CJ: You are a Food Editor at Village Voice Media. What does being a Food Editor mean?

LS: On a job responsibility level, I manage the division of a section, I assign stories, I edit stories, and I keep the online part of the food coverage of the Voice and the paper moving in the direction I think it should be moving.

CJ: What makes a good food writer? Is it traveling and eating, or is it eating a lot?

LS: It can be a lot of things. There are a lot of different kinds of food writers. The best food writers have a unique angle of some sort. They could have traveled and bring a cultural awareness to the food that they’re eating or writing about. They could really love the human story behind foods. They could love the environmental factors or the experience. There are a lot of ways to be a food writer.

laura 1

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

LS: I wake up, drink a lot of coffee, spend the first four hours of my day editing and writing and getting our blog set for the day, and then I spend the second half of my day interviewing, talking to people, strategizing, and transcribing. There is also a lot of eating involved. I am out to dinner every night and out to lunch a lot. Sometimes I’ll have two dinners.

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be a Food Editor do now to set themselves up for success?

LS: Write. That would be the first thing. Writing is a skill that no matter how naturally good at it you are, you get better as you do it more. And find a good editor because that helps a ton. Start a blog. With the direction media is going, get good at social media, photography, and film. In that same vein, a good food writer has a unique angle – learn something in the food world better than anyone else knows it and you’ll be the go-to person for that topic.

CJ: In addition to being a Food Editor, you are active with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. How are you involved and why do you believe in their mission?

LS: I sit on the board, which means we meet and hear about the day-to-day of the organization, we help with fundraising, and we help with higher level strategy decisions. The board provides overall strategic direction and fundraising help.

The New York City Coalition Against Hunger works with and on behalf of food pantries around New York. Instead of just helping soup kitchens fulfill their duty, we work on changing the rules of the system. We are focused on fixing the problem as opposed to just putting a Band-Aid on it. Being in the food industry, fixing the problem is important to me.

CJ: If you were hiring an intern, what are the top three traits that you would look for?

LS: Eagerness. The best intern I had was eager and never said no. That’s a big one. A certain level of maturity and self-awareness. Be able to take direction and accept that somebody might have something to teach you. Communication is also important, especially today, you’ve got to be a good communicator.

CJ: You’ve been out of school for seven years. How did you transition from college life to “the real world?”

LS: I approached post-college as a skill gathering time. I looked at it as a time to do a lot of different things, and I ignored people around me telling me I had to have a career where I was moving up. I didn’t buy it. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but it worked out on my end. Being flexible is important. I moved from L.A. to Denver, went to New York, back to Denver, and then back to New York. Some years were harder than others. The year I quit my consulting job and was working for a quarter of the salary waiting tables I would think, what did I do? That’s when I would think that I wasn’t transitioning well post-college. But it’s all temporary and things work out. If I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.

CJ: What activities were you involved in throughout high school and college? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?

LS: In high school, I was the editor-in-chief of the yearbook, I was on the mock trial team, I was on the golf team – but I’m pretty sure I only did that to get out of gym – and I was a girl scout. That was meaningful not so much from the organizational perspective, but because I did a lot of community service, which was very rewarding and momentous.

In college, I did different things such as Model EU and a foreign affairs club because I got to travel. At Claremont McKenna, I helped design a curriculum that helped staff, such as janitors, to learn English. We would tutor them one-on-one, and that was rewarding.

CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life – at the office and/or during your down/personal time?

LS: I think a lot about making an impact. Going back to what I said about seizing your youth, feeling engaged is huge. I worked a lot of jobs where I didn’t feel engaged. I feel engaged now and I feel compelled to continue to dig in and I want to feel that way forever about what I’m doing. I’d like to do something that impacts my community in a positive way.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

LS: Recently: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

CJ: Who is your role model?

LS: I’m pretty lucky to have a lot of role models. I had an editor in Denver who I would consider a role model. Still one of the greatest editors I’ve ever worked with. She taught me a lot about the business, and she is one of those people whose impact on me is something I hope to have on others.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

LS: Don’t worry about it when you feel uncomfortable. You’re going to have times where you are unsure if you can pay a bill or if you’re going to be fired. These things will happen and it is part of it and it is fine and it usually works out. Try to enjoy it and try not to get caught up in others telling you what to do or how to feel.

CollegeSkills

The question that will (almost) always be asked when someone finds out that you will be attending college is “What’s your major?” It will be asked during school. It will be asked when you are home for the holidays. It will be asked after graduation. Why is it so important anyway? Well, knowing a person’s major can give a general outlook on their plans for life after graduation. It doesn’t always apply (just because you’re an Art History major doesn’t mean you’ll be working in a museum for the rest of your life). Choosing a major can be extremely stressful. For one it can determine what school you attend (research vs. liberal arts vs. technical). Secondly, most schools require an official declaration by the end of your sophomore year. Here are a few tips to making this difficult decision:

1. Don’t Declare a Major Prior to Actually Attending Classes 

This can be difficult for those of us that are extremely passionate about a specific subject. I decided I would be a music major the summer before I started high school and I stuck with that…up until it was time to register for my semester of college. I heeded the advice of my elders and took classes from different areas and I ended up choosing to be a communications major. And I’m so happy with my decision. You might still love your original major or you may discover a new passion. Try it all.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind 

Even if you do declare a major early on and end up hating it, it’s okay! You can always to something. Of course, if you do this later on in your academic career it may be readjusting your expected graduation date. But it’s better to take classes in something you enjoy than to sit through a miserable lecture.

3. Career Path is Not Everything 

 I have met so many students that are majoring in something only for the sake of having a steady job after graduation. There are articles published nearly every day about the current job market and what it would wise to major in but guess what? These change! It’s not possible to predict what will be happening 10 years from now so pick what you like.

4. Find Out the Requirements for Your Major of Choice 

Be diverse with the 101 classes you take. Towards the end of my sophomore year, a close friend of mine decided she wanted to major in one of the sciences. So what was the problem? That major required a certain amount of pre-requisites that would’ve had to been taken during the first two years of school. Taking a broader range of introductory classes during her first two years could have saved her a lot of time later down the road.

5. Take Advantage of Your Counselors 

They’re there to help after all! I never would have considered being a communications major if it were not for my counselor. She told me more about it and after listening to her advice I realized it was the best fit for me. Counselors will look at the classes you have taken and realize your particular strengths/weaknesses and help you assess your options.

Image: Lime Lane Photography