Institute for Field Research

Program Reviews

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Mike
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Beautiful Island, packed with archaeology

Bornholm is dense with archaeological sites, and the fieldschool staff made a point of giving us chances to get a sense of them in context. They were also great at responding to the interests of students, and making sure we had chances to see the specific things that interested us most. Finn Ole Nielsen, especially, made a point of throwing in a few mini-fieldtrips on the way back to the guest house when I asked about places!

If I could have given the guest house 11/10 I would have. I have to say the bikes they gave us for touring around on days off were a bit sketchy, but once we got the tires pumped up they were a solid 8/10... If you are not a distance cyclist, it's worth getting a bus pass for part of the time, if only to make sure you see the white sand beaches, and the western coast south of the castle, which are beautiful and a bit different from the rest of the landscape.

Nick Caretta is a consummate teacher, who consistently went out of his way to make things work for the students, explain the big picture, and also to ensure that we ate a enough wild cherries. We saw a little less of Michael Thorsen, but he is an incredibly kind teacher who is willing to repeat things as many times as necessary without getting flustered, and is also endlessly willing to help students out with understanding the details of what they are encountering as they dig, suggest multiple approaches to the same task, and so on.

The weather at that time of year is extremely comfortable, the coffee and pastries are good (It's Denmark, after all), and the showers are hot.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
The white sand beach. Apparently the sand is used for hour-glasses. It's like a temperate version of the Caribbean. If I had it to do again, I'd have gone to the beach earlier in the month, and brought my readings...
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Charlotte
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Blackfriary

IFR itself was great! I loved the site that I was working at and I had such an amazing experience in Ireland!
I could have used a little more guidance with the process of making travel arrangements and the application process was not very user-friendly, but I was able to figure everything out!
Overall, I think field schools are incredible experiences and would recommend that everyone try to have a study abroad experience!!

What would you improve about this program?
Make the application process more user-friendly and make sure all of the hosts are ready and able to receive study abroad students.
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Lauren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

IFR - Cova Gran de Santa Linya

The Cova Gran field school was such an amazing experience for me. I originally selected this program because of its involvement in ongoing Paleolithic research, especially in regards to late Neanderthal culture, which has always been one of my primary interests. I learned a lot more than I feel I ever could have in a traditional classroom setting. I learned so much regarding archaeological field methods, as well as how to interact with others in a field setting. I first chose this program in order to evaluate which direction of Anthropology I wanted to pursue; I had never before participated in an excavation, so this was entirely new to me. The staff was so helpful in explaining everything and offering guidance to those of us who were fairly new to the discipline of archaeology. We were involved directly with the project, and consulted along every step so I really felt included and engaged during the duration of the project. If something didn't quite make sense, it was explained and demonstrated in more depth to ensure that all students had a well-rounded grasp on what we were doing and why we were doing it. All of the students and staff were amazing individuals, and I really feel like I made some lifelong friendships that will continue to benefit me in the future. I had also never left the USA prior to this trip, so it really opened up a whole new perspective about the rest of the world. I still use what I learned during this program in my regular life, and I am going on to pursue a MSc in Archaeology; part of me attributes this to the IFR program as it really convinced me that pursuing archaeology successfully was something that I was capable of. The community where we stayed was amazing as well, as Sant Llorenc is a small Catalonian village lying on the banks of Rio Segre - the landscape is breathtaking. If you're interested in outdoor activities, this place is exceptional for that! On free days, myself and other students would spend our time hiking, swimming, and kayaking around the local area. Sant Llorenc is relatively close to Lleida as well, offering us the chance to take day trips to explore other parts of Catalonia and really indulge ourselves in the local culture. I have recommended this program to a number of my friends and colleagues, and I have nothing negative to say about my experience. If you're considering this program, I highly recommend it! I treasure all of my memories from the field school and really would like to return in the future, if I had the opportunity.

What would you improve about this program?
This program was so well-rounded I feel it would be a disservice to say it needs improvement. I honestly have no complaints about the program.
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Kristen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Inis Airc & how I fell in love with archaeology

I am one of the most indecisive people I know. To overcome this, I've developed the tendency to make snap decisions about important things, which is pretty much how I ended up in Ireland last summer.

I took an introductory archaeology course the first semester I was at college and found it the only class that I was excited to wake up for at 8 in the morning. When I started thinking about how I wanted to spend the summer after my freshman year, I couldn't think of anything else I'd rather do. I chose the Inishark program because my archaeology professor knew the professors running it and told me I'd like them. Part of me expected to hate it - dirt, early mornings, digging. Things I hadn't enjoyed since elementary school. But I packed (and bought) all of my gear for the summer and shipped off to Dublin at the end of May, figuring that at the very least, I'd get to spend some time in a beautiful country.

The first day in Ireland, I got on the wrong bus, got off at the wrong stop, walked an hour through Galway with my suitcase, and showed up too early to my Airbnb. It was great. I spent a few days in Galway by myself, exploring the city before I met up with the IFR group I'd be spending the next month with. We took a van across western Ireland, then loaded onto a ferry to cross the ocean to Inishbofin, a small island that now holds some of my favorite memories.

Inishbofin is a breathtaking mixture of craggy cliffs, long grasses, white sand beaches, furry pigs, and a depth of history I'd never encountered in America. The Doonmore, the hotel & restaurant we stayed at while on Bofin, was welcoming and supportive of our ragtag group of archaeologists (and archaeologists-to-be). It's where I fell in love with sticky toffee pudding, discovered the appropriate ratio of Guinness to Smithwicks, and heard the kind of tales only Irish storytellers can create.

Leaving Bofin was hard, but leaving Shark a few weeks later was even harder.

The brunt of our field school was spent on the island of Inishark, twenty minutes by ferry from Bofin. Shark was abandoned in 1960 but bears the marks of habitation from as early as the Bronze Age. The twentieth century stone settlements are more obvious, but history became visible the closer I looked.

Living on Inishark is one of the most challenging things I've ever done. It didn't quite register while I was there, but once I returned to my parents' home in Pennsylvania, I realised how much I had grown over the month.

There is no running water on Inishark. No electricity. We brought everything we needed - water, food, toilet paper - on one ferry and took it back on another when we left the island. The bathroom was wherever camp was out of sight, though this illusion of privacy never quite extended to the sheep that wandered the island. The buildings that were still standing were, for the most part, without roofs and dangerous to sleep in, so our homes were bright orange tents that dotted the rolling hills by St. Leo's church. The sky never seemed to go dark until ten or eleven, and the sun and its chorus of birds frequently woke me before five. It was the best I've slept in years.

During the days, I worked on Clochán Leo, a medieval Christian beehive-shaped stone construct perched on the edge of a cliff that slowly sloped down into the ocean. It was frequently windy and rainy. For a week, I took my waterproof pants and jacket off only to sleep at night. Every morning, I woke excited to take up my trowel and went to bed exhausted but immensely, wonderfully satisfied. We moved buckets upon buckets of dirt and sod to return to a medieval layer of soil in the clochán and the surrounding area. We found the remnants of a tea party and of early Christianity, every day going back a little further in time.

I'm sure my friends and family have since grown sick of how much I talk about Shark and Bofin. The people I met on the dig were a unique group that I still stay in contact with and think about today. The history I helped recreate brought a passion back into my life that I realised I had been missing for years. As a result of my IFR experience, I taught a course at my university on Irish culture, worked on another excavation in south Texas, learned how to play a ukulele, discovered a surprising interest in medieval Christianity, and fell even more in love with archaeology than I thought possible.

I don't know where I will go in my next two years of college or what path I'll take after I graduate, but I know that archaeology will be a part of it. And for that, for my time on Shark, I am unimaginably grateful.

What would you improve about this program?
More time. Then again, I doubt I ever really would have been ready to leave.
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Douglas
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Awe Inspiring

The Ciudad Perdida field school is without a doubt one of the the best experiences I have ever had. The field school not only gives students the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of field work from a truly amazing staff but also provids a setting unlike any other. The location offers a true taste of extremely remote, off grid archeological work. Add to this the chance to learn about an amazing culture both past and present and it provides a unique life changing experience for any who may be brave enough to attend.

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Moriah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Institute for Field Research: Ciudad Perdida Archaeology Field School, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia

The Ciudad Perdida archaeology field school in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia is one of the most rugged offered by the Institute for Field Research (IFR), as it involves a two day hike across high-gradient terrain to reach the site up in the mountain. For the extent of the field school (about one month) students live up at the site and off the grid -- no cell or WiFi service available. I feel so fortunate to have had this field school experience because not only did it teach me crucial archaeological field research methods including both subsurface and pedestrian survey data collection, it also incorporated lessons about public outreach, community collaboration, and conservation of the cultural record. To do fieldwork and research in this setting was especially transformative because students are literally living and breathing archaeology -- we do fieldwork during the day and talk about theory, findings, and the inherent obligations/ responsibilities that come with being an archaeologist in the evenings, without the distractions of the outside world.
IFR is especially unique because all of their field schools are reviewed and vetted by a board of academics and archaeologists from many renowned institutions/universities around the world. This ensures that each program is well run, worthwhile, and truly furthers student's classroom-acquired knowledge by applying it to well designed research in the field. I am now very close with the head archaeologist from my field school to the extent that I returned to do fieldwork with him the following summer after participating in the field school, and he continues to meet with me and advise me. The IFR field school was one of the best experiences of my college career, I recommend it to any student who is serious about gaining crucial fieldwork skills and experience.

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Danna
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

IFR: Trim, Ireland

I had the best time of my life, literally! The staff were amazing and the program itself was just unbelievable. I could not have asked for a better experience! In fact I have been planning on moving there ever since leaving! This was a life changing experience and I have recommended it to everyone I know. The knowledge I gained and friends I made are irreplaceable and the connections, both professional and personal, will be with me forever. Staying in a town where a medieval castle is the focal point is unlike anything else! Don't wait! Go!

What would you improve about this program?
Make it longer! I never wanted to leave!
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Mi
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Wonderful experience

Yangguanzhai field school is the only one of its kind in China. It is a must-have experience for anyone who is interested in and want to explore Chinese cultures and archaeology. I’m truly glad that I have applied for this field school, and the knowledge I learned and the people I met there will be my lifelong treasure. The living condition was superb, as well as the food. It’s a nice place to start a field work, and the schedule was not too challenging.

What would you improve about this program?
Would be better if more lab techniques are included
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LORENA
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

MEMORIES THAT WILL LAST A LIFETIME

Honestly one of the greatest experiences of my life. I enjoyed how small the group was and how close and comfortable we became with each other. As a group we had lots of fun together and made lots of great memories together. One of my favorites was getting together along with Hans for Brunch on our first Saturday in Torino. We enjoyed many fun times together and even now we still keep in touch every once in a while.
The program itself was great as well, we had small issues as it was the first year that this program had taken place so they were learning along with us, but it was still a great learning experiences and the opportunities that we were given were some that we could probably not have enjoyed otherwise. One great opportunity was being able to meet and work with the director, curators, and other staff at Museo Egizio. Being able to experience first hand the workings of a museum was for me one of the greatest benefits of this program. Being able to visit other museums and other locations were they work on restoring artifacts was also a great part of this program. There was so much to do and see, just within the program itself that I recommend future participants to take all the opportunities given and enjoy every minute of it. I also recommend that you enjoy the weekends there are many places that one can visit and it isnt too expensive. For example, I, along with some friends, was able to go to Nice, Venice, and a small abbey known as Sacra di San Michele located near the city of Torino. They were all great trips and highly suggest that people use the weekends to get away, or if not the city itself has so many places to see and enjoy, one thing is for sure you will never be bored.
Finally for the food, it is all really delicious. My two favorite were the Vittello Tonnato and Crema Catalana, I highly recommend them.
To all future participants of this program I wish you the greatest of times and hope you make as many wonderful memories as I did.

What would you improve about this program?
I think perhaps the greatest problem we had was the timing of things. Sometimes we felt rushed, I thinking better organizing of time especially for lectures would be a great improvement.
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Aimee
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

IFR Global: Turin Summer of 2017

Prepping for summer 2017 was extremely exciting but once I got to Turin, Italy the experience was better than I could have ever imagined. Amazing staff support is offered to students and you get to work closely with conservators of the Museo Egizio. Turin is a wonderful city located in northern Italy with many sites to see. All the participants of the program became fast friends during our communal lunches and dinners.