PackAbroad Ambassadors Erin Migneco: How Studying Abroad Influenced My Post-Graduate Plans

Hi everyone! My name is Erin Migneco and I am currently a senior double-majoring in Anthropology and Communication here at State. This past summer, I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in Greece as a part of the College Year in Athens: Despotiko Archaeological Field School! You have probably heard this time and time again from other students who have had the opportunity to study abroad, but this program quite literally changed my life. 

As a student interested in studying archaeology since the young age of 10, I was so grateful to have stumbled upon this program, especially since COVID-19 had severely restricted all other field schools I was applying to (including NCSU’s own program in Cyprus). This summer field school was going to be my first REAL experience on an archaeological dig, and I was practically buzzing with excitement over the chance to put everything I’d learned in the classroom over the past three years into practice- especially in such an archaeologically-rich country. While there, I met some of the greatest people from places all over the world, and even some students from as nearby as Chapel Hill! For the first time, I had the chance to talk to other students who were interested in pursuing a career in archaeology, and we were all able to learn from each other using our shared experiences and dreams for the future. 

The experience on the dig itself was amazing- it was everything that I had hoped it would be and more! Probably the greatest aspect of this experience, and the topic of the rest of this blog post, was the doors this program opened for me regarding my plans after graduation. Before studying abroad, I had been vaguely considering attending graduate school for archaeology, but had not looked too deeply into it since I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to take a gap year or go directly into a Master’s program. It was only when I got to talking to the two Greek professors of this field school- Dr. Alexandra Alexandridou and Dr. John Karavas- about my potential plans that I realized graduate school was the best decision for me. From this field school, I have developed a deep passion for maritime and underwater archaeology, especially that within the Mediterranean, and I want nothing more than to continue this vein of research full-time. 

The professors- both of whom are Oxford scholars- encouraged me to pursue my interest in this relatively niche field, and even helped me look into some universities with well-established programs in Maritime Archaeology. Dr. Karavas specifically encouraged me to look into the University of Oxford, where underwater excavations of the Port of Alexandria were being conducted. At first, I fully believed that he was joking when he encouraged me to apply; in my mind, Oxford was the pinnacle of research- especially regarding archaeology- and I had none of the qualifications I believed necessary to even consider applying to a university of that caliber. It was the equivalent of an amateur stargazer applying to become a NASA astronaut; at least, it was in my mind. I wasn’t even seriously considering any universities abroad for graduate school at this point, since I believed the expense would be too high, but through the advice and encouragement of Dr. Karavas, I came back to the United States with a list of programs to research further on my own- Oxford included.  

Not only has my Study Abroad experience given me the confidence to pursue graduate studies in Maritime Archaeology, it also provided me with the resources and support I didn’t even know I needed at the time to move forward in my chosen field full steam ahead. If someone had told me a year ago that I would be applying for graduate programs in such a niche field, I would have been terrified at the prospect. Now, thanks to this study abroad program, and the encouragement of my professor Dr. Karavas, I have been accepted to every graduate program I have applied to (yes, Oxford included), and am extremely excited to begin on my path of studies after graduating from NC State. Without studying abroad, I would have never been aware of this possibility, so when I say that the field school in Greece has changed the direction of my studies and of my life, I am most certainly not exaggerating in the slightest.