Starting with a wee note from Erin:

I’ve asked the students to write blog posts again. While some will post their own, I will also post a few of them on behalf of the students. This first post comes from Ally, who wrote about the first day of our course.

Feeling official!! May 10, 2016

Feeling official!! May 10, 2016

Walking into a class you never know exactly how it is going to go. Each time I do it I get a little rush of adrenaline (ok anxiety). The beginning of the unknown is both exciting and terrifying. Today, though, was different. I was the second person to arrive to class (I am amazed someone beat me), and I knew it was going to be ok immediately. As more and more people showed up it was easy to see that everyone in the class had the same goals and mindset going into this experience. I have never had a class where I actually talked to people on the first day; it usually takes the majority of the four months we have in class to even make that awkward small talk about the exam. This is a new experience for me, one where the people in the class have to get to know each other and really lean on each other if they want to succeed in the course. I will admit that the thought of intense group work frightened me before today, I have done countless group projects where I want to tear my hair out at every turn, but having the class so small and having everyone already so eager to introduce themselves and create a welcoming atmosphere is quelling my fears. I think that everyone here wants the field school experience, and part of that is becoming close to those with whom you are working. I wonder at why it is so hard during the rest of the year to do that with your classmates, but they also don’t have such long hours working together.

Beyond the initial meetings of everyone in the class the first lecture was great. So often a first class is such a write off, the teacher reads the syllabus verbatim and then you leave. I am thankful that we had a bit of an overview in the class about Jewish burial practices and the Jewish community at large in Victoria. Having that basic knowledge before going into the synagogue was really helpful to understanding what Rabbi Harry was talking about. I found that doing some of the data input really helpful too, catching other people’s mistakes and seeing first hand the type of documents we are working with was very cool and made me excited to get in the field.

Our visit to the synagogue was more than I could have expected. Rabbi Harry is such a well-spoken and intellectual man. I think that a lot of the time religious leaders get an unfavourable reputation, but after hearing his passion for his work and the people that he leads I can only be impressed and grateful he took the time out of his day to talk to us. I am not unfamiliar with the Jewish faith, but it is different hearing someone of the faith talk about it with such passion compared to what you see portrayed on screen or the page. This visit particularly made me excited for the weeks to come. It is easy to forget that when we do this type of research it directly affects people in the community who have very personal ties to this place, and even when you say it in class it still feels academic. When you hear it from someone in the community it becomes something different. The way you think about it becomes a lot more serious. At least it did for me. Setting out today I was excited for a new class, and that is all that it was: a credit. I am almost done my anthropology degree and I wanted to find something fun and useful for the future. I thought this class would be the perfect thing. Not only do I get a class credit, but also, I get to see what hands on anthropology looks like. After this first class I realize that part of the hands on anthropology is dealing with the community and being prepared to use the information you gather in a thoughtful and deliberate manner for the community at large. I think that this class is going to not only give me archaeology skills but a sense of the broader purpose of what anthropology gives back to a community as well.