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Digging Their Own Paths

Written by Haley Davis
3/28/2012

Cherrie Rhodes '12 (left) and Megan Kelly '12 (right).

Anthropology is the study of the human species, their cultures, and their development over time. To truly explore this type of work, anthropology majors at Ithaca College participate in fieldwork prior to graduation. Two anthropology majors recently embarked on two very different cultural immersion experiences last spring.

Cherrie Rhodes '12 went to Samoa, an archipelago in the South Pacific. Samoa was selected by Rhodes so that she could compare her findings with anthropologists Margaret Mead and Derek Freeman. Mead, who did research in Samoa in the 1920s, published the widely studied book Coming of Age in Samoa in which she concludes that Samoans' passage from childhood into adolescence is relatively stress-free compared with that of youth in the United States. Freeman, on the other hand, challenged Mead on her portrayal of Samoans. Rhodes decided to study in Samoa to learn more for herself about the two anthropologists's theories.

The program in Samoa was largely experiential, and this learning model provided to be very influential for Rhodes. "You really learn quickly how to function somewhere else," she says.

Her experience was composed of four home stays. At each home, Rhodes learned about local culture and customs – including the Samoan language, the local food, and how to roast a pig.

Back at IC, Rhodes applied the skills and information she gained in Samoa to her coursework. "In my capstone class we talked about Margaret Mead and Derek Freeman, and I could offer firsthand insight," she says. She has also acquired a new perspective on Americans from being around the relatively relaxed Samoans. "Americans are always in a hurry to do things," she explains. "It mellowed me out, I think."

Rhodes graduated in December and has moved back to Tokyo, where her family is helping with earthquake relief.

Megan Kelly '12 followed a different route as she studied abroad at the prestigious Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, last spring. While there, Kelly was able to connect with her Irish roots and lead her own research on a topic that had been an interest to her for some time. She set up an independent study focused on integrative medicine in Ireland. "I was looking to learn more about how, historically, holistic medicine is viewed by the Irish population," she explains. Through her independent study, Kelly interviewed practitioners around the city, read The Irish Times thoroughly, and volunteered with the Dublin Holistic Centre.

This approach helped Kelly learn more about her host country. "I felt so much more involved in the community while working at the Holistic Centre and was able to get to know Irish citizens and feel like I was contributing to Dublin life rather than just being an isolated American student," she says.

Now back in Ithaca, Kelly is working on writing a senior thesis and putting the results of her study together while preparing for the next step – graduation. After leaving Ithaca in May, Kelly plans to attend Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Manhattan to earn her master's degree in acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbology. She knows she can rely on the lessons she learned abroad as well as those learned in class. "IC has prepared me to look more critically at my own culture," she says. "I definitely do not feel pigeonholed into one career path. I am confident in applying to acupuncture school –  a sess traditional career path – and have received nothing but support and encouragement from all my professors."



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