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Life As An Archaeology Student

Emma - Archaeology student at Newcastle University

Emma – Archaeology student at Newcastle University

When I tell people I study archaeology and history I’m normally asked what my favourite dinosaur is. For the record it’s a velociraptor, but this is based purely on Jurassic Park.

I had always been interested in history and knew from a young age it was something I wanted to pursue, but archaeology was something entirely new to me from an open day at Newcastle University.

I applied as I wanted to set myself some new challenges, and have a go at learning that was a bit more hands on. I have had great fun, expanded my horizons and been given so many wonderful opportunities. Here’s a quick look at a typical day in my life as a history and archaeology student at Newcastle University.


Like most humanities students, my contact hours are around 10 hours a week, which means I can fit my workload into my lifestyle.

Throughout the 3 years at uni I have only had 3 semesters with 9am starts (excluding fieldwork but I’ll come to that later) so I’ve managed to bag myself a few lazy mornings! Breakfast at Arlo’s or The Butterfly Cabinet anyone?

Such a sparse timetable does mean however I needed to be super strict with myself to make sure work was done for deadlines, but I am quite an organised person, and the flexibility made it really easy to reading and essay writing into my day.


A typical day would also include a History or Archaeology lecture. As a joint honours student, my modules were split 50:50 between the two and this is the case for a lot of the Archaeology students.

Archaeology lectures would usually have around 40 students in and be a little bit more interactive than the history lectures. One module I found really interesting was Historical Archaeology, as this demonstrated there was so much more to archaeology beyond the Romans.

This module ranged from the archaeology behind plantations in America to the archaeology of shopping behind the rise in consumption. This was definitely not something I had considered before college, and it linked really well to the modules I chose in history.

Emma taking a photo at Blackfriar's Newcastle

Taking photos at Blackfriars Newcastle


Archaeology prides itself on being a ‘hands-on’ subject, and this is a big reason why it appealed to me. I loved History at school, but didn’t want to spend my life bogged down in the library, and I saw that Archaeology offered field trips and residential fieldwork as part of their course!

Blackfriars in Newcastle is a really old and interesting building in the centre of the city, and to develop or skills at recording standing buildings as part of an Archaeological Skills module we visited with our lecturers. We met at the site and even had time to grab a hot chocolate from the Costa en route from the university!

I found it really interesting to use the buildings that we would walk past everyday in our studies and it does mix things up rather than constantly sitting in lecture theatres.


Following my little field trip, its back to uni for a meeting about fieldwork! Each student is required to do 4 weeks fieldwork and these are usually completed at summer. A number of the lecturers offer up their fieldwork projects and there is usually a huge range of topics.

As I was particularly interested in archaeology of historical periods, I chose to complete 2 weeks of my fieldwork at Derwentcote investigating the cottages that were inhabited by the workers at the nearby steelworks.

Archaeology fieldwork at Derwentcote

Fieldwork at Derwentcote

We found all sorts of cool stuff including a bullet and suspected poison bottle, and I learnt so many skills about how a professional excavation works. We stayed at some dorms close to the site, and this was a really good opportunity to bond with other people on the course.

The place we were staying also offered a food and drink festival on the Friday and this was a really good chance to have a nice relax after some solid excavating.


After my lectures, it’s time to head back to my shared flat to finish off any seminar work for tomorrow.

My housemates mostly studied Law, and I always loved how varied my days at uni were in comparison. It was great living with friends, and living with friends who didn’t study my subject did often save me from getting super stressed when it came to assignments.

Studying Archaeology at uni has been a great experience, and I feel like I have so many useful and transferable skills for the future. In studying a more niche topic, I found I was in high demand from the student recruitment team in helping deliver sessions to kids about what Archaeology was and what I would get up to as an archaeologist!

I also took part in a work placement at the Great North Museum thanks to my archaeology connections, and this was really good fun and highlighted there was a huge potential in careers in heritage coming from an archaeological background – it isn’t all getting muddy with a trowel!

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