Field School Review – Cumidava

Cumidava Archaeological Research Project (CARP), Romania. Archaeotek

By Mackenzie, Xander  Marie and Kelly

When: 5 weeks in June/July

“If you like ____, you’ll love this field school”:

Xander: Esoteric/Alternative Roman Military History
Mackenzie: and ceramics and forts

Cost:
Kelly: Accommodations in Rasnov, and Breakfast/Dinner Monday through Friday were included.
Marie: and equipment and transportation to site
Mackenzie: $1600 USD, $300-400 for other meals and whatnot.

Living conditions:
Kelly: There were separate houses for male and female students, and the rooms within were shared. Mackenzie: Either in a house with other students (and kitchen and bathroom) or Pensione inn, which served breakfast and dinner Monday-Friday. The houses did not have wifi, but the Pensione did, and for people who really wanted internet access at all times it was very cheap and easy to get a month’s worth of Romanian cell service and data.
Xander: We lived in double-rooms, with 6-7 people in two leased houses in very nice conditions, and some people in hotel rooms. Communal meals (provided) were of mediocre quality, and might have caused food poisoning on one occasion.
Kelly: The food was traditional Romanian cuisine, but it was pretty good, and they were willing to accommodate for people in the group who were vegetarians. We’d meet at the Pensione Monday through Friday for breakfast before proceeding to the site, and also for dinner.
Xander: Generally had to wake up ~6:30am, went to the site at 8:00am, worked until 1-hour break around 1:00pm, left the site ~4:00pm, and occasionally had a few hours lab work or lectures in the evening. Overall, ~35 hours/week working, but less free time available than that would indicate.

The Team:
Mackenzie: 4 professional staff and  just under 20 students, most of whom were going into their third or fourth year of university, or recent graduates. Very few students had any excavation experience, most had none prior to arrival.
Xander: The students were almost all college age, with a few in late 20s and one couple in their 60s. Most students knew little to nothing about archaeological methodology or field techniques coming into the program, though some had experience in archaeological theory, anthropology, etc.
Marie: Students average experience were relatively minimal, myself included.

Culture:
Mackenzie: The first few weeks, the staff arranged organized outings to see points of historical and cultural interest in the local area to help orientate students. It didn’t take long for most of the participants to get the hang of using Romanian trains, buses, or taxis and plan outings to sightsee and tour other parts of the country on their own. Outside of popular, touristy places, or a bigger city, there wasn’t a high level of English among locals, but for the most part Romanians were friendly and the language barrier was never an insurmountable obstacle.
Since the field school is based in the small, farming town of Rasnov, but is only a 15 minute bus ride away from the second largest city in Romania, field school participants are able to absorb a pretty broad scope of Romanian culture over the five weeks.
Kelly: Every weekend we would be able to take a train or bus to another city, if we liked, and visit the sites. I personally went to see two castles in neighboring towns. We were also only about a 15 minute cab ride from the city of Brasov, which had a lot of shopping and weekend events such as concerts and other festivals. The locals were fairly nice overall, but they barely spoke any English. I did not find the language barrier to be daunting, but I believe it took some of the other students a little more time to get used to it.
Xander: Nearly all activity outside of excavation was left entirely up to the students, which meant not only being able to choose what we wanted to do, but also that we had to organize it, figure out the logistics, make sure we didn’t get lost, etc. We were provided with little to no guidance, and it was very instructive and exhilarating at times to have to learn very quickly how to independently navigate Transylvania.The extreme predominance of hitchhiking was a big tough to get used to.
Marie: My biggest culture shock was the level of trust people had in strangers. I got in a car with a guy promising to take us to Brasov a number of times. In the states, people would probably call the cops. The culture was incredible. Even the annoying Romani children were something to take interest in.

Best thing:
Kelly: The best thing would be the skills and techniques we were taught. It was definitely an immersive program, but I could see myself improving as we excavated more and felt as though I were learning something new and useful.
Mackenzie: Best thing about this field school is definitely how invested the staff was in students learning, frequently taking extra time and effort to make themselves available and teach added skills, or allow for extra practice.
Marie: The best thing was the staff, just made everything more interesting.
Xander: We had a very comfortable, chill relationship between staff and students vis-a-vis authority/power. E.g., students often got (very) drunk with staff, and it (usually) wasn’t (that) awkward.

Worst thing:
Mackenzie: The worst part is probably that summer is a terrible allergy season in Romania. Everything is in bloom.
Xander:  Everyone on staff was able-bodied and cis-male. Homophobia, sexism, racism, able-ism, and all sorts of intolerance and prejudice and bigotry were thrown around playfully and liberally. No attention was paid to how the power structure of staff vs. students played into this.
Marie: The food at the hotel.
Kelly: The unpredictable weather and my personal lack of preparation. I suggest that any students applying read the handbook well and don’t skimp on the equipment they bring.

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