Well, the first semester of graduate school is done. It went faster than I thought it would. There was a definite learning curve between going to graduate school in the US versus the UK. US classes are a lot more regimented. What I mean is there are weekly reading lists and assignments due. It’s pretty easy to stay on top of work and keep up. In the UK there are weekly topics, but you’re told to read “around” the topics. There are mandatory texts, but then LOTS of “suggested” texts and it’s hard to know what to read. Also, it’s next to impossible to read all of them, so I got panicky sometimes wondering if I was wasting time on reading the wrong thing. I finished the first required text within a couple of weeks at the beginning of the semester and then didn’t know what to do for the rest. It was a very unsettling feeling. Sometimes the suggested reading for the week’s topic wouldn’t be posted until a day or two before the lecture and there wasn’t enough time to read it all. I got frustrated a lot. I then just started reading the stuff that interested me, which meant Iron Age and later for Archaeology of the Highlands and Islands. I figured I could read the other stuff later, maybe over the Christmas break. There weren’t any exams, just two papers, so a lot of the reading I did was research for my paper topics.

I did get to travel a little bit for research, which was fun. My last blog post was from Houston, but I also got to visit A&M in College Station. I wound up changing paper topics while I was there, but it’s ok. It was quiet and I actually got a lot of work done. My biggest problem being an overseas student at UHI is access to materials. I’m lucky enough to live in Texas where there are a lot of universities and archaeology programs. I’m able to access all of those libraries and collections, though it can mean a drive. I really don’t mind! Y’all know how much I love to travel. UHI also has a lot of its library materials available digitally and some of my sources can be found online at other sites. I’ve been able to cobble together enough to put together a few papers, so I think I’m ok. I definitely could not do a PhD this way, though. 

This semester also pushed me as a writer, but that’s good! I’m a decent academic writer but I haven’t been challenged in a long time. This semester gave me the push I needed. My first paper was honestly about what I expected, the equivalent of a B. I can’t remember the last time I got a B on a paper! I wasn’t upset, though I was confused with some of the feedback because it ran contrary to everything I’ve been taught. For example, I was told to write in the first person. I was like, “Whaaaaaat?” I never write in the first person in formal writing. It’s just not done. But, I used it in my second paper. I’m still waiting to hear the results for my second paper (I turned it in on the 5th), but I’m hoping it was a little higher than the first. I know I still made some mistakes, but I feel it’s a little better than the first paper. I really hope I’m not wrong.

Looking Forward

Next semester I’m taking Digital Analysis in Archaeology. I’ve never taken a class like that, but I think it’s an important one to have in my skill set. Technology plays an important part in archaeology (though nothing will ever replace a good field archaeologist with a keen eye and a sharp trowel). I’m familiar with Geophysics and LiDAR, but I don’t know much about analyzing artifacts digitally and I’m seeing it come up more and more in my reading. I’m really excited about this class, partially because it’s a project-based class and so I won’t have to do quite as much research as I did this past semester. It will be nice to have a break. 

This summer I’m taking Excavation, which involves some writing, but it’s all personal writing (field journals and a reflection). I’ve put in my preferences for sites and I’ll find out at the end of January which one I’m going to. Both sites are in the Orkneys. It will be either Skaill Farm on Rousay or The Cairns in South Ronaldsay. Either will be exciting and I’m thrilled to be able to explore a new part of Scotland!

Upcoming Trips

Speaking of new parts of Scotland, my family is going to join me either before or after field school, whichever one I wind up going to, and we’re going to romp around the West of Scotland with possible trips to Perth and York. Nora and I have been to Perth and York before. We have friends in Perth and York is just a fun place to visit. York is still on my list for a possible PhD location, but still not sure. 

Let’s just hope the Omicron variant gets its stupid arse gone by then so we don’t have to deal with too many travel restrictions. That’s honestly the only thing I’m worried about at this point. Like all of you, I am SICK of COVID-19 ruining everything. I’m fully vaccinated with a booster and had COVID in September (didn’t even know I had it until I lost my sense of smell and had a positive test, go figure), so I’m about as protected as I can get. I’ll be eligible for another booster in May if the CDC recommends a fourth shot and that’s all I can do until this effin’ virus fizzles out and goes endemic.

Texas Viking Festival

On December 18th I visited the Texas Viking Festival in Paige, Texas. I really like going to faires and festivals when it’s cold outside because I’m used to sweating my butt off most of the time. I wasn’t disappointed because it was COLD. I was glad for my warm cloak and scarf. I’m interested in Vikings from an academic and archaeological point of view, but the anthropologist in me was having a field day! I’ve always been intrigued as to what attracts people to historically-based activities, like Renaissance/Medieval faires and war reenactments. My personal reasons for participating on the casts of faires back in the 90’s was because they were honestly a lot of fun, I had the time, I loved costuming, and it was a great way to work on my improv skills as an actor. I really didn’t like improv, but it’s a vital skill for actors and being on cast most definitely improved mine! 

My first experience with Viking Fest was in March 2020, right before the stupid pandemic broke out. I just showed up and drank a lot of mead and watched people do horseback archery (which was pretty cool). This time I decided to immerse myself, but I didn’t have time to make a costume because of my studies. I managed to cobble together one off of Etsy. I like to support small businesses when I can and, with the exception of my cape, all of my pieces are from Etsy shops, down to the ribbon I bought to sew on my dress (the only actually sewing I did). Several people complimented my garb.

I didn’t think to have someone take a photo. I was too cold! Here’s a selfie, though.

Check out the following shops for my pieces:

It bucketed down rain all morning, so I headed out to the festival around 1 PM. It was raining off and on when I got there, so I honestly spent most of the festival hiding out in my friends’ shop. They sell tablet woven articles, soap and shaving supplies, and custom-made Viking shields. They will have an online shop soon and I will link it when it’s open. I did walk around the festival when the rain let up and saw lots of amazing stuff for sale and heard some of the skaldic storytelling that was going on across the way. The shop tent was along the main road in and out of the festival, so I was able to do a lot of fun people-watching. I did have some mead, got tipsy, and had to sit down for a good 30 minutes. I’m such a lightweight! I left a little before the sun went down and was exhausted from all the walking and the cold.

It was an interesting experience, much different from my days of doing faires. The next Texas Viking Festival is in June, but I’ll have to miss that one because I’ll be at field school either in Kerrville or in Scotland.

Last But Not Least…

My friend, Ty, gave this to me for Christmas and I wanted to finish off the blog post with it. He knows me entirely too well!