Nina O’Hare (Newnham College) Archaeology & Anthropology (2015)
I’m a field archaeologist with Worcestershire County Council, which means that I spend most days outside working as part of a small team to conduct pre-development archaeological surveys. Our projects can range from several small trenches in a car park, looking for medieval urban occupation, to a multi-hectare excavation exploring changing landscape use from the prehistoric to present day.
I have wanted to be an archaeologist for a long time, but it was only through the outreach work I was involved in at Cambridge that I realised community archaeology is the area I most want to work in. Just after graduating, I was lucky enough to gain an archaeological outreach internship connected to the Archaeology department. This took me to Dunwich in Suffolk
, where we worked with a wide range of volunteers to excavate the last remaining part of a once prosperous medieval trading port, which is now almost entirely lost to the sea. Working alongside volunteers and engaging with the community at Dunwich and elsewhere helped confirm that this is the career path I want to pursue.
What Cambridge did for me
As you would expect, my degree gave me a solid foundation in archaeological knowledge, thought and theory. But the research, time management and writing skill sets I gained along the way are in some ways more valuable in post-graduation life, and have already helped me in producing several commercial archaeological reports as part of my current job.
I’m still inspired by the academics and time I had at Cambridge to really explore and investigate a topic - Neolithic archaeology, from the enigmatic time when farming began, is a fascinating challenge to try and untangle.
The teaching system at Cambridge is based on individual or small group supervisions, in which you discuss a particular topic and your work with an academic. Gaining confidence at explaining, summarising and discussing ideas through supervisions has been extremely valuable to me during job interviews.
Alongside my degree, I also gained a lot of organisation skills and experience through running a large society event and setting up an online access project that is aimed at helping prospective Cambridge applicants. Being involved in college and university-level access work has helped me work towards being involved in outreach and community work and started to equip me with the skill set to do so.
Working with and teaching members of the public about archaeology is really inspiring – it’s a great privilege to be able to share knowledge about, and that physical connection to, our past. In the future, I hope to work within community archaeology and would like one day to be able to combine research into Neolithic Britain with community and university outreach work.
Applying to Cambridge
In exploring different university courses, I discovered that Cambridge's Division of Archaeology runs an undergraduate open day each spring
, which I attended. Being a subject-specific open day, I gained a good overview of what the course was like, what module options there were and how it was taught, which helped me to decide that Cambridge was the best place for me to study archaeology.
The two admissions interviews
I had turned out to be a lot less scary than anticipated, as they were more of an academic discussion than a formal interview.
Starting at Cambridge was a less daunting prospect due to the friendly college system, as instead of being 1 of Cambridge's 3000 new undergraduates, I was 1 of just 110 newcomers starting at Newnham College.