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Volunteer on an Archaeological Excavation (Catalonia) / Volunteer at a Medieval History Park (Germany)
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

I really wanted to try different types of archaeology, to help me decide what I want to do in the future. I also wanted to experience working abroad, as that's something I hope to do after my degree. It was also a fantastic opportunity to work in an international team and to try something completely different to what I could do in the UK.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Through Concordia, an international volunteering website.

Application process

For both placements I simply submitted an application to Concordia, who then passed it on to the host organisations in Catalonia and Germany. I heard back from both within a week of applying.

Main responsibilities

Catalonia- First we had to clear the site, which had become very overgrown since the last excavation. Afterwards, we began to excavate the remains of an Islamic fort, built by the moors to told off attacks by the Christians from the north.
Germany-working doing various tasks to aid in the construction of the medieval buildings and helping at the middle ages festival the park hosted.

Typical day

Catalonia-typically we only worked from 9-1, as the temperatures could reach 40 degrees so the archaeologist preferred to only work for a short number of hours. Our work involved clearing the site, then removing the top layers with mattocks (it was not possible for a machine to do this as the site was on top of a hill which was only accessible by foot). We then excavated to a depth of 2 cm at a time and worked on clearing the above surface level structures ready for photographs. The most exciting thing I found was the base of an archway or column which had stood at the entrance to the fort.
Germany-each day we worked for 6 hours, doing lots of different types of work. Some days we would work in the wood workshop, turning logs into beams using replica medieval axes, or using chisels to create leg protectors as people in the middle ages would have used to protect themselves whilst chopping wood. We also used replica 1m long saws to make beams, learnt how to treat wood to protect it from rotting and pests using medieval techniques and created water-flow trenches which people used in the past to avoid damage from rain falling off the roofs onto the walls of their wattle and daub houses. We helped to build these wattle and daub walls, which was a fantastic experience, and helped out at the children's medieval festival. This involved setting up structures and historic-style games, and helping to make sure the event ran smoothly.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

Catalonia- I really enjoyed working on such an interesting site and seeing a different style of archaeology. It was also great to spend time in a country I'd never visited before and meet people from around the world. They gave us a really good taste of rural Catalan life and we did lots of fun activities in our free time.
Germany-Firstly, the tour of the geschichtspark by the resident archaeologist was fantastic, and being shown various aspects of how they lived gave me a much greater appreciation of the middle ages. Using medieval style tools and techniques, and seeing how things were made, allowed me to understand so much more aspects of this era that I'd learnt at uni and at school. Just being able to spend so much time at such a fantastic museum was great for me and made me want to work in such a place after I graduate. It was also brilliant to work in Germany, and my German improved so much as a result. I made some amazing friends and we went on some fantastic cultural visits, I loved every minute of this placement!

Challenging aspects

Catalonia- I found the accommodation and high temperatures difficult to deal with at times, and also the slow pace of the excavation, as no-one else had any previous experience in this field.

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

Catalonia- the excavation skills I learnt at Castleton came in very useful, as it meant that I could work independently and felt confident in what I was doing.
Germany-I was able to apply alot of the knowledge we'd learnt about the middle ages in various different modules, and as I was able to see it put into practice I really grew to understand and enjoy this period of history alot more.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

It definitely made me consider working in a museum as I really enjoyed handling all the artefacts and seeing different ways you can present them to the public. It also confirmed to me, in addition to an excavation I did there last year, that I would love to work in Germany and made me want to improve my German language skills.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

Step outside your comfort zone and don't be afraid to really challenge yourself in the placement you choose!

Other comments

I was really grateful for receiving the bursary as it meant that I was able to go on these fantastic placements and I think it will really benefit my degree and hopefully help me to get a job in the future.

Form completed: 26 Sep 2017

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