By Jennifer Mandalinich
For my STEP Signature Project, I went on the Trim and the Blackfriary study abroad program. This trip was partnered with the Blackfriary’s Field School, and for four weeks in June, I excavated parts of the site. Instead of being a simulation or an explanation in a textbook, I worked on a live site where the features we found actually contributed to the understanding of the Blackfriary.
While completing my STEP Signature Project, I found that I grew not only in experience and knowledge, but in my understanding of myself. I found that I grew more confident in myself and my actions, and I became more situationally aware of the world outside the United States. Stepping out of the bubble that is my ordinary life allowed me to expand my perspectives. I became more aware of the political situation in Ireland, including the effects and concerns about Brexit and the tension between the Irish and the British. I also gained crucial experience for any aspiring archaeologist: working on a field school.
But to even get to Ireland, I needed to overcome my anxieties about international flight and flying by myself. Before I left, I was making myself sick with anxiety about my flight, from being alone on it, to going overseas for the first time, to being worried who’ll be sitting next to me for six hours, to getting my money exchanged, ect, ect… However, once I got to Washington Dulles airport, I navigated myself through TSA and all other checks with excitement at the trip awaiting me. When I got to Ireland, and throughout the trip, I found that I gained more and more confidence in myself. By the end of June, I felt like I could take on the world. I was proud of myself that I stepped out of my comfort space, and with the help of the friends I made on the trip, I gained the confidence I never knew I could have.
During our stay, we lived with local families in Ohio State’s first attempt at doing home-stays for this trip. I thought it was really successful because, instead of being insular and all of the students staying in the Knightsbrook Hotel, we stayed with families that were active in the community and had their own perspectives on not just the site, but the world as a whole. My eyes were opened to another perspective on recent events and global history, such as the lasting effects of British imperialism on Ireland. I felt more connected to the community of Trim, and I feel grateful that I had this amazing opportunity.
This trip also was transformative for me in terms of what I envision for my future. It is one thing to read about proper field techniques in a textbook, but it is another thing entirely to participate in a field school. Throughout the month, I was excavating the site and gaining first-hand knowledge about proper techniques and methods. I did both excavation and post-excavation work; both were surprisingly enjoyable. I wanted to attend this trip so I could gain experience, and I found that I liked it more than I ever thought I would.
These transformations that I experienced in this trip will be exceedingly valuable in my life from here on out. I could see myself doing what I did in Ireland for the rest of my life. I am excited to go into either archaeological fieldwork or museum preservation, which I both did in Ireland through excavation and post-excavation, respectively. I am looking into a historical archaeology doctoral program for after I graduate, as both archaeology and history are being utilized at the Blackfriary site. Anthropology and history are my majors as well. I am also using this credit as part of my Medieval and Renaissance Studies minor. I am also grateful for the confidence that this trip has instilled in me, as I have had problems overcoming anxiety before. After this, after surviving Ireland for a month, I could conquer anything that life throws my way. I am excited for the future and what it may hold.
(Trim Castle, Trim, Co. Meath)
(Me, on a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, on the west coast of Ireland)