It’s a busy time of year for students, especially those considering studying abroad in the summer months, and many students of anthropology, archaeology and history are considering the various archaeological field schools around the world – but how should one choose? In this post, we’ll summarize the five important points to consider and tell you how our field school works – the choice is then yours!
Academic Credit: This is the most important point for most students – can my field school experience count towards my degree?
Our field school is affiliated to the National University of Ireland, Galway, one of the top five universities in Ireland, and they issue credit transcripts to our students. To learn more about NUI Galway, just click the purple NUI Galway logo at the top of our webpage. To explore the universities and colleges in North America and elsewhere who have accepted credit from our field school, just look at our map. We send every applicant a copy of our syllabus, so they can discuss their options with faculty and study abroad officials before booking their course.
Course Fees: The cost of studying abroad can be high, so many students need to consider the issue of course fees carefully. We advise all students to look closely at the overall cost of their proposed study abroad trip – is accommodation or housing included? are meals included? are tuition costs and academic credit transfer costs included? What are the currency exchange rates? What are my other costs likely to be?
Students can come to us for two, four, six, eight or ten weeks and our course fees are €1,800 (2 weeks), €3,600 (4 weeks), €4,860 (6 weeks), €6,480 (8 weeks) and €8,100 (10 weeks). These fees include accommodation, tuition, academic credit and local transportation – most students come for four to six weeks, but you’re free to decide the duration of your stay.
The USD-Euro rate at the moment makes it a good time for students to come to Ireland! Our four-week fee of €3,600 currently translates to about US$4,250 (Nov 2020), but the Euro was stronger a few years ago and so that same fee of €3,600 would have cost you US$5,000 back when we started out in 2014.
Accommodation: Students going abroad, often for the first time, need to be clear about the type of accommodation or housing available – if it’s not clear, ask! Some field schools have their own dormitory-style accommodation close to the excavation site, others house their students in nearby hostels, some even use tents! It’s often not described well in field school websites and marketing materials so don’t be surprised when you arrive – ask before you book!
Our fees include accommodation in a self-catering apartment in Galway city for the duration of the student’s stay. Each student gets their own room in an apartment from the Saturday before their course(s) commences to the Saturday after their course(s) ends. Students usually share the apartment with up to three other GAFS students, but each student gets their own bedroom – that’s a nice luxury when you’re living with others for a month or more and it’s not something you’ll find at every field school – sharing rooms is very common elsewhere.
Our apartments are self-catering – that means they have kitchens with all the usual utensils plus a cooker, microwave, fridge, freezer etc. – you’ll need to purchase and prepare your own food. Some field schools include meals in their course fees and that’s great for some people, but those fees are obviously higher than the fees for non-catered field schools. Our system allows you complete control over what you eat and some students living together sometimes cook together – it’s cheaper and more efficient, but that’s something you can discuss with the others in your apartment when you meet them.
Location: Where is it??? What country would I like to go to? Can I get their easily, without a visa? What language do they speak there? What’s the weather like? What’s the cultural life like? Will we be staying in a remote place or somewhere busy? Will we have opportunities to travel around? Will I be safe there?
Our students stay in an apartment complex in Galway, one of Ireland’s most vibrant cities. Students from North America, Australia and the EU can come to Ireland without a visa for up to 90 days. We all speak English, the weather is quite varied and the cultural life is great! Some students are surprised they can get sunburnt easily in Ireland, but it can rain here too – you have to be prepared for everything, but if you think the Mediterranean countries would be too hot for you, then Ireland might be perfect! Galway is the place to be in Ireland in the summer and our students enjoy the Galway Arts Festival, the Galway Film Festival and the Galway Races – you are free to explore and enjoy during the evenings and at weekends, so your trip to Galway is about a lot more than just archaeology! Our students can also opt for weekend trips to the Burren, the Aran Islands and Connemara, and some hop on a train to visit the bright lights of Dublin too.
Archaeology: Last, but by no means least, there’s the archaeology! Students need to find a field school that researches something they’re interested in and there’s really lots to choose from. All field schools aim to teach excavation techniques to their students, but the nature of the site under examination can have a direct bearing on the student experience. Is it close to the accommodation? What type of site(s) are we visiting/excavating? What techniques can we learn? What facilities are available? Is the field school research driven?
Students on our excavation courses participate in the excavation of a medieval castle that’s about 600 years old. If you’re more interested in prehistoric sites, then perhaps this isn’t the field school for you! Our site is about a 30-minute drive from the student apartments, so we bring the students to and from the site every day in our bus. Having our own bus is great, because it allows us to take off on visits to other castles, monasteries and churches when the sun is too hot or the rain is too heavy – we also use the bus every day on our architecture courses, so our students get to see lots of sites and lots of rural Ireland too!
Our aim is to teach students all the basics of archaeological excavation and our students are very hands on – they all participate in excavation, recording, surveying, on-site drawing, finds logging and bone washing. Some field schools offer opportunities in more technical areas, such as geophysical survey, but we don’t try to teach our students to run before they can walk – a day doing geophysics won’t make you into a geophysical surveyor, but a month of digging will make you a good excavator!
We don’t like being idle or inefficient, so we hire in a steel site office every year – using our on-site generator, we can run PowerPoint presentations on site when it rains! This site office is invaluable – it functions as our site office, as our canteen and as our equipment store, so everything we need is right there. Our field school is very research driven and our director has a strong publication record in the study of medieval castles. Do check this out – a field school, or field school director, with a weak publication record should be a cause for concern for any student.