These five weeks have gone by like a blur. Between the digging, the laughing, the learning, the badminton, the weekend trips, and the general good fun, time flew so fast I barely saw it going.
In fact I had so much fun, and time went so fast, that I almost missed my plane. Yes, really! I still remember the moment I checked the time, checked my distance from the airport, and realized I was going to be late. What followed were two and a half hours of dashing between bus stations and subway stations, dragging my fifty-pound suitcase down stairs, dragging my fifty-pound suitcase up stairs, trying to sort my luggage on a crowded rail car, and a whole lot of rushing.
I made it through, my flight began to close, and I made a mad dash through a seemingly endless maze of moving walkways, escalators, and elevators before I made it, panting, sweating, and red in the face, as the very last person to get on the plane. I threw my things into cabin storage, fell into my seat, wiped my dripping brow, and thought – wow.
What would I have done if I knew I was going to be late for a plane five weeks ago, when I was a full two and a half hours away? I would have been physically incapable of doing all the running, especially while I was dragging a heavy suitcase behind me. And even if I made it to the airport before the flight was completely closed, if an airport official told me I couldn’t make it, I probably would have given up then and there.
That was when I knew my time at Vindolanda was more than just a valuable source of archaeological experience in the rolling hills of Northern England. It had genuinely, deeply, changed me into a better person as a whole.
I’ve learned so much. How to excavate, yes. How to properly hold a mattock. How to recognize a bit of dark leather in dark soil. But I also learned all sorts of other things I never would have expected – how to keep away midges with spray lotion, how to talk to strangers, how to cook pasta with olive oil, how everyone has their own story to tell if only I take the time to listen.
I’ve made so many friends and met so many amazing people. I don’t know how to thank them enough. I’ve already thanked Beth and Alex, and Andy, and Marta, and Lauren, but I want to do it again – and I want to thank everyone at Vindolanda for making us feel so welcome, and I want to thank all of the donors who supported us on the way. Of course, I also want to thank all of my fellow students for being such wonderful housemates and partners in excavation.
All of them have made this trip – an already absolutely stunning experience in an absolutely stunning country – even more than that. They’ve made it something I will carry with me long after my days at Western are over, even after I’ve made a career for myself (hopefully in archaeology!).
Thank you, everyone — and vale!