Letter to Editor: Practicum experience teaches importance of exploring job field

As a senior at Grand Valley State University it was important for me to complete
a “practicum”. For those of you who are not familiar with the term it is a practical
application of the materials you have learned thus far. Some students complete an
internship and others like myself, design their own. I decided that with my schedule (full
time student and full time employee) that it was best to try to complete my practicum
requirement by way of attending academic conferences on weekends.
Piece of cake, right? Oh no. I found two different archaeology conferences in
October that were within driving distance of Grand Rapids. The first conference was the
2010 Midwest Historical Archaeology conference. This conference was held at
Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Oh. It was exactly what I expected. It was small, about
50 participants, and it was very informal. The people I was able to network with were
friendly and helpful. The conference was great until it came to the presentation portion of
the day. I was bored stiff! I never realized how technical archaeology is. The conference
ended on a high note however there was a tour of Johnson’s Island confederate prison.
The island is beautiful and the history there is palpable.

The second conference I attended was at Indiana University in Bloomington, In.
This conference was much larger and seemed much less personal. Since I was travelling
alone, it was a bit intimidating. I found a great exhibit that detailed the timeline of Earth
from the Big Bang to present day. Other than that I felt as if I were wandering lost. The
last day of this conference ended on a high note as well though. There was a tour of the
Angel Mounds in Evansville, In. The mounds were used by Native Americans as terraced
living space. They are absolutely beautiful but I do not feel as if I appreciated the
archaeological significance of them. This started to make me question whether
archaeology was the right field for me. I decided it was not.

The moral of my story is that it is essential to spend time exploring the field you
are planning to work in. I was very happy to have the opportunity to attend these
conferences. I was even happier when my reflection on the conferences made it quite
clear to me that I am much more interested in cultural anthropology. It is very helpful to
interact with the professional community in which you wish to work even if it is just to
gain a sense of how well you “mesh” with them.