TV hit sees demand for Silpakorn course skyrocket

Inspired to study: The entrance of Silpakorn University.

Driven by the craze for mega-hit period soap opera Love Destiny, or Bupphaesannivas in Thai, students are applying to Silpakorn University's Faculty of Archaeology in record numbers.

According to figures provided by the university, its archaeology school has already received 13,000 applications (three times more than last year) for a course which has only 200 available places.

This means the school's acceptance rate will drop from one in 20 applicants last year to a record low, with only one out of 66 candidates gaining a place with the faculty for the upcoming academic year.

Rungroj Thamrungraeng, a lecturer at the faculty, said this phenomenon is clearly caused by the top-rated TV series which paints an inspiring picture of archaeology as an exciting field of study.

The series is about a female archaeologist who, after a car accident, wakes up in the body of a woman living in Ayutthaya during the reign of King Narai the Great, who lived from 1632 to 1688.

Mr Rungroj believes that the cute and funny character portrayed by leading actress Ranee Campen, and the way she is perceived by old-time Ayutthaya people as she introduces them to modern ideas and ways of doing things, has made the series a mega-hit.

"Love Destiny is not the first hit period TV drama in Thailand and it's not the only one where a leading actor or actress has portrayed an archaeologist. In my opinion, what makes the difference is a storyline that makes the characters on TV feel real, so people are motivated to dig for more information," he said.

Anpawee Jirojkulkit, 18, one of the students who has applied to the course, said she was a fan of Love Destiny and the series had influenced her choice of future career.

"The drama sparked my interest in history. I want to learn more and know more about ancient Thai history, so I applied for a place to be an archaeology student. I told my parents and they support my decision," she said.

Another applicant, Wipada Noonthong, also admitted to being inspired by the soap opera when choosing a major to study at university.

"I have had a passionate interest in archaeology since I was a kid. I always wondered how ancient people built cities and buildings with such limited technology in their era, so I think this major fits me," she said.

Mr Rungroj said he's happy to see Love Destiny has drawn attention to archaeology as the field is normally not seen as an attractive choice.

However, he warned students to choose careers based on their interests, skills and aspirations, not the TV shows they are watching.

Mr Rungroj said that archaeology is a subject that brings together a mix of humanities and sciences, and combines social theory, critical thinking and hard practical skills.

Archaeologists are required to learn how to examine materials they have collected and interpret the data, before making conclusions based on evidence and research. They connect the pieces of the puzzle together and present their findings through books, reports and journal articles, he explained.

Students have to spend time both in class and in the field, he said.

"They need to understand that studying archaeology, in reality, is not as fun as it looks in Hollywood movies involving Indiana Jones. Archaeology also does not necessarily lead to a well-paid career, so they must be motivated more by a love of the subject than money."

He added that archaeology students are not limited to becoming archaeologists, as they can use the knowledge they learn to pursue other professions as well.

"Rompang, the author of Love Destiny, was an archaeology student, but she chose to become a writer. She passes on the knowledge she learnt in her writing," he said.

Silpakorn University is currently the only university in the country that provides a degree course in archaeology.

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