Meet Cassandra Saroza

Program and Location:

Cyprus Archaeological Field School; Polis Crysochous, Cyprus

Why did you choose to study abroad?

As an aspiring archaeologist, I was so excited to learn Dr. Paulette and Dr. Grossman were going to direct this field school. I am also interested in prehistoric civilizations, and I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to excavate a site that had never been dug before. I also know that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to travel and study!

What did you learn about yourself?

I learned so much about how I work in close-knit groups. I was surrounded by the same 20 people all day, every day: in the trenches, at meals, when we went out, and even with a roommate. I thrived in this group setting, and I think that I learned when to step up and be a leader, but also when to back down and listen. I also learned I love experiential, hands-on learning. I feel so much more confident about myself, my skills in the field, and what I have to offer the field of archaeology once I graduate.

What was one of your favorite parts of your program?

One of my favorite parts of the program was the feeling of sitting down for dinner after a long day in the trenches, lecture, and artifact washing. We all got together, (mostly) freshly showered, in a scenic restaurant in the heart of Polis. It was so nice to recap the day with my classmates, supervisors, and directors, and also have a minute to regroup before heading home to do it all over again.

How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at NC State? Did you take any field trips or do anything outside of the traditional classroom?

I think the funniest part about the lecture component was that we had lecture in the common area of our apartment complex. Most of us came from a quick swim, hair still wet, or still stinky and covered head to toe in dirt from the field. We took field trips every week to different archaeological sites and museums. These trips were crucial to my understanding of Cypriot prehistory and history, since I am such a hands-on learner. We climbed mountains, walked miles around sites, stood quietly in churches. A few of our directors could even point out artifacts in museums they had dug up and processed. I think that was, by far, the most inspiring experience.

What advice do you have to future study abroad students?

Keep an open mind! Not just about the place you’re going, but the people you will be around. Field school is special in which I spent seven hours in a trench with the same four people, but no matter where you’re going, you will be around wildly different personalities than the ones you are around at home. All of these people come to field school with a goal and a story. Take the time to listen to your peers. Be patient with them. Know that you’re all adjusting in the beginning, and you’ll all be sad to go in the end.

Would you do it again?

Absolutely, without a doubt. Dr. Grossman and Dr. Paulette ran an amazing, interesting, and informative program. I would go anywhere with them!

In what ways did your identity have an impact on your experience abroad?

As a lesbian, I was worried about going abroad since I am typically a little more masculine in dress. Luckily, I felt incredibly safe in Cyprus, and I felt like I could be open with my identity to my classmates, advisors, and directors. I think the most powerful feeling was knowing that I was a first generation college student, though. I was the first in my immediate family to have this opportunity. I worked incredibly hard to have my whole trip paid for with scholarships. I think that my background made this experience so much more priceless to me.

Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?

Don’t be afraid to express your concerns with the staff. They are there for you to make you feel safe. Additionally, embrace who you are abroad! Nobody in that country knows you, and it’s highly unlikely you will know many of your classmates. Take your chance abroad to highlight who you are and be proud of it. It definitely helped with my confidence level now that I am home.

Where did you find support to navigate any challenges you faced abroad?

My classmates were incredible. Complete strangers became lifelong friends in five weeks. Especially when they see you sweaty in the trench, jetlagged, covered in mud. I also have my girlfriend and mom I leaned on a lot for the first week. It was a rough transition period, but I tried not to dwell on missing home and spent a lot of time familiarizing myself with the area I was staying and my new classmates. Dr. Grossman is my advisor back at State, and the only person I knew on the trip beforehand. She was incredibly kind and patient when I was in the throes of sleep deprivation, and was an endless fountain of knowledge who readily allowed us to pick her brain. She definitely made me feel at ease. Love you, Dr. Grossman!