Study Abroad at Texas Tech University Field School in Maya Archaeology
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Danielle Ruffe

Paterno Fellow
Major: Anthropology, Geography
Minor: Spanish, GIS
Hometown: New Hope, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I researched a lot of field schools online then talked to my professor, Dr. French. He had previously worked with Dr. Houk, the program director. He introduced me to the program in the summer of 2015. This summer was my second season as I got asked back to be a member of the junior staff on the project.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

This summer I participated as a member of the junior staff in a Maya Archaeology Field School at the Maya city of Chan Chich, Belize. I had more experience this summer and was able to oversee five archaeological unit excavations as the sub-operation director at Norman's temple. Our work at Norman's temple was looking for evidence of warfare among the Maya elite during a time of stress on the city of Chan Chich. In addition to excavating, I was also instructing local high school students on archaeology basics. I taught the high school boys and first year field school students how to map, how to properly excavate, and how to record provenience of artifacts. The experience extended beyond the field as we went to see two Maya sites away from our dig area. We were able to travel to Guatemala to see Tikal, the city of sounds, and Caracol, the snail-shell shaped city.

How did this experience impact you academically?

During the 5 weeks I spent in Belize, I was able to work with multiple professors and grad students with varying areas of expertise. Not only was I able to gain experience digging at a prehistoric site, but also I was able to dig at a historic site and see the comparison firsthand from the differences in styles of digging. This year being able to teach helped me the most in really nailing down the basics of archaeology, because I had to be confident in my own skills before I taught someone else. I learned about field logistics this year and how a field operation is run. Being able to see the field school from a different point of view was really helpful this year because I was able to learn things from a different angle. I made valuable connections with grad students and professors in my majors who are great people to get advice from in the future.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

Archaeology is heavily reliant on networking ability and this summer opened many future opportunities for me. I made new connections with fellow undergraduates, graduates, and professors.

I plan on becoming a South American Andean professor after first taking a few years to gain experience in the region. Excavating in Mesoamerica, I was able to learn the basics of archaeological fieldwork and the process of running field operations. These skills are transferrable to other regions and show that I have experience digging and leading excavations. In addition, this summer my work will be added to the project’s 2016 field report, which will provide me with my first publication on my way to my doctorate. The field of archaeology is heavily reliant on networking ability and this summer opened many future opportunities for me. I made new connections with fellow undergraduates, graduates, and professors. The people whom I met this summer have already provided me with a wealth of knowledge. Furthermore, many have told me to connect them in the future about future possibilities or advice in the field.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Yes, I would most definitely recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students. Not only is it a great cultural experience, but also the field of archaeology is character building. Being able to physically work for the research you need is very rewarding. I have been at the field school with many non-anthropology majors and they all manage to come back from it with a reassured confidence that being in the outdoors all day builds. This is not just a field school but an opportunity to learn more about a culture and find more out about yourself along the way.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

The Paterno Fellows Program has supported me both times I traveled abroad to Belize. I was personally pushed to take the leap to study abroad by the program and I am so thankful for it. I have had the wonderful opportunity of living in another country and getting a taste for a culture which I have dreamed about since I was little -- the Maya. As a member of the Paterno Fellow Board, I was able to have conversations with Dr. Wanner about the importance of taking a study abroad experience to the next level and fully immersing oneself in the experience. During my time in Belize and Guatemala, I practiced my Spanish and ate local cuisine every day. I wanted to widen my horizons and broaden my outlook on life, and this experience really challenged me to go beyond my normal chicken finger and chocolate milk meal. I ate chicken feet -- something I would not have done back in State College! Opening up my mind to new cultures helped me to see the world in a new way -- in a light of curiosity.

For more information on global experiences for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.

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