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Field Work 
1st-May-2011 05:05 pm
Pensive
Hello, current cultural anthropology major here. I was wondering if anyone here does permanent field work--as in, always traveling to another country to study the people after being in one location for a period of time? 

I've got the travel bug, I'm sure that a lot of you can relate. I feel restless when I'm in one area for too long. I always feel the need to go somewhere else after a year or two has passed--and I've always been so interested in other cultures. There are so many things that I want to accomplish and so many things that I feel that I need to learn.

So, what are my options? I'm still going to go to school to be an anthropology librarian on the side, just in case none of this works out. But I just wanna' travel and see things and experience life to the fullest. 
Comments 
2nd-May-2011 02:47 am (UTC)
There are people that do very long-term field work, and some of the richest and best ethnography comes out of it, but you don't do that by moving every year or two - you do it by being "in the field" in the same place for five or ten or twenty years, going back every summer, and so on. What about teaching English? There are a lot of places you can do that. Or there's the Peace Corps and similar development agencies.
2nd-May-2011 02:53 am (UTC)
Hmm, that sounds interesting. I do have special attachments to the places that I've lived or stayed (Europe in particular). I have thought about teaching in Korea just so I can travel a bit and pay off loans.
2nd-May-2011 02:55 am (UTC)
I have friends that have taught English in France, Korea, and Japan. They all sound like goat rodeos to some extent or another, but if you're willing to put up with bureaucracy and live cheap it can be worth doing.
2nd-May-2011 02:57 am (UTC)
OK, serious question! I need some help and you seem knowledgeable, which would be better? I've heard some suspicious things about Korean schools.
2nd-May-2011 02:59 am (UTC)
Honestly, I don't really know - I think it depends a lot on the program or school you end up with, your personality, and so on. I've had friends go through the exact same program and have very different experiences. There are a lot of odd things about Korea, like contractual arrangements you need to be aware of about when they pay you and so on. If I were going to do this I'd probably go with Japan, honestly - it's more expensive but also, basically, better organized, and I think you're not quite so likely to get screwed on pay.
2nd-May-2011 04:12 am (UTC)
True. I have an ex that lives in Japan as well. I've always been more interested in countries like Croatia or Czech Rep. though. I have no idea what I can do over there though.
2nd-May-2011 11:27 am (UTC)
I would apply through the EPIK program (English Program in Korea). That's (Korean government) who I am working for, and I teach at an elementary school. EPIK is upfront and fair, and give all the benefits that are stated in the contract. You get your monthly salary, medical benefits, 21 vacation days, and travel compensation. It's the hagwons (private schools) you need to research carefully. There are good hagwons and bad hagwons. I know some people who work in Avalon Language Schools and seem to like it.
2nd-May-2011 06:14 pm (UTC)
I have never heard of EPIK! Sounds amazing. Have you been able to save up money as well?
2nd-May-2011 04:26 am (UTC)
As a graduated cultural anthropology major currently working in Korea, I'd recommend being careful about choosing to do so. It's a job, not a trip. That being said, when my contract is up, I'm headed off to do the same thing in Japan for another year, possibly longer. Japan is definitely more organized, but also appeals to me as a fourth-gen Japanese hapa. Actually speaking the language to some degree will help out a lot in terms of daily living.

The most important thing when choosing to live and teach in another country is to remember that you have to make time for both your work and your play. Also, learning the culture in the workplace is fascinating, but often challenging. It's been a valuable experience on the whole.
2nd-May-2011 04:41 am (UTC)
That was my main concern and I did hear that Japan is more "secure". I read stories about how Korean employers sometimes refused to pay their teachers or they'll pay them very late. Could I save money in Japan as well? I think I'm more interested in Japan TBH!
2nd-May-2011 08:48 am (UTC)
Currently, the wages-to-living is better in Korea. I've saved a sizable amount, though don't have much in the way of debt to worry about. My girlfriend, however, who does, is able to make all of her monthly payment and still has spending money. Unfortunately, when we make the move to Japan we're anticipating the economic situation will not be as cushy. It will definitely be worth being in a place we're generally more familiar with, though.

If you have any questions about the process, I'd be happy to give you any advice I wish I'd had a year ago. Feel free to contact me at any time!
2nd-May-2011 08:02 am (UTC)
I have a friend teaching in Japan and another in Prague. Both are very happy and neither spoke the native language when they first went there.

I think you should look into the countries that you really would like to be in before just settling on something because it might be easier.
2nd-May-2011 06:13 pm (UTC)
How did your friend end up teaching in Prague?
2nd-May-2011 03:48 pm (UTC)
If you can swing it, take some time off just to travel. If you really want to see a lot of different cultures and a lot of places in the world, the best way to do that is when you're not working or in school.

I just finished my MA in public issues anthropology, and after my BA I took a year off to work for a non-governmental organization in Kenya. But since I was working, I didn't have much time to travel -- and when I did travel with work (around Kenya and to Tanzania and Burundi), I didn't have time to explore the country because I was busy with conferences and meetings and so on. I took some time off work before going back to school, and that's when I did get to travel around East Africa, which was great. But I couldn't have done it while working.

I did go back to Kenya for research in my MA, but again, I was mostly in one city the whole time because I had to spend as much time as possible with my research participants. It was a great experience, but it's not exactly a life of travel and romance.
5th-May-2011 10:02 am (UTC)
I'm a Ph.D. student in an anthropology department (though focused on archaeology). The short answer is, no. There are several reasons for this. Most importantly, someone has to pay for your fieldwork. This means you have to give back, usually both by teaching and publishing. (Some grant proposals require you to list journals where you plan on publishing your data.) But also, to obtain the kind of in-depth knowledge of an area that contributes to academic discourse requires knowing the language of the culture one is studying and also knowing what all the other anthropologists have said about that region, in addition to knowing the theoretical background for the questiosn one is asking.

So, for example, to study Catholicism in the Ukraine one must know Ukranian, and one must know about Catholicism, and one must know the anthropology of religion, and one must know about the anthropology of national and ethinic identity, and one must know the anthropology of post-USSR Eastern Europe. To be honest, no one knows everything it would be helpful to know about one's topic, but it would be impossible to keep moving and keep abreast of all the new literature and be familiar with all the old literature. It's frustrating just trying to know about a single place.

That said, there are some ways to integrate multiregional studies. It's very hard, because it involves being well-read on more than one geographical area, and often knowing multiple languages. One grant of which I am aware is offered by the American Schools of Oriental Research to do comparative studies of two or more places in the Near East, one of which must have a ASOR center.

But there are other venues, as tisiphone pointed out. There's also work for the State Department and various private companies and Non-Governmental Organizations which have offices abroad.

Frankly, if your goal is to travel, you might do best to study engineering or in some other field where people will need your mad skillz. Places will always need wells dug and bridges built.
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