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BA Archaeology and Ancient History student John Mitchell tells us about his time studying at the University of Birmingham.

John Mitchell sitting on a bench on campus

Hi, I’m John and I study Archaeology and Ancient History, I’m going into my final year! I am from Reading.

I loved the diversity of topics that were taught. I love the fact that all teaching is research based, I wanted to be learning cutting edge topics. I loved the study tour; it is just such an amazing module to take part in. The transferable skills that the module provides is amazing, I feel like I could easily plan a company trip with all aspects accounted for!

My favourite module was Human Remains in second year. I love the scientific aspect of archaeology and how it can be used to draw conclusions about the use of a site. My favourite part was the practice posters, where my group did videos demonstrating the deaths of bog bodies. We managed to get Prof. Henry Chapman and Dr. David Smith to come and help us, a major researcher in Bog Bodies and an environmental archaeologist respectively.

A degree differs from A Level because it requires much more thinking (I know, right? You get to think for yourself!). You come up with your own ideas and use them to explain archaeological phenomena. You have to do your own research using our amazing library, with all of its technological mastery.

The most challenging aspect of the course was probably getting my writing standard up to university level. It is a little bit of a jump from A level to university in terms of the difficulty. I used the feedback that we get from all of our assignments and also I used the Academic Writing Advice Service where I booked a one-on-one appointment to go through one of my essays. I found it super helpful because they told me what I was doing wrong and gave me some resources to help me improve.

The highlight of my time at university was probably my second-year house. There were eight of us and we all got along amazingly! We did loads of things together as a house. We had a pasta party where we made our own pasta. I made Christmas dinner for 14 by myself and we had a party with Bruce, our Christmas tree! There were two people from the department in the house, so in deadline season, we would always sit in the kitchen together and help each other out with all of our different assignments. It was super helpful and we all learned from one another.

I haven’t done my dissertation yet, but I am going to be looking at the historical perspective of Iron Age people on the Neolithic sites. How did the Iron Age people view their ancient history?

I am interested in doing a masters and then potentially going into commercial archaeology, where companies can hire a team out to survey and excavate a site. Ideally I would like to become an academic but I am really interested in excavating all the time at the moment, so that is on the back burner

I have participated in The Autism Play Project, which is a volunteering society in the Guild. Every week we would host a play scheme on Saturdays and Autistic children would come an play with us. It was an opportunity for the children to get out of the house and for the parents to relax with a cuppa while we entertain them! I was treasurer in this past year, so I was responsible for the finances. I bought loads of new toys and planned fundraisers.

I was also part of the Archaeology Society, when I was the Education Officer this past year. I organised many different lectures from researchers at other universities, like Durham and Oxford for example. I am the incoming president of this society. Go check out our Instagram for more information and a weekly quiz: uobarchsoc!

I love the closeness that we all have with the staff members. It means that learning and researching is so much easier. People are so comfortable going to ask for help with essays or other academic issues. Also, people are comfortable to go ask for work experience with the Museum, Classics For All and other projects that staff members are working on!