One of the hardest challenges that I have experienced so far as a major of Social Anthropology is having to explain to everyone what social anthropology is and what makes it a relevant degree program for study. Every time friends and relatives come over for a chat and the conversation steers towards my life- particularly my student life- it always ends up with them looking puzzled as I defend and explain to them why I shifted to the social sciences instead of taking up other ‘more popular’ courses which promises a higher salary after four or five years.
Those kinds of remark tell us a lot about the values of our society. For one, it shows how economically-driven the pursuit of education has become. It has become a means towards an economical end and being able to live up to the standards imposed on us on what a desirable life is. It is true and by no means do I refute that perhaps for others, education is the only hope that their families cling on to- that education is the only way to set a decent meal in their tables. However, I hope that we extend this manner of thinking and see education not only as a means to an economic end but as a means to better the society that we live in.
As a social science student, I am often confronted with societal problems that we are experiencing nowadays in the courses that I take up: corruption, poverty and hunger, the repercussions of climate change brought about by our pursuit for extensive development programs, the lingering gender issues of representation and inequality, the fight of indigenous communities for recognition and land rights, among others. These are challenges which are as real as any other concerns that other degree courses tackle. In fact, I believe that these problems are even more in dire need of students who are willing to address the structural roots and causes of these problems and hopefully be able to look for possible solutions through engaged research.
It is not a guarantee; however, that taking up social sciences as a degree program will directly translate to securing a job that will address the issues that I have mentioned. Perhaps, it is the ideal for every social science student: a work that will contribute to the society- in an even magnificent way of putting it, a work that will make the world a better place to live in, irrespective of how low the salary is or how dangerous the research is. In reality, however, every graduate has their fair share of challenges and inner demons to confront with. The society that we try to change to a better one is the society that we are also subsumed within and thus trying to change it will require the purest form of commitment and bravery, the indestructible will to negate social norms, our personal lives, and the culture itself.
To be honest, I do not know where I will be after graduation. My dream is to be a researcher up here in the Cordilleras studying about indigenous cultures, particularly focusing on endangered languages. I also want to teach in a university and inspire students just as how my professors inspire me in every possible ways imaginable. I want to bring about changes in the way the general population knows and understands indigenous communities and cultures, I want to help communities facing dangers of language loss revitalize their languages and keep their identities and cultural heritage.
There are so many things I wish to do after I graduate. Will I be able to reach all these cheesy dreams? I do not really know. I still have siblings that I want to support after college, anyway. And probably bills to pay, too.
But I can only remain hopeful.