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Why I Decided to Pursue My Dream of Becoming an Anthropologist

why i decided to major in anthropology

My mother Angélica always encouraged me to study hard, because she wanted me to have a much better life than she did: “Quiero que seas una mujer fuerte e independiente, Deva”.

The Story of Why I Decided to Major in Anthropology

After elementary school, I would get back home, where I’d enjoy delicious Mexican food cooked by the holy hands of my Nanis (abuela), and then head to the living room to finish my homework so I could watch TV.

I was a huge fan of cartoons, but I also enjoyed watching, along with my madre, documentaries.

I’d be in awe watching the immense pyramids, the archaeologists digging and finding very old objects, and somehow figuring out the way people lived during those times.

“How do they do that?” I’d ask myself.

I remember my mother saying one evening: “I see you like this. I think you will either become an archaeologist or anthropologist”.

I really liked the idea and could easily visualize myself as either one. My madre, more excited than I was, would start buying books about Egypt, Mesopotamia, and other great civilizations to feed my curiosity. 

The Reason I Gave Up on My Passion to be an Anthropologist

When I was in 4th grade I remember telling my family about my future career choice: 

“I know what I want to become. Quiero ser una arqueóloga”. 

Instead of encouragement, I’d only hear negative comments such as:

“How dare you say you want to become a digger?”

“You are scared of small bugs, imagine everything you will find during the excavations!”

“Where are you going to find a job?”

“Te vas a morir de hambre”.

The smile on my face faded away. My love for archaeology and anthropology was torn apart. Nevertheless, my love for studying grew stronger because one of my goals was to go to a good university. 

Her Peaceful Death, My Chaotic Life:
How my Mother Inspired Me to Follow my Dreams

In 2009, my mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. After my first day in high school in Mexico, I decided to move to California with her. All I wanted was to spend time with her. I knew she didn’t have much time left. I was only 15 at the time.

While I was living with my mom in San Diego, I took a year off and decided to take music lessons as I thought I was going to major in music. My mother was worried about my education, so she insisted that I attend the public high school in the neighborhood. I started junior year in October 2010. I wasn’t happy about it. I would get home and cry in front of my madre. I hated everyone and everything (andaba de hater con el mundo). Because of my unhappiness, my mother decided to talk to the principal. 

I remember the principal’s words: “Deva you need to keep studying. You will be grateful I didn’t let you go.” 

So, I did stay and after 2 months of hell, I was sent to independent studies. All the staff was very nice. They did care about their students. I enjoyed going to school for 3 hours daily, Monday to Friday, doing most of schoolwork at home, and taking exams on the computer.

I finished sophomore, junior and senior years in one year. I got straight As for every course. I couldn’t believe it myself, but the truth is that I was very motivated to finish everything so I could spend time with my madre and make her feel proud of her hija.

Unfortunately, things went downhill in 2012 when my mother’s health worsened. She passed away in June that year. I was 18 years old, the age you are “supposed” to begin college.

I was lost and torn apart. I couldn’t think about academics. I needed to think about myself. That is when I decided to take a break and went to the East Coast for a while, where I attended an English school. I wanted to polish my English skills because I didn’t feel a hundred percent confident. Those months were crucial in my life as I discovered part of my identity. I also met people from all over the world. My fascination with languages and cultures grew stronger.

I came back to Mexico after 9 months and still wasn’t sure what I wanted to study. It seemed like I was interested in a lot of things, but none of them really fulfilled my soul.

It was a tumultuous time in my life with loads of exploration:

I took theatre lessons because I wanted to study in France (it didn’t happen).

I took more music and theory lessons to apply to a music conservatory (it didn’t happen).

I took an exam to get into med school (I didn’t even get a spot, thank God!).

I enrolled in a private university to study psychology (I withdrew from it in less than a week).

I was very lost and confused while looking at other careers such as criminology, nutrition… For a moment, I thought I was going “crazy” and felt trapped in a cycle of desperation. 

Why Going to a Community College Has Been The Best Decision I Have Ever Made

I finally decided to go to community college. I saw advantages such as the price, it was going to be cheaper than attending a private university in Mexico, and at the time, I didn’t have to declare a major when I first enrolled. But of course, me, desperate Deva, was thinking about careers of the future where I could make money. That is when I declared myself as a Biotechnology major.  

I looked at the course requirements for the major. It usually differs depending on the university program you want to apply to, but the big ugly similarity was that I needed to take loads of math courses.  That’s when I asked myself: Do you really want to do this, Deva? Not really… well, NEXT!

I didn’t get discouraged. I was actually very excited to look at the school’s course catalog. I saw they offered anthropology classes and that they could fulfill the IGETC (which is needed to apply to universities). “Count me in!”

Guess what? I fell in love. Yes! Both of my Anthropology professors at community college became my role models. They were smart, challenging, strong, and funny. They had such imposing personalities. My inner child desire to become an anthropologist had been undug (literally). 

I discovered so many subfields within Anthropology that I realized I could do a lot with the degree. “Of course there are opportunities!” I said.

I finally declared myself as an Anthro major and ended up taking all Anthropology classes offered by my community college. I’d visit both of my professors during office hours to talk more about Anthropology. I was happy with my decision.

It was now time to transfer all my credits to universities after 2.5 years of attending community college. The application process was stressful, but it was also an exciting experience. I only applied to UCs and selected UC Berkeley just because it was on the list. I was not very optimistic about being accepted though. 


I Got Accepted to UC Berkeley

During my last semester at my community college, I was taking geology (most boring class ever). With that experience, I was very confident I didn’t want to become an archaeologist, but an anthropologist.

During that time, I was also working at a coffee shop and I was vice president of a club that helped undocumented students. It was a very active and challenging last semester. 

In April 2017, 4 out of the 5 UCs I had applied to had already sent their acceptance letters. I was just waiting for Berkeley’s response… Although for one moment I had already given up and saw UCSD and UCLA as potential future universities, my hope of getting accepted into UC Berkeley was stronger.

It was April 28th (one day after my birthday) and work was kind of dead. I was scrolling through my inbox when I suddenly saw a new email. It was UC Berkeley’s financial aid office which said something like: “Log in to your account to look at your financial aid package, blah, blah, blah…”

I was confused: “What the hell? But I haven’t received any acceptance letter! Don’t you dare play with my emotions Berkeley!”

I got the acceptance letter minutes later.


 I couldn’t believe it. I shared the great news and happiness with my family and friends. This achievement had been sangre,sudor y lágrimas of many of my loved ones, especially my madre who always encouraged me to meterle todo o nada and my padre (who is, biologically, my abuelo but he fucking raised me) and who also supported me financially with whatever he could to keep my studies on track.

Months later, I moved to the Bay Area. Berkeley felt like a dream. I remember the day my sister and I made that California road trip to visit the campuses of universities we applied to. I remember the first feeling when my feet touched UC Berkeley’s concrete: I could visualize myself walking on the campus, feeling stressed with a zombie face and high on caffeine all day and night. 

The beautiful university buildings, the cold and rainy days, all the Americanos I drank while reading in the libraries… It was a challenging change, but also a very eye-opening process. Berkeley gave me opportunities to grow academically and professionally. The Anthropology department was very welcoming too. 

 Why Pursuing Your Dreams is The Best Decision You Could Ever Make

Some people worry about being employed after graduation and earning enough money to lead a “decent” life. Others follow the “do what you love path”. They’d rather be happy and “poor” than employed and miserable. I am that person I want to be passionate and happy to do what I love most.

All I can say is that you gotta make sure your heart feels good when you wake up in the morning. I remember my mom’s last words at the hospice: “Whatever you do, I just want you to be happy. Please promise me that so I can go in peace. Even if all you do is sweep the streets, you do it with love and passion. I want to see you with a smile on your face. I want you to follow your dreams.” And, mi querida madre, I intend to keep that promise. 

I am currently spending my last semester abroad in Germany and I don’t know what will happen next. Right now times are weird and uncertain with the pandemic, but whatever comes next, I’ll always be happy I decided to major in Anthropology.

With anthropology I’ve seen beyond my reality bubble, I’ve ripped the veil of ethnocentrism, and I’ve fallen in love with the multicultural world we live in. It has taught me about humanness and respect.

“Rock your heart in a crib made of love and cover it with a blanket of empathy.”

Posted on: June 11th, 2020 by Deva Macias

Author Deva Macias

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