Posted by: bethgreene | July 27, 2013

The crew here, there, and everywhere: Part 1

One of my favorite things about Field School is taking group pictures all over this amazing landscape. Usually the Western flag makes it in but sometimes not. Alex and I are the photographers so sometimes we’re not in it, but we’re always close by. Here are my favorite groups shots, with some guest appearances by others (Roman soldiers, deans, supporters, Excavation directors…).

Here’s the crew on day one on site. I love this picture because everyone is so full of expectations for the next 6 weeks. They’re sitting in the principia (headquarters building) inside the 3rd century fort on site. You’ll notice that everyone is very bundled up. It wasn’t just getting used to the weather here–our first week on site was absolutely freezing! England was having the coldest spring in 40 years when we arrived here, but as you have seen from the photos that quickly changed. However, day 1 was well and truly frigid!!

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Equally eager to get going (and equally as cold) we took our first long hike from the Roman fort at Birdoswald back to Cawfields Milecastle and our accommodation. Here we have just left the fort and we haven’t hiked more than 200 feet yet. I think this is why everyone looks so darn chipper!

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Several miles and many hills later (but nowhere near done) we came upon the 13th century medieval castle of Thirlwall. This is where we get the name for the next 15 miles of Hadrian’s Wall sitting directly on the ’9 Nicks of Thirwall’. These are the crags that we are about to hike up and down, up and down, up and down. Appropriately we took a needed break at the castle and enjoyed some medieval architecture for a few moments.

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One of our very early hikes around the local area surrounding our accommodation brought us up to a small fortlet called Haltwhistle Burn. This provided us a unique opportunity. It is notoriously difficult to photograph Roman fort ditches because the camera just doesn’t capture the depth and length of these amazing Roman features still so prominent in the landscape (I like to say the two most prominent periods visible in the lanscape are the Romans and….the ice age). Below everyone is standing inside the ditch ranged up and down the slopes to make more visual the depth and angle of the ditch. I’m standing down inside the bottom of the ditch to get a better perspective.

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This is hands down my favorite picture with the Western flag. One of our early field trips took us to Chesters Roman Fort. We were quietly minding our own business (i.e. standing on the side of the Roman soldier display wondering if we were too old to try on all the gear) and, the legionaries invited us in help ourselves. Well, you didn’t have to ask us twice! Everyone joined in with a variety of Roman gladiator and soldierly outfits (some more authentic than others–one of those looks suspisciously like a Cyberman from Dr. Who). Before we knew it we were learning to have sword fights and defend ourselves like Romans. We had to be dragged out of there!

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The day trip to the Lake District is the most stunning, awe inspiring day one can imagine. Challenges were certainly faced here and everyone won! Here we have driven about half way up the Hardknott pass on our way to the Roman fort standing in the most unbelievable location (but oh so very Roman). Everyone has traversed across the boulders to look back toward Alex and I standing on another outcrop of bedrock. I don’t think I have to say much more here, the image speaks for itself!

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The end of the Lake District day ends at the Bronze Age stone circle at Castlerigg. Again, not much needs to be said to emphasize the beauty of this spot! (you might want to click on this one to see it in all its glory).

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The trip to Edinburgh can’t really be done justice in words or pictures. But there are some good ones that might help! To get to Edinburgh we take the scenic route over the old Roman road known as Dere Street (now the A68). There are forts along the way (naturally) and amazing medieval abbeys and castles. At the border between Scotland and England there are these large stones marking the line between the two countries. You can imagine the fun we had here! In one country one second, another the next!

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The Border Abbeys at Melrose and Jedburgh are also amazing, so we went to both. When we got into Jedburgh we thought it would be a fabulous idea to look for Latin inscriptions built into the walls and make our way up to the balcony in this spectacular spot in the abbey. No sooner did everyone get up there and it started to absolutely downpour! Everyone up there was just fine, but Alex and I were completely soaked!

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The last thing we do on this drive home from Edinburgh is stop at a terrific Roman site called Trimontium (modern Newstead). This was a fabulous Roman fort that had some extraordinary finds back in the late 19th-early 20th century. Dozens of pits were filled with material (the reason is still debated) such as shoes, wagon wheels, altars, pottery, tools, and more. All this is in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and is the highlight of our days in the city itself. Here we are standing in front of the field that once held the fort at a (modern) altar marking the spot of the large ancient settlement.

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Well, I don’t want to overwhelm you with too many fabulous photos all at once (and it’s getting late on my end ;). I’ll put up more of my favorite group shots soon. And don’t worry–I promise I’ll give everyone a final report from the trenches before we go. The excavation is going strong for one more week and I’ll be sure to let you know what’s been going on.

Bye for now!

Posted by: bethgreene | July 17, 2013

Where in the World is the Western Flag… ??

Okay, so it only traveled around northern England and southern Scotland, but still it was on quite a journey for a while there! Here are my favorite pictures featuring our wonderful Western students and the trusty (full of holes) Western flag!

On Hadrian's Wall looking up at the steep climb ahead.

On Hadrian’s Wall looking up at the steep climb ahead.

In a window of 13th century Thirlwall Castle with Robin near the village of Greenhead.

In a window of 13th century Thirlwall Castle with Robin, near the village of Greenhead in England.

In a Bronze Age stone circle at Castle Rigg in the Lake District. This dates to 3000 BC!

In a Bronze Age stone circle at Castle Rigg in the Lake District. This dates to 3000 BC!

Up the balcony of the abandoned abbey at Jedburgh in Scotland. Do you see that rain???

Up the balcony of the abandoned abbey at Jedburgh in Scotland. Do you see that rain???

Fighting a Roman gladiatorial battle in full garb!

Fighting a Roman gladiatorial battle in full garb at Chesters Fort on the Tyne River!

Helping "Western Girl" launch herself in flight from the highest elevation point on Hadrian's Wall.

Helping “Western Girl” launch herself in flight from the highest elevation point on Hadrian’s Wall.

Underneath an amazing geological formation in Haltwhistle Burn, only 5 minutes from our cottages!

Underneath an amazing geological formation in Haltwhistle Burn, only 5 minutes from our cottages!

On the upper parapet of the reconstructed Roman fort gate at Arbeia Fort in South Shields on the east coast of Northumberland England.

On the upper parapet of the reconstructed Roman fort gate at Arbeia Fort in South Shields on the east coast of Northumberland England.

At the top of a perilous section of Hadrian's Wall near Cawfield Crags.

At the top of a perilous section of Hadrian’s Wall near Cawfield Crags.

In an Iron Age hillfort above the site at Vindolanda walking to the Roman quarries.

In an Iron Age hillfort above the site at Vindolanda walking to the Roman quarries.

In our wonderful trench at Vindolanda on the last day of Field School for 2013.

In our wonderful trench at Vindolanda on the last day of Field School for 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: bethgreene | July 12, 2013

We moved THIS MUCH dirt this summer! If you have a moment, check out everyone in this picture. So funny!

We moved THIS MUCH dirt this summer! If you have a moment, check out everyone in this picture. So funny!

Well, that’s a pretty smooth final picture, eh? I thought I’d lead off my (first) final post for 2013 with it. What an accomplishment. So, I hope I’ve given everyone enough time to read all those fabulous goodbye posts from the students. I think we’ve had another successful Vindolanda Field School season! I couldn’t possibly beat any of those posts, but I wanted to make sure that everyone knows what happened in the trench in that final week. As you know we had a number of illustrious visitors working with us that last week including Dean of Arts & Humanities, Michael Milde and his wife Valerie. This wasn’t just a lark–we put them to work and here’s the picture to prove it!

See, dirty hands and everything!

See, dirty hands and everything!

We also had some supporters of the Global Opportunities student scholarship program, the folks that have been a big part of making it possible for students to have experiences such as this.  We can’t thank you enough for your help and support!!!

Andy Ringlet (on the right) was here excavating at Vindolanda back in 1993 (a very famous year for Vindolanda, the year of the bonfire find with many of the writing tablets). Andy decided to support the program and return to dig with the students. Here he is sieving in the barrow with Dan and trying not to laugh as I tell them to look serious and hard at work!

Andy Ringlet (on the right) was here excavating at Vindolanda back in 1993 (a very famous year for Vindolanda, the year of the bonfire find with many of the writing tablets). Andy decided to return to dig with the students in 2013. Here he is seiving in the barrow with Dan and trying not to laugh as I tell them to look serious and hard at work!

So I imagine you’re wondering also how far we got in this trench of ours….Well, the progress is astonishing when the sun shines! All the features that we saw popping out of the surface all those weeks ago have been at least partially excavated. There’s still work to be done, but these guys helped to explore almost everything we had hoped for this season. The pit in the center of the trench turned out to be a proper ditch, in perfect Vindolanda fashion (that sort of thing happens a lot around here!). It has been quite prolific with pottery, so a date is assured for its fill after we examine everything closely. The oven in the northeast ended up being surrounded by a very significant pit full of ash, pottery, crushed brick and tile and other stuff. Stay tuned on this feature until 2014–I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this complex!

This picture is facing east, so the things on the right are to the south and on the left to the north (I'm sure I didn't need to explain that). People always say that I'm never in the photos, but look closely--that's my shadow at the bottom!

This picture is taken facing east, so the things on the right are to the south and on the left to the north (I’m sure I didn’t need to explain that). People always say that I’m never in the photos, but look closely–that’s my shadow at the bottom!

 

And one last shot of this fabulous trench and this fabulous group of students!!! Oh and, you haven’t heard the last from me yet, I have to put up all the fabulous pictures from 2013 that haven’t made it in yet. Until then!

 

Look at this crew hanging out in the trench they dug. I think this might be my favorite group shot of the summer. So proud of all this hard work!

Look at this crew hanging out in the trench they dug. I think this might be my favorite group shot of the summer. So proud of all this hard work!

 

 

Posted by: smille94 | July 7, 2013

Final Vindolanda Post

I absolutely loved being in Northumberland, England! It was my first time across the ocean but I loved it. I am a lot happier being surrounded by countryside than being in big cities. I will super miss seeing the amazing green fields everyday and the animals. I will miss a lot of things about England and this field school experience. Some examples like: riding in Alex’s car with Sarah, Rob and Robin everyday, Alex saying “Good job team” at the end of every day and just getting to be around Beth and Alex everyday. They are both very fun and awesome people. They make learning really exciting. I am also going to miss the Vindolanda team: Andy, Kate and Justin, plus all of the excavator friends I made along the way. I am extremely happy that I got to work close with Andy and Kate. I gained great insight into the archaeological world of England that I will take forward with me.

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Back on our first hike we came across an altar that people still throw coins on for wishes.

Overall this was an amazing experience that I am so grateful that I was apart of. I have more of a clear focus of what I want to do with my life and what I should aim for to continue my studies. I can move forward confident. I definitely want to expand what I already have learned about bones and become a bone specialist. I am super passionate about all bones and I thoroughly enjoyed digging them up and then washing them to see what was found more closely. I am definitely interested in pursuing specializing in animal bones because there are so many different species it makes it that much more interesting to see all the different variations. I think it would be interesting to answer questions like ‘What were the Romans doing with animals’ by examining the skeletal remains from forts and other sites. ‘Were they raising or importing them?’ plus other things relating to daily life. I will definitely be doing research to find gaps in this area! 

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Digging up and then washing bones are very fun times for Stephanie! 

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The smallest calcaneus (heel bone) I have ever seen, so cute!! Placed beside a regular sized one plus a toothbrush for scale.

Vindolanda, thank you for an amazing six weeks! I will never forget this experience and I will be back again!  

-Stephanie Miller

Posted by: amandazafar | July 7, 2013

Until next time, Vindolanda!

Hello everyone! I would like to start off by thanking all of you for the opportunity to let us share our adventures with you, for it truly was an adventure, and one that I would never forget. I hope the magic of Vindolanda and Northern England has infiltrated into you all, if it hadn’t already. I first learned about this experience through last year’s blog myself, and needless to say that applying to Field School was one of the best decisions of my life. Before this, archaeology had always seemed like a wonderful career path, but one that was woefully out of reach, not having had a glimpse of it outside a classroom. Now, having personally ‘hoicked’ out of the ground the very artefacts we discuss at length in class, it all seems very real to me. Being at these Roman forts in the British frontier has really done nothing but pique my imagination. It’s really something to be sitting by the remains of a Roman fort wall and picturing a horde of Roman cavalry thundering through the gates. Essentially, being in the very place that these people inhabited so long ago really humanizes the historical facts. For example, running my fingers over the actual thumbprint of the maker of a piece of pottery, or reading the writing tablets allowed me to really envision the daily life on the frontier, and forge this direct connection with these people from 2000 years ago, who were in many ways very much like us.

At Hardknott sitting casually on a wall

At Hardknott sitting casually on a wall

There is so much I’ve learned about the archaeological process with my hands-on experience, such as the different approaches to tackling different features, and the bevy of new questions that arise with each new discovery. How does everything we find fit into the big picture at Vindolanda, or even the bigger picture of Roman Britain and the Empire as a whole? For example, the wattle and daub roundhouses that we helped uncover in the Pre-Hadrianic Period IV fort vicus in Trench B exhibited a vernacular Celtic building style, but was littered with Roman material culture. This raises many questions as to the nature of the influence the native population had on the Roman army in Britain, or even to the diverse backgrounds members of the military would have had. One of the things Vindolanda has helped me realize is that there is just so much more to discover, and we do not by any means know everything there is to know about history. There is still so much work ahead to be done, and I will do my best to ensure that I will be there again to help solve the new mysteries of Vindolanda that crop up everyday. These six weeks have taught me so much about about myself and the world of archaeology, and I come home a different person, having had these unforgettable experiences , and reaching new personal milestones(the new muscles certainly help). I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart Beth and Alex for their tireless effort in bringing this all together into a smashing success. I shudder to even imagine the amount of planning and hard work that went into having us all tag along. It’s really something to see your professors into the dirt and muck sweating alongside you everyday (you guys really are tanks and have inspired me to start lifting weights back home). As for the rest of you lot, I’ve come to love each and every one of you, and the hilarity that ensues with all of us in a room or the trenches together. Your unique quirks are what really made this trip memorable. I would also like to thank all the wonderful individuals that I have come to know and am loathe to leave behind at Vindolanda. The Second Cohort of Canadians will be back to find more of those writing tablets (after all I did promise Andy) and make off with some more tea and biscuits.

I've also really enjoyed the opportunity to climb onto things.

I’ve also really enjoyed the opportunity to climb onto things.

And I conclude with a picture of the cows claiming our spoil heap the second we go off for tea on our last day.

And I conclude with a picture of the cows claiming our spoil heap the second we go off for tea on our last day.

Love,

Amanda Zafar

Posted by: msimonds2013 | July 6, 2013

A Fond Farewell!

Hi Blog Followers :)

Well, as sad it is our time here in the UK has come to an end. Six weeks seemed to just fly by in the blink of an eye! I think it is safe to say that this has been an experience like no other; as we were cleaning up after our final day of excavation it was hard not to feel a quite sad and nostalgic as we thought about all the wonderful memories we have made here. It has been six weeks of amazing day trips, gorgeous scenery,  fascinating lectures and lessons, and once in a lifetime opportunities, but I have to say what made this trip so special was the people. For ten people who started off this trip as virtual strangers it is amazing how close we have become; and it was not only the students that made this trip, it was also our wonderful professors, Beth and Alex, as well as the entire executive team at Vindolanda and the many volunteers we were fortunate enough to have met along the way. A special thanks to Andy, Kate, and Justin from Vindolanda for without their friendly attitude and endless patients with us first time diggers this experience would not have been half as fun :) I think it is safe to say that even if all of us do not become archaeologists it will always be a hobby of ours! And thank-you to you, our loyal blog followers that have been with us every step of the way, without you we would have just been posting into cyber space! So as sad as it is to say; this is Mary of the 2nd Cohort of Canadians, signing off :)Mary in the rain

Posted by: danturner0401 | July 6, 2013

Oh, the memories…

Tempus fugit. Time flies. Never has a more truthful proverb been spoken.  It’s hard to believe that a month and a half has already passed and that I’m writing my final blog post on a train heading for Manchester airport.  Yet here I am, at the same loss for words to express just how wonderful my Vindolanda experience has been (and how jealous I already am of next year’s field school team) as when I saw our site up close for the first time.  Dumbstruck is truly an understatement.  So I’m going to cheat a little and relate my experience to you all through numbers as best I can.  Apologies in advance to those of you who are lactose intolerant; this one’s going to be heavy on the cheese.

12 incredible Roman forts we visited throughout the course of our adventure, some more excavated than others but wondrous nonetheless

11 new additions to my family: Rob, Robin, Sarah, Nikki, Mary, Rohana, Meagan, Stephanie, Amanda, Beth, and Alex

10 times I thought for sure I’d found a writing tablet…

9 Knicks of Thurwall, which we all hiked like pros

8 hilarious cows in the North Field, which seemed to switch between adorable and offensive depending on their state of digestion

7 days of adventure and excitement a week (a.k.a. the Field School guarantee)

6 weeks spent hiking and excavating at the most beautiful Roman site in Britain

5 of those weeks spent hiking and excavating in UNBELIEVABLY GORGEOUS weather (sorry 2012 team)

4 hands needed to HOIK! many a rock out of many a hole

3 adorable dogs – Gypsy, Jess, and Fred – that served as wonderful mascots…in lieu of Aggie, of course

2 small finds to my name which were absolutely exhilarating to discover

1 big place in my heart for UWO and Vindolanda

∞ smiles stretched, jaws dropped, laughs guffawed, lessons learned, and memories made here in the UK

The list could certainly go on but I’ll cap it here for the reader’s sake.  Hopefully I’ve been able to get across even a fraction of the experience to you all, but truth be told it’s the kind of thing that must be lived to be understood in full.  I honestly can’t recommend this trip highly enough to any UWO students (or willing volunteers of any age for that matter!) with a penchant for adventure and an open mind.  Nowhere else will you be welcomed into such a diverse community and well-structured program, and on that note there are some people to be thanked!

A massive thanks to Beth and Alex for their endless hours of work and preparation (both home in Canada and during Field School), their unconditional helpfulness, and frankly their patience with a bunch of amateur archaeologists; your vacation is well-deserved and good luck with the rest of the season! Thank you so much to the incredible staff at Vindolanda and all those involved in the operation who we befriended along the way; your open arms and endless enthusiasm will never be forgotten (nor will your biscuit supply)! Thank you to all of Beth’s and Alex’s associates in the UK for your time and effort; your tours and lectures were enlightening to say the least! A special thank you to all those who donated to the various scholarships we as students were able to apply for; your contributions helped to make this trip a reality for many of us and has personally strengthened my ‘pay it forward’ mentality.  And last but certainly not least, many thanks to my peers; sharing accommodations with others is often difficult, but these six weeks were an absolute pleasure! May your memories be fond and your trowels sharp!

On that note, ladies and gentlemen, I’m signing off.  Thanks for tuning in and keep an eye out for the 2014 crew next summer!

 

Posted by: mrobin94 | July 6, 2013

Farewell to All

Unfortunately it is time to say goodbye. Our six weeks at Vindolanda is over. The six weeks went by so fast that it feels like we just arrived. The experience was amazing and unforgettable. There are so many things that I am going to miss. The scenery, the people, and of course the chance to play in the dirt! There are so many memories and photos that have stemmed from this trip. However, I do feel that I have to come back and relive the experience again and to rekindle the friendships I have made over here. Thank you for all of your support and comments over the last six weeks! I do hope that we meet again in the future.

 

Farewell for now,

Meagan Robinson

Posted by: rbuzamla | July 6, 2013

Farewell!

The time has come to say goodbye. My wonderful six weeks here in Vindolanda has unfortunately come to an end. This has been an experience I will never forget! I feel remarkably privileged to have excavated at Vindolanda. This trip has changed me in many ways. Before this trip, I don’t think that I have ever stared at dirt so intently. Now I can’t wait to do it again. I’ve been bitten twice. Once by the travel bug and second by the archaeology bug. I am itching to come back next year and rekindle friendships with old friends. 
 
Signing off,
Rohana
Posted by: nmichienzi | July 6, 2013

Farewell for now

Hi everyone,

I suppose this maybe the last time I will address the wonderful people following this blog.

As I’m writing this, destined for sleep, yet unable to shut my eyes, I cannot help but think about all the amazing experiences I’ve had over the past six weeks.

For me it feels like I just arrived. Literally like I was walking through the door of Cobblestones yesterday, and seeing Vindolanda for the first time. I’m going to miss the majesty of this place. The rolling green hills overlooking the site, the farmers fields outside my window. I’m going to miss the walks home from the Milecastle chatting along the way, or the walks into Haltwhistle finding new areas of the town every time we went.

What I think I will miss beyond everything else is the people. All of those people on site: Andy, Kate, and Justin, as well as all of the volunteers. They made the experience so amazing, involving us in the community that is Vindolanda. From our first moment on site they greeted all of us Canadians so warmly, making us feel right at home. They worked so hard to make us feel like part of the team, and watch us grow as archaeologists and as people. With them we shared once in a lifetime moments at the site. Where else could you possibly be covered in organic material and still be so happy? Where else could you joke around with the Director or Excavations about goth phases and tadpoles? Where else could you find a piece of leather and feel such a connection to history? For me Vindolanda is not just about the earth or the artefacts, or the museum and the views. For me it is about each and every person on site. Its knowing that when you walk into that place that there is always a smiling face waiting for you, happy that you’re there to help and to learn. The atmosphere created by the staff and all the volunteers is amazing and something that I could never forget.

The first time I ever saw a Roman shoe outside the museum Andy let us all take a peak and told us about the process of finding the shoe and what it meant to the site.

The first time I ever saw a Roman shoe outside the museum Andy let us all take a peak and told us about the process of finding the shoe and what it meant to the site.

I don’t want to sound mushy or cliche, but I hope I never forget all the people I shared my experiences with, especially those I came here with. First of all I can’t forget them because they are in so many of my photos, but also because how could you forget your friends? Back home when all of us first met I knew that there were some people I was already friends with, but I didn’t know everyone. I was unsure if I would become friends with everyone on field school, or if we would be condemned to awkward eye contact and forced conversation about readings and assignments. All I can say is that there is a special bond that has been created with all of us.

Hike 2 the gang,

There’s something special to be said about our friendships. An ocean away from home and family we  became our own little family. We were each other’s support group through the difficult hikes, or days when we didn’t feel like smiling. This group made each other laugh so hard they cried, whether it was intentional or not. Everyday there was always something to talk about. There was always something that you wanted to share with each other, anything from finding something cool in your trench to a good joke. These students made me feel so happy to be here. There were times when walking together through England that I felt infinite because when you are with people this amazing you can feel that way.

Mary and I in Edinburgh

 

Bengali Tradition

 

Lunchtime Rain

 

All of my experiences here would be nothing without these guys. They’re the ones who made the trip. They made me smile, and laugh, and see things in a different light.

Beth and Alex are also too people I could not leave without mentioning. These two are the ones who brought me here. They encouraged me to come and try new things here. They pushed me to my limits out of my comfort zone to see and do things I never thought I would. If you asked me six weeks ago if I would be hiking up massive hills or Rick Rollin’ I would have laughed. But now things are different. Thanks to my amazing professors I tried so many new things and had all sorts of new experiences. They are truly two of the most amazing people I have ever met, academic or otherwise. To them I want to say thank you. They did so much for us, and for that I will always be grateful.

Beth rocking out to some Night Fever by the Bee Gees in the morning.

Beth rocking out to some Night Fever by the Bee Gees in the morning.

Engagement Photo 3

It is with great sadness that all things come to an end. For me the saddest part is having to say goodbye to all the friends I’ve made over the past six weeks. But one thing my family always taught me was that we never say goodbye, only that we will see each other later. And so I won’t say goodbye, not yet. For now I’ll say that we’ll see each other later. For my fellow students and my professors I hope to see them throughout the summer and in the year to come. And for the friends I’ve made in England, I hope we meet again. And to all of you reading this, please keep in touch. This blog is special and each year will come to represent a group of wonderful students, so please keep following, your views mean so much to us.

Thank you all and farewell for now,

 

Nikki Michienzi

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