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Charlotte Austwick

Freelance Anthropologist, Professional Explorer, Filmmaker and Educator

Charlotte Austwick

Explorer, Filmmaker and Public Speaker


Which industry do you work in and what do you love and/or loathe about it? 

I work as a freelance anthropologist, professional explorer, and educator. I love how diverse the job is. One day I could be giving a talk about my experiences, the next day I could be working out logistics for my next expedition. In addition, I love the diversity of skills and interests of my colleagues. An expedition team could be made up of doctors, dentists, media personnel, translators, scientists etc... I learn a lot from them. Similarly, I enjoy collaborating with in-country contacts and learning more about the different cultures around the world. I don’t really loathe anything, but constantly having to fundraise is difficult and can be quite draining. It can make you feel like a failure if you don’t raise enough, or your application gets rejected. Sometimes the only thing stopping me from being able to conduct expeditions is money. Yet, I am quite a determined individual and believe that ‘where there is a will, there is a way’, even if it means having to take a diversion occasionally.

How did you get into your job/industry?

I got into my job by using education, following my passions and self-belief. I have copied the below story from my previous application, which explains how I became an anthropologist and explorer.

 ‘’I graduated from University with a BA in Drama and Classical Archaeology, even completing a yearlong wild module in Italian. Only weeks later I embarked on an expedition to the Arctic Circle with the British Exploring Society to help collect data for climate change. I continued my studies to gain a MA in Social Anthropology (Specialising in Visual Anthropology). During my MA I lived and filmed with a community of Maya deep in the Central American rainforest for my research and discovered what the archaeological remains of Belize hold for the Maya people of today. 

In 2019, I was named the Scientific Exploration Societies River Foundation Explorer for Health and Humanities. With this award, I returned to live with the Maya of Central America to produce educational resources in their native language, explore the surrounding jungle for ancient Maya archaeology and deliver dental hygiene workshops. With help from the Maya, I have now created and edited two books in the Q’eqchi’ and Mopan Maya languages. From a girl with dyslexia who hated languages to now working on saving two of the most endangered languages in the world - this fills me with pride. I have been able to use my dyslexic brain to think far beyond a traditional box of language learning and contribute to the preservation of such an extraordinary culture. Following this expedition, I became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Explorers Club. I was a final speaker for the prestigious RGS Micro Lecture Event 2021 and was asked to become the new voluntary Learning and Development Officer for the Scientific Exploration Society. 

In the upcoming months, I will also be starting as a paid brand ambassador with Hidden Compass, an online travel magazine that encourages deep exploration through powerful storytelling. Now, because of hard work and determination, I am a professional anthropologist and much of my work is in linguistics. I am in the process of applying for further funding to contribute to preserving other indigenous languages. As well as having lessons in Arabic and learning to read Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics.’’

Have you always wanted to work in your industry?

As a child, I had a vast imagination. I used to play Pocahontas, by running barefoot through fields and chopping down bracken pretending I was on my way to find the lost city of El Dorado. I always had a great sense of adventure.

Then as I grew up and I learnt more about the world, the profession I wanted to do changed every week, I wanted to be a teacher, an actress, a singer, a psychologist, an archaeologist, a stunt woman, the list goes on! However, it wasn’t until I stopped listening to outside influences that I really worked out who I wanted to be. I decided to not have a destination,

but live life as a journey and follow my own interests and passions. It turned out that maybe trying to find the lost city of El Dorado was not just make believe after all! Now I’m working in an industry which thrives on people’s diversity, skills, and interests.


Does it feel like a good 'fit' for you as a neurodivergent woman?

Yes, If I was not neurodiverse, I do not believe I would be where I am in my career. Being dyslexic means that I can think in a way that many cannot. Equally, it helps me both with teaching and working with others who are neurodiverse because I personally understand issues surrounding learning difficulties, especially with learning new languages. Being neurodiverse has also taught me to have a strong work ethic. That with perseverance and determination, anything is possible!

Any anecdotes that you feel might be insightful?

Part of my job involves teaching and I really enjoy this. I have worked full time in schools and as a visiting speaker.

When I have taught in the past, I was reluctant to let students know I was dyslexic. Teachers are supposed to know everything, so when I used to get asked how you spell words like ‘Mississippi’ or ‘necessary’ I would internally panic. I would have to look it up on the computer or ask the child to get a dictionary to look up the word. Then in one school, I was teaching in, I had a class, where some children were saying some unkind words to other students because of their learning difficulties.

I decided to do something about it. I gave an assembly on how sometimes ‘being a little different’ can be amazing! I used both other teachers' experiences and celebrity examples, to illustrate that without people being neurodiverse we may not have airplanes, light bulbs or even computers. I received positive praise from the teachers, but I wasn’t sure what the children thought. Then in one of my classes, one of the children said ‘’being different, is the new cool’. I felt pleased, I had achieved my aim.



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