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Oliver O’Brien Excavates History in Ireland

Program: UMD-Summer: Ireland: The Archaeology of Ireland's Early Modern Period
Term: Summer 2024
Majors: Astronomy and Anthropology

Studying abroad allowed me to immerse myself in a new culture and gain insight on my own heritage. Learning how to complete an archaeological excavation provided me with the experience of being an archaeologist, but it also taught me a lot about the history of Ireland and the struggles my family may have faced in the past. Now, I feel more prepared for a career in Anthropology, and I’ve gained a better understanding of how life goes on in another culture.

One of my favorite experiences was when a group would find a unique artifact during our excavation. Discovering something in the dirt and carefully scraping away the rocks and earth around it to uncover an object even my professor was excited about made me feel important, and it helped build a strong sense of community amongst the group I was both working and living with. Whether I was excitedly watching friends uncover a complete bottle or showing the porcelain button I’d found to the equally elated graduate students, finding cool artifacts made digging in the dirt for four weeks completely worthwhile.

I would recommend trying not to let your identity define your experience. As a nonbinary individual, I was a bit hesitant to travel to another country, but Ireland surprised me with its acceptance. Although I was too busy to attend any pride parades, the students I was with made sure that I felt celebrated and comfortable for the entire month of June.

I think that no matter who you are or your background, studying abroad is an experience that everyone deserves and an opportunity for growth that you can’t really get any other way. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is really important, and I definitely appreciate having lived and studied in another country because I feel that it built my resilience and prepared me for my future career and life.

​​I think the hardest part of studying abroad was navigating food. I’m a picky eater, so one of my biggest concerns when studying abroad and traveling in general is making sure that I can find food that I eat. I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of food that I encountered in Ireland, and I actually ended up trying new things that I liked which was super cool. Ultimately, I went into this experience with an open mind, and I think that really helped me appreciate the food that Ireland has to offer.

If I hadn’t studied abroad, I would have never discovered artifacts that will be displayed in a national museum.

Discord: Ovrthegrdnwll

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