Study Abroad and Fieldwork Experiences for Undergraduates in Anthropology

As a cultural anthropologist who has enjoyed many years of interesting international fieldwork experiences, I readily encourage undergraduate students to participate in a study abroad experience for a semester or longer while attending UNCG. Longer-term stays enable a student to learn more of the language and culture wherever they may be studying abroad. A student may even reach a point in their transformative experience where they wish they could have stayed longer and can’t wait for their next travel or fieldwork experience. Such students catch the cultural exploration and travel bug and look for ways to maintain their international connections in their daily and professional lives. 

Undergraduates who take Methods in Cultural Anthropology (ATY 362), a writing course that provides hands-on experiences, complete the course by learning ethnographic methods and applying them to a grant proposal, which is the final written project for the course. The grant proposal is modeled after the proposal available at UNCG from the Undergraduate Research and Scholarship and Creativity Office that funds empirical research opportunities. Students who plan ahead, take this methods course in advance of participating in their study abroad experience, design their grant proposal around their semester or year abroad, where they are able to be in country to collect data while studying abroad. This opportunity is fantastic training for a future field cultural anthropologist. Some students have collected sufficient data and left enough time in their academic careers to complete a Disciplinary Honors thesis too. Students present their research at the Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo and sometimes at the Undergraduate Honors Symposium. Over the years some students also have presented at professional conferences such as the Society for Applied Anthropology or the American Anthropological Association. 

A recent example is Liliana Vitale (May 2021 Alum) who was awarded an URSCA for conducting empirical research on French Food Identity: The Connection between Local Agriculture and Gastronomic Traditions in the Loire Valley”. She spent the Fall semester 2019 in Angers, France and managed to visit farmers market and farms, meet farmers, take cooking classes, and interview French locals on food and culture. She returned to UNCG January 2020 which gave us time to begin a poster for Annual Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo, but Covid-19 sent us all home in March 2020, and we all became zoom experts.  In April 2020 Liliana delivered her poster with audio recording on-line which was entitled “Findings from Fall 2019 research in the Loire Valley”. The poster served as starting point for her Anthropology Disciplinary Honors Thesis, which required further data analysis. Liliana later presented her work entitled “A Taste from France: Understanding Angevins’ Food Culture” at the Society for Applied Anthropology annual conference in Spring 2021. We have co-authored a piece for journal submission entitled “Taste and Terroir: Understanding Angevins’ Food Culture”. With almost four months in the field, Liliana’s study abroad experience, coupled with her Anthropology and French academic training at UNCG, she is prepared for her next steps – further studies of food, foodways and cultural traditions – a topic she can explore in Appalachia as well as France or other places, be they international or domestic. 

Professor Susan L. Andreatta, Ph.D., Anthropology Department