Farewell Vindolanda!

Hello all!
Time has clearly put on some winged shoes and flown by because it seems like just yesterday I was writing my introduction blog post. A lot has happened in those five weeks, almost too much to process. It’s probably going to take a couple days to really reflect on this wonderful experience that I’ve had but to facilitate that process, I’m going to use something that I learned from camp when I was younger. At the end of our camping trips, my counsellor would pick up a rock, a leaf, and a stick. We would pass them around and each of us would say something that “rocked” during our trip, something that we would like to “leaf” behind, and something that really “sticks” with us. I know, it sounds incredibly corny but it is surprisingly effective. So without further ado:

The moment that rocked for me was probably our hike in Ambleside. The weather was sunny with a gentle breeze, and the view was one of the most spectacular views I’ve had the fortune of seeing. The hike itself wasn’t too intense and so we managed to walk to a nearby tarn, do some geocaching along the way, and enjoy a nice lunch with a panoramic view. We told stories and jokes and then we arrived back to Ambleside just in time for an exquisite, vegetarian only dinner at one of the best restaurants I’ve visited. It was truly an idyllic experience.


I would definitely “leaf” behind the millions of midges that swarmed the trenches on wet, cloudy, stale, and muggy days. Imagine constantly being surrounded by a cloud while someone frequently pokes you with a dull needle on your legs, your arms, your eye lids, and inside your ears. Although I’d like to leave them behind, I’m certainly bringing back the result of their attacks in the form of itchy limbs. As Professor Greene puts it, “I’ll have something by which to remember Vindolanda during the next few days.”

After two sessions at Viindolanda, what will really stick with me is the fantastic friendships I’ve made both inside and outside the field school. From having lunch with a new friend from Scotland, to practising those years of high school French with a native Frenchman, I’ve forged so many international relationships that I hope to maintain in the future. Plus, from not knowing any of the field school students previously, to becoming best friends with them, I’ve developed lasting friendships with new people at Western.

I can’t even begin to describe how much fun I’ve had for five weeks, and how much I’ve learned in that time. These are memories that I will always look back on fondly, especially the ones where I managed to jump out of my comfort zone and into the stinky anaerobic dirt.

All of this is of course thanks to my star professors, Dr. Meyer and Dr. Greene, the Vindolanda Trust and their amazing supervisors, and of course to our wonderful donors who helped fund this experience. Thank you everyone for providing me with this opportunity and for taking the time to follow our adventures on this blog. I truly hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Signing off for one last time!


Until Next Time

The memories I’ve made over the last five weeks will travel with me for a lifetime. Long after the bug bites and blisters have healed I will forever carry recollections of an experience unlike any other. What I will remember most distinctly, however, will likely not be the artifacts I uncovered or the areas I excavated. Instead, I believe it will be the endless laughter with classmates, the countless conversations with trenchmates, and the feeling of being a part of something significant that will all remain the sharpest reflections in the future.

Over the course of the field school I learned a great deal about the history of Roman Britain, the site of Vindolanda itself, as well as several surrounding areas along Hadrian’s Wall. I also acquired a better understanding of various archaeological techniques and gained practical knowledge that will help me in life even outside of academics.

I am extremely grateful to all of the supervisors (Dr. Birley, Marta, and especially Lauren) who put up with Steve’s and my antics for the better part of four weeks and allowed us to have fun and work hard at the same time. I am also very thankful, of course, to Dr. Meyer and Dr. Greene who granted me this opportunity and provided much needed guidance throughout the entire journey. And, lastly, I want to send a special, heartfelt thanks to the people who made it possible for me to actually sieze this opportunity and participate in the field school by graciously donating scholarships. Fortunately, I had the pleasure of spending a good bit of time with one of my donors over the last two weeks and very much enjoyed his company every day. Thank you again!

Hadrian's Wall near Birdoswald, where we began our first hike.
Hadrian’s Wall near Birdoswald, where we began our first hike.
Dr. Birley explaining how to record the location of a small find.
Dr. Birley explaining how to record the location of a small find.
A blog photo within a blog photo (Inception).
A blog photo within a blog photo (Inception).
Lauren with her two favourite students, Steve and I.
Lauren with her two favourite students, Steve and I.

Farewell Vindolanda!

Before this trip, I had never been to Europe, never mind travelling by myself. I was both excited and a little nervous of what I was getting myself into, yet here we are on our last day of field school and I can’t help but feel as if I’m leaving a bit of myself behind here. 

We all came to Vindolanda expecting to participate in an excavation, but I think the living world here in England was just as interesting as the past. I can leave the artifacts behind in safe care, but the people are harder. Here I met my sponsor Bert who dedicated his scholarship to his son Ryan Halliday. Without him I wouldn’t have been able to be part of this amazing experience. Don’t worry Bert, even if your son doesn’t think you’re cool we sure do! 

Bert and I holding bones found in the vicus.

My last two weeks in the fort went by in a blur. Sue, Norman and I were a team and each find became “our” find. This included: an “indo” graffito piece, a dog (or cat) print hypocaust tile, a maker’s seal on a cup base, a partial altar, and an inscription of the word “Fidelis” with another dog print. This was the best moment for me, being able to pull something out of the ground that not only had not been seen for years, but probably has a personal story behind it. I even made the Vindolanda Facebook page!   


Norman and I holding the inscription.

Now we’ve come to the last bit of our trip and all parted ways, but I’m sure us field schoolers will not forget each other in the fall! It’s hard to come out of this adventure not feeling as if you have a connection to the people and places that shared the same great five weeks.  This is the end for now but hopefully not forever. 

See you later Vindolanda!

Sarah Chin


Well, the time to leave is here and I am extremely sad to be leaving. When I was accepted to the Field School I was so excited, and it felt like forever before I finally arrived here. From the start I had a great time learning all about the history of England and the Roman Frontier. Then came our first day of work on site, and we were immediately welcomed as part of the Vindolanda team. The magnitude of the work we were doing set in pretty quickly, but everyone was incredibly helpful and patient when teaching me what to do. The weeks seemed to pass by too quickly on site, amidst lots of laughs and a lot of hard work. I will always remember what I have learned and all the wonderful people I got to work with.

I would like to thank Dr. Andrew Birley for being a wonderful teacher, and also to thank him for the nickname. I would also like to thank my professors, Dr. Greene and Dr. Meyer for giving us the chance to have this wonderful experience, as well as our TA Rob for his guidance during our 5 weeks here. This has honestly been the best experience of my life, and I will carry these memories forever. I will definitely be making it back to Vindolanda somehow, hopefully soon. However it’s not quite time for me to go home yet. My next adventure includes meeting up with my parents in London and seeing more of England and Ireland.

Mel aka “The Hammer”

Vindolanda on friends night
Vindolanda on friends’ night
Hiking Hadrian's Wall
Hiking Hadrian’s Wall
Me and Andrew Birley.
Me and Andrew Birley on the last day of excavations.


As our time here in Haltwhistle comes to a close, I would like to reflect on my experiences over the past five weeks. When I was accepted to the Vindolanda field school I knew I was going to be digging at an internationally renowned archaeological site.  The magnitude of the work we have been doing set in as we began our first days of excavation, and through learning more about the site and artifacts from weekly lectures, presentations, and museum trips. I have learned many archaeological skills that I am excited to apply in the future, such as working with total station technology for creating digital plans of archaeological sites. I am not only thankful for what I have learned, but I am also so glad that I was able to fulfil the dream of traveling to England. Hiking the English countryside, touring historic sites, having real tea time – what more could I have asked for! I would like to thank my professors Dr. Greene and Dr. Meyer for this opportunity, as well as our teaching assistant Rob for his ever patient guidance in the trenches. I would also like to thank the Vindolanda site director Dr. Andrew Birley for his many teaching moments which were well mixed with a great sense of humour. A final thank-you to Audrey Amo and Western Global Opportunities Awards who helped me to accomplish these dreams, and have an experience of a lifetime!

I will be bringing so many memories home with me to Canada. Here are a few that were captured!

A Jane Austen inspired photo from our first hike.
A great view from a milecastle on our second hike.
Streets of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Castle.

Thank-you for reading!