Featured Anthropology Major: Bianca Garcia '23

Bianca Garcia '23 is an Anthropology major and a College Scholar from Hong Kong.   She shares her experiences as she reflects on her time at Cornell before graduation.

What inspired you to choose Anthropology as your major?  

I came to Anthropology, like many other bright-eyed freshmen who enroll in our courses, I think, not entirely knowing what I was signing up for. In searching for a major to list on my application, Anthropology seemed like a fair enough choice: I had had my hand at “ethnography” for a high school research project, and studying culture sounded apt as a Filipina-American born and raised in multicultural Hong Kong. 

Do you have a specific area of interest?

Four years down the road, I can say that there could not have been a better choice in curriculum for me. This degree has spoken to every part of myself that I’ve ever been proud of and uncovered parts that I’ve since grown to love. A daringness to challenge the status quo, the vocabulary for critical exchange, an openness to alternatives and otherwises. My senior thesis is about food and storytelling, using personal narratives to address the question what is the power of food to heal? Since I’ve picked up minors in Nutritional Sciences and Science and Technology Studies, I have an arsenal of perspectives with which to approach this loaded question. In my writing, I stay with my family’s experiences with migration and health, weave together literatures in medical anthropology, critical nutrition studies, and feminist political economy, and bring in in-depth interviews with growers local to the Ithaca area. When I applied to Cornell, I had no idea that our College of Human Ecology had such a rich history with feminist work in nutrition, nor did I know about the multitude of grassroots organizations that are working towards food sovereignty and regenerative land-use practices, not to mention the quality of classes and faculty who work within medical anthropology. Maybe it was being at Cornell that sparked this passion, or maybe it was some sort of pre-destiny that brought me to Cornell so I could realize it. 

What accomplishments/activities are you most proud of while at Cornell?

While at Cornell, I’ve also found my community amongst my fellow majors in the College Scholar Program and the varsity equestrian team. Negotiating the identities of student and athlete has not always been easy, because at times I’ve felt that the world has tried to keep them separate. One deals with late nights, the other with really early mornings. One keeps me at the library, the other in the arena. Even if it’s hard to prove to others in my separate spheres, I know that I am both simultaneously, always. 

The College Scholar Program is what brought me to my interdisciplinary studies of nutrition and anthropology– what a cool way to be an anthropologist! My peers at CSP have made learning the most fun. Even though we study dramatically different things, we find camaraderie in interdisciplinary scholarship and the intensity of paving your own way through this university. Whenever we meet, my reading lists double in length. 

What do you think you'll miss most about Cornell/Ithaca after graduation? 

Captaining the equestrian team has been one of the best things I have ever done, and riding with these talented girls has been my greatest honor. Riding has been a part of my life since I was eight years old and I have never known school without this sport. Some highlights include winning my division at Regional Finals over fences and coming in reserve on the flat, clean sweeping Ivy league championships two years in a row with the team, and trail riding at the Oxley all throughout summer 2022. I’ll miss this team a lot. 

Do you have any advice for students new to Anthropology?

My advice for future anthropology students? Both are controversial. 1) embrace the nerdiness 2) prerequisites are fake. 

First: rejoice in everything you’re learning! This means reading things in their entirety, holding thoughtful conversations regularly with friends, and sitting down with your professors for coffee. For example, I’ve never given a book or article the time that it deserves and thought to myself  “ugh, I wish I hadn’t read that.” I romanticize the learning process. Just like anything else in life, you get out of a syllabus exactly what you put in. 

Second: take the hard classes, ignore the course number. This piece of advice comes with an apology to those at the registrar (sorry that I was such a menace!). In Anthropology this is especially true: our courses are especially accessible to non-majors and our professors are super approachable for help. This is harder in other departments, but still possible. I took (the dreaded) organic chemistry, for example, without ever having taken chemistry before; an advanced nutrition class without any of the pre-requisite classes. Our time here is so limited, sometimes you just have to skip to the interesting parts. Only take me up on this if you are willing to seek extra help and keep in touch with your professors about your progress. 

To conclude: thank you. Thank you to all of my professors who said that they saw themselves in me, to the coaches who believed in me when I did not, and to my peers who keep me excited to show up every day as my fullest self. Going forwards, I look forward to taking some time before applying to graduate school in Anthropology. This stuff really is forever! 














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Bianca Garcia with a horse