Graduate School

It's official. I'm going to graduate school! This is something I've always known I would do, but it seemed so far off in the distance.
Well, it's here. At least in September it will be.
I'm going to Brunel University - in London, England - to get my Masters of Science in Psychological and Psychiatric Anthropology.
What the heck is that?!
When I tell people my degree program, they typically nod and say something like 'whoa, that sounds difficult!'. I think the problem is that most people (for good reason) have never heard of this degree or expertise before.
This specific degree was actually created by the professors at Brunel. It is one of a kind, and not available under this title in any other university in the world. They only accept between 10-15 people into the program per year, so I am one of a select few who gets to study this.
Pretty cool, huh?
So more on what it is. According to Brunel's website:

"This degree looks at psychological and psychiatric topics from an anthropological perspective. There is an overlap with psychology and psychiatry in the things we look at (identity, consciousness, cognition, mental health etc., but the approach is quite different; indeed, the findings can be startlingly different. In all cases, we explore the point of view and experience of the insider, the ‘native’, in a range of cultures; we analyse this inside view in relation to the social and cultural environment. What we seek is a dynamic conception of human nature that is true to experience as well as illuminating broader social processes of which the individual may be only partly aware.

This degree challenges standard assumptions about normality and deviance, social and personal identity, the boundaries of the self, and the constituents of experience. For those employed in the health, social and educational sectors, it will enhance professional practice and broaden understanding. But for every student it will open up new avenues."

Essentially, I'll be studying behavior and mental illness from a cultural perspective. This is EXACTLY what I wanted in graduate school, as these themes have been consistent interests to me throughout my academic career.
The program I am in runs for a full year. Yes, I get a completed Masters degree in just one year of studying full-time. I could extend it to two years and do part-time, but I'd end up spending more money that way.
From September of 2014-April of 2015, I will be taking courses at the university, working on my thesis proposal, and improving my research and writing abilities. At the end of the second semester in April, I will present my thesis proposal to the dean/my professors, and if I get approved, I'll be sent off to do my field research.
This is the most exciting part of the year for me; I'll get to go to the location of my choice (in accordance with my thesis) anywhere in the world to study a topic of psychological anthropology of my choosing. I'll spend two months on my own doing field research, come back to write my thesis, and then present my thesis in September of 2015.

After I explain the degree program to people, the follow-up question is, "well, what can you do with that for a career?"
As with most anthropology degrees, I have three general possible career choices: field research, museum work, or teaching.
I'm highly interested in field research as a career. This typically involves working through a university or other organization doing research en situ of different cultures around the world. After researching, I present a completed article on my findings, possibly to be published into different academic journals.
Museum work is something I would also be happy doing, although it doesn't involve the travel that field research does. I would work for museums/universities that study human behavior and culture. I mean, in a perfect world I would do research/museum work for the Smithsonian, but let's not get our hopes up here ;)
Out of all the choices though, my least favorite option is becoming a professor. Although I wouldn't hate the job, I know it's not my forte, and I truly hate grading essays. 

And the last question I get asked? "So what do you want to do your thesis on?"
Hello. I'm like a kid in a candy shop with this. There are SO many possible options, so many places, so many cultures I would love to study. I know my current interests lie in culture-bound mental illness, which is the study of mental illnesses specific to a certain culture. (The US has culture-bound mental illnesses; some of ours include ADD/ADHD, OCD Hoarding, and PTSD). If you are interested in this topic and want to know more, please contact me - I have tons of helpful resources I'd love to lend you!

Have any other questions about my degree, Brunel, or my year abroad in London? Please contact me! Add your question in the comments below, or email me any time. I'd love to fill you in on something I'm so excited about!

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