Today I am giving a talk to the current students of good ol’ Bangor University.
I was e-mailed a while ago by one of the lecturers at the university whom I have kept in touch with since graduating back in 2011. Her request was simple… as someone who is actually in the field, would I go and give a talk about my job, explaining what degree’s I completed, what module I focussed on, if I had a clear plan of where I was headed and most importantly, did I reach my expected destination.
So I thought I would pay a little bit of homage to the university and it’s surrounding which inspired my desire to become an archaeologist and the place I still consider to be home 4 years after graduating and moving away!
When I was applying to university I originally wanted to go and do Egyptology, because of course I watched The Mummy and thought by jove, that looks like a jolly good time. I set to thinking I could go to Leicester or London or wherever, do Egyptology and then get to move to Egypt itself (no judging! we all know that people who have yet to leave university still think that their degree will open the doors to the world for them, sometimes it does…).
But as time drew closer for that UCAS application I started to reconsider about putting all my eggs in the same basket, Egyptology is quite niche, I best be pragmatic here and widen my scope. So I thought I’ll kill two birds with one stone, let’s do History with Archaeology.
You can apply to up to 5 universities on a UCAS application and I will admit that Bangor simply made the list because I thought that if I can apply for 5, I should add that fifth, you never know!
Best decision I ever made, I went from being determined to go to Exeter uni, drove around the coast and saw sites like this:
I arrived at Bangor to find a small department, the School of History, Welsh History and Archaeology (Ysgol Hanes, Hanes Cymraeg y Archaeoleg). Only a handful of archaeologists (to be fair only a handful of any of the specialities) and I became engrossed in all archaeology topics, I took as many modules as I was allowed in archaeology (because of my degree title I had to have a ‘balance’ between history and archaeology).
No one can say I didn’t make the most of my time at university. I joined the Bangor university Archaeology Society, to then join the committee for it (taking such roles as treasurer, secretary and then events). I was a peer guide, acting as a welcome to new students and an ambassador to potentials. I became an academic study leader to run revision seminars etc. Finally I went on a field school every summer. To this day I cannot begin to fathom how people went through the same degree scheme as me and never once set foot on an excavation… the mind BOGGLES!!
(My first excavation with Bangor actually lay at the foot of the water fall in the picture above, Abergwyngregyn).
The excavation that taught me pretty much everything I know about digging, on site comerarderie, technical drawing and photographing, community archaeology and all around understanding of the principles of archaeology was Meillionydd. If you ever met a friend or relative of mine they could relate the numerous hours of their lives that I have wasted talking about Meillionydd. It is an amazing site, fantastic archaeology and definitely worth a google search!
I was so fortunate to become a supervisor on this dig (before it became a huge dig and every tom, dick and harry got to play supervisor) that I got to work with a small team of student from Bangor and Cardiff uni’s and actually evaluated my work, focussed on key areas within a trench and got to hone my interpretive skills. It was fun. (I’m also quite bossy and a bit of a control freak, so suited me to a T!)
When you go to do archaeology at university, you should make the most of the archaeology around you at the time. Don’t expect to be spoon fed your enthusiasm for the subject. Get out there, find monuments around you and go on excavations!
So if you’ve always wanted to go and do archaeology, go and do it. The degree is interdisciplinary, it teaches you to be analytical, teaches you recording and auditing, you gain skills in communication, time management. I’m not saying anyone who wants to do the degree should go to Bangor (they now do a single honours archaeology BA), but it was the right place, at the right time for me.
So diolch yn fawr Bangor University and Gwynedd county… you gave me everything I could ask for and more!
Time for a panad!
(Of course I did go to Durham as well afterwards.. but my MA can wait for a different blog, it will be much shorter!)