Ah, winter semester. When the resumes are revamped in preparation for that dreaded unpaid summer internship. When everyone desperately tries to arrange a trip to Mexico over Reading Week in an attempt to squeeze a vacation out of their schedules. When junior-level classes are papered with flyers urging them to spend their summers helping baby turtles reach the ocean in Costa Rica.
I’m not here to say saving baby turtles wouldn’t be awesome and make for the best Facebook profile photo ever. Nor am I knocking spending your vacations at all-inclusive resorts (because free alcohol is the best alcohol). I’m here to promote a travel opportunity most students don’t even consider: archaeology field school.
I can feel the collective anthropology-phobic shutter now, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say many students like myself look for a vacation that incorporates new experiences, new places, and education in some form or another. Laying in the sun on a beach with a frozen drink is nice, but considering those vacations can’t even teach most people moderation I’m not sure how educational they can be considered. For airfare and a small schooling fee, a student (regardless of major) can enrol
themselves in a field school just about anywhere in the world and simultaneously assist in the recovery of remains and artifacts while indulging their wanderlust. Which yes, is fancy talk for “you will spend part of your vacation digging in foreign dirt”, but in some cases courses in osteology or archaeology are provided alongside a dig, and some are recognized for credit by the University of Alberta. Combining
that spring course you desperately need to take for your last arts credit and globetrotting? Genius. You’re welcome.
Whether or not you’re an arts student, a history buff, or just really wanna be Indiana Jones and don’t mind a little work in your holiday, I highly encourage you to take a peek at two of the most exciting, intriguing, and sexy field schools available to students. The accompanying websites are packed with photos and information, as well as their application processes, so you can start planning your trip the second you’re done reading this. Just promise you’ll send me a postcard.
1. The Slavia Project
I’ll be honest, I pretty much begged my parents to fund this trip for me last year. For the record they laughed in my face, leaving me to browse the website photos and mope right here in Canada. Open to all students, this ongoing project of a medieval-era cemetery in Drawsko, Poland features two sessions of seven weeks each, consisting of daytime excavation and evening instruction (in English) pertaining to osteology and mortuary archaeology both for beginners and the more advanced bone nerds amongst us. You get to learn correct excavation and analysis techniques, which is knowledge that I promise is super fun and only a tiny bit weird
to pull out at parties. Weekends are left free for excavators to explore the region, or hop a train to somewhere like Berlin which will trick you temporarily into feeling like you’re on a normal vacation.
2. The Irish Archaeology Field School
So you don’t have a full seven weeks to kill this summer. So you hate borsht. So the idea of spending a month and a half in a country you don’t speak the language terrifies you. Fine! For those with less time to invest and who innately fear culture shock, Ireland’s Black Friary project offers a two to six-week excavation course that allows any university student to aid in the uncovering of a late-medieval site located just outside the tiny town of Trim. Excavation includes both buildings and burial site, so the skeletally-squeamish amongst us are not confronted with skulls day after day. Field trips and conferences are available for those in attendance, and a course on field archaeology is available for credit for anyone wanting to work and play (in the dirt). Accommodations are not provided, leaving you to rent out whichever luxurious penthouse suite Trim has to offer, and weekends are free for fairy-hunting and Guiness-drinking and whatever else the Irish do for fun. You are, of course, also a hop, skip, and a very cold swim away from mainland UK, allowing for weekend queen-watching and bagpipe-playing as well.
BONUS: Archaeobox has compiled a list of upcoming summer digs worldwide which students may sign up for. On the off chance you are not already dying to spend your summer consuming peirogis or sheep-tipping, there’s a dig on every continent for any taste. Transylvania? Yep. Peru? Got it. California even boasts a few digs for those of you hoping to wipe off the grime of the excavation while on a surfboard.
Julia Rudko is a third-year anthropology major who always finds herself too broke for international field schools during the summer. Please let her live vicariously through you. Pleeeeease.