I’m a mature Archaeology student. Somehow, I made it to 3rd Year… and I don’t ever want to leave! Studying with young ones has its challenges, but is so rewarding (especially when you can teach the child what dendrochronology is…. and say it!)
My first week at York
I remember feeling so scared that I was going to be so old and too out-of-touch for the A level leavers who were starting with me! I could not have been more wrong. The Department of Archaeology immediately welcomed us all, and all the other students treated me just like any other! I felt right at home, and fell so in love with King’s Manor. I bragged to everyone who had been with me on my access course because it’s so beautiful. It’s definitely the perfect place to study Archaeology.
On my first day at King’s Manor, I was too frightened to even touch anything. Mainly because it all just looked so cool; also because I’m the clumsiest person known to humanity.
It’s really not as fragile as I thought it was. It’s dealt with some stuff over the years (including, allegedly, some bullet holes from the English civil war, still visible in the brickwork!). So, I never managed to break anything!
Studying with the kiddo
Studying as a parent has definitely been challenging. The Department has been more supportive than I could have hoped to imagine, and so understanding when I had to prioritise my child. I worried about what being a mature Archaeology student with a child would be like, but I needn’t have at all. He actually enjoys hearing about the stuff I do at York! I probably go on a bit sometimes, though…
I have to be honest, I didn’t get to working in commercial archaeology until my second year. Previously, I worked in forensic psychiatry (a big change), and decided I didn’t want to do that forever. But, if you need to work, then working for the right people while studying is a must. And it’s important to remember that studying needs to come first! There are casual work opportunities available throughout the academic year. York is a city with many places that will definitely be hiring at some point or another!
I left commercial archaeology as I started my third year. I’d spent too much time on work and not enough on my family or studying, and my grades started slipping. I knew I had taken on too much, and had to sacrifice the least important thing. Make sure you listen to what your body needs, and what your mind needs; your health is the most important thing.
The impact of Covid-19
This was the most unexpected thing to happen to me throughout my entire adult life. But the staff were honestly fantastic. They made the transition to studying online as easy and interesting as possible. I could go through everything they did to make this transition (for almost an entire year), but that would take far too long. I will tell you about one instance, though…
One week, as we were all stuck at home for the 7th (or 8th?) week, we were doing an online excavation module. When the time came to study typologies (the classification of something based on its visual characteristics) we had to go to our cutlery drawer and actually sort out our cutlery… good way of getting me to clean out my rubbish, eh?!
Yeah, this is fun.
My drive to York takes an hour, so I listen to podcasts and terrible 90s music to get me through. It’s not feasible for me to live in York due to my son’s school, but where I live is also much cheaper (bonus). Parking permits – if you’re eligible – are reasonable, but don’t drive if you don’t have to!
A typical week as a mature Archaeology student
Contact hours are pretty low in humanities subjects. I’m usually on campus around two or three times a week, for a couple of hours each time. I spend the rest of my time at home watching lectures. Blended learning has actually been a massive positive impact. I can drink a lot of tea while I watch lectures from home! Reading, working on assignments, watching Netflix, sometimes procrastinating all take place too. But in all honesty, the more you put into it, the more you will get out. Come to seminars prepared to speak – the staff love that! It helps give others the confidence to speak too. And always remember that no question is a stupid question!
I like to participate in anything I can. I recently helped to repair the Mesolithic hut at the York Experimental Archaeology (YEAR) Centre. I’m also involved with The Post Hole (a student-run journal), ArchSoc (the Archaeology Society), and anywhere in the University that I can help do something worthwhile!
If you have any questions for me, please leave a comment and I will respond. I hope to see you around York!