Choosing the BSc Archaeological Science at Reading gave Manny the tools and learning environment he needed to expand his knowledge and strengthen his skills.
"I've always been interested in history and archaeology, but I've always preferred a more empirical and skill-based approach to study past societies that, thanks to advances in science and technology, have evolved from scientific archaeology."
The Department of Archaeology at Reading sits in the same School as the Department of Geography and Environmental Science. Past environmental change is something that Manny has a particular interest in, and these interdisciplinary ties have provided him with access to world-leading academics in both departments who publish research into global archaeology and environmental change.
"My main interest lies in environmental archaeology, especially how vegetal remains such as pollen or phytoliths can give us a greater understanding on past environments and their change, including the way past people cultivated their own food and the different methods they used to adapt to the terrain and survive. I also like the synergy between archaeology and new informatic software such as Geographic Information System (GIS), which allows us to present our data in more comprehensive and practical ways."
Since arriving at Reading, Manny has been struck by the friendly and supportive community of staff and students – who help each other make the most of their time studying.
"The aspect I've enjoyed most so far about studying at Reading, and in my opinion has helped the most, is how close and understanding the staff are. Without them I wouldn't have found the areas of archaeology that I enjoy the most to this day and even my placement. I'd say that my learning experience in Reading has been very fulfilling so far and has given me the opportunity to make my own choices and decide where I wanted to go."
Out in the field
The Department's dedicated field school offers access to high quality fieldwork as part of the degree, while providing a brilliant experience for the entire cohort.
"We've had a number of field trips with lecturers in these past years, and all have been very interesting and enjoyable. As a student in archaeology I've had the chance to participate in the archaeology field school with both staff and peers, and must say that they've turned out to be some of the best experiences of my life. Staff are also very eager to welcome students to their own research excavations and many of us have got summer placements in our second year that way."
All degrees in the Department of Archaeology are offered with the option of a professional placement – either a year-long placement or a shorter, summer placement. Students can apply directly to degrees that include a placement, or make this decision while studying if it aligns with their developing ambitions and goals.
When it came to finding a placement Manny benefited from his sound relationship with Placement Coordinator, Dr Rob Batchelor.
"Dr Rob Batchelor and I had been doing some palaeoenvironmental coring together in Islay the previous summer when I mentioned that I would be open to a year placement in environmental archaeology. Rob thought that a position at Wood would be interesting for me and suggested it when it became available. This showed how talking to your lecturers and colleagues about your plans and career aspirations can really make a difference."
Manny was successful in his interview and consequently obtained a placement role at Wood, a global engineering and consulting company.
Valuable industry experience
With Wood's offices just a few miles away from the University campus, this was ideal for Manny, who had already made himself 'at home in Reading'.
It's clear that the placement really helped Manny refine some of the skills learned in class, and also grow in confidence and experience.
"The work I undertook for Wood was full of new and interesting topics. Every single step of my work was full of self-development and acquiring new skills on the go, so probably the thing I would highlight the most would be those inflexion points where I could appreciate how much I had improved since the beginning of the placement. I saw an improvement in my writing skills and the production of detailed reports. I also honed my ability to use GIS programs to assist other colleagues with specific tasks in different projects."
Reflecting on his placement, Manny acknowledges the benefits that come with gaining industry experience.
"Our personal preferences can take us in very different directions that each work for our career expectations. That said, I think that if you want to develop new skills, boost your CV and gain valuable professional experience before you finish your degree, a placement year is the perfect opportunity for you. In my case, I've found that the heritage sector is also very wide and interesting area to work on, and that archaeology is not just limited to an academic pathway."
Manny's experience at Wood, and use of GIS in particular, has also helped to identify a final year dissertation focus.
"I've decided to change my dissertation to a topic related to GIS, which I couldn't have done without finding about the placement."
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