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.