“You pot-polishing, knuckle-walking, genetic-bottlenecking vegeculture!” Nobody told me that taking Dr. Smith’s Introduction to Archaeology Class would arm me with an arsenal of epithets, as well as a beginner’s foundation of knowledge about the world’s ancient civilizations. Yet it has– ANTH 201, satisfying the elusive GER 4B requirement, has proven to be both an entertaining and informative opportunity as I bring my final semester at William & Mary to a close.
As I look back on my education at William & Mary, I wonder what my courseload would have looked like if it weren’t for the College’s General Education Requirements (GERs) that provide the framework for a solid liberal arts training. In part, it’s impossible to imagine my undergraduate education without a smattering of English here, and some Geology there, but I can certainly guess: it’d be one long list of courses in Psychology (my major). Not only would I have long since tired of such an intensely single-minded curriculum, but I would be completely missing out on enriching my background in math, music, and more. Perhaps I’d resemble the Homo floresiensis, the small-brained “Hobbit man” that roamed the earth 20,000 years ago (pictured to the right).
No, I rather enjoy the opportunities I’ve had to take courses outside of my major. To me, Introduction to Archaeology, at 9:30am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is an intellectual “breakfast” of sorts. I show up, coffee in hand (Wawa, of course), and learn about a new and novel topic in a way that stretches my brain and gets me thinking outside of the box. And as a self-styled outside-of-the-box-kinda-thinker, I really value the alternative perspective anthropology and archaeology provide.
Does this come easily, though? Absolutely not. Unlike a bowl of Cheerios in the morning, Introduction to Archaeology is tough. As I page through my notes as I write this article, I have a hard time keeping Chaco Canyon, the Shanidar Cave, and the Vindolanda Garrison straight. I didn’t take ANTH 201 for an easy time, though, and I am looking forward to preparing for Tuesday’s exam (well, as much as any student can look forward to studying). It’s this sort of challenge that helps keep classes fun, even when I’ve long since completed my major. (The difficulty of Dr. Cole’s Symbolic Logic class might have been another story, though– but that’s another story for another day!)
Four years of school can be a long time to keep yourself engaged intellectually. With the right mix of people, opportunities, and courses like ANTH 201, though, it can be a lot easier than you think! Senior I may be, but knuckle-walker I am not.