Sally Taylor

Student spotlight details

A chance conversation with friends pushed Sally into taking the first step to become an archaeologist. Sally has since progressed from the MSc in Applied Landscape Archaeology to the DPhil in Archaeology

'I first came to study archaeology in the Department in 2013, when I joined the MSc in Applied Landscape Archaeology course; to gain entry I had completed a graduate diploma in archaeology at University College London, as a returner to academic study (after a very long break!). My aim was to change careers from education manager to archaeologist (fulfilling a long-held ambition/dream) and so all of my studies were part-time whilst I carried on working.

'I have since progressed to a part-time DPhil in Archaeology and I am now nearing the end of my third year - half way through already! In the intervening time (five and a half years) I managed to reduce my working week, build up experience as a practising archaeologist (firstly as a volunteer and latterly as a paid professional) and then leave my previous job. I am poorer cash-wise, as archaeology is not the highest paid sector, but infinitely richer by all other measures.

'It was a single conversation with friends that pushed me into taking the first step. We were sitting around at the end of a holiday in Greece, with everyone dreading going back to work, when we started one of those 'what would you do if you won the lottery?' conversations. I answered that I would become an archaeologist and then immediately realised that I didn't actually need to win the lottery to do so, if I put my mind to it. And so began the journey...  

'I realised that to succeed in my ambitions I needed to prove myself academically at Oxford. To do so, I put a huge amount of time and effort into my academic studies, something that was very difficult alongside full-time paid work and family responsibilities. For more than two years I threw myself into studying, quickly finding that working early in the morning before going to the office meant that archaeology got the best of me each day - and that is what I had to give.

'These efforts paid off though, with a DPhil place supported by a scholarship and (most importantly) reduced hours at work to allow time for family and field archaeology. Nowadays 'at work' means archaeology too.

'The most rewarding aspects of studying has been building my knowledge and understanding of archaeological research in my field and, at the same time,  getting to grips with the practical skills of an archaeologist. Somewhere along the line people started asking me things, instead of me always being the one with a dozen questions. I still ask loads of questions though.

'I have also been able to support some teaching in the Department, helping to steer MSc candidates through the Digital Landscapes paper. It helps that I was in their place a short time ago.

'Having made the big leap, my plans are to carry on with a 'portfolio' archaeological career, combining academic research with fieldwork and community practices. 

'To anyone considering applying, be very clear about why you want to do the course and what your aims are, as the MSc is demanding and intensive. But if you really know that you want to do it, then go ahead and apply - you will gain so much. I do not know of anyone who hasn't struggled at times (this is Oxford, after all) but everyone I have met on the MSc has benefited from the experience and the qualification. 

'And the graduation ceremony is fantastic! Magnificent surroundings, very moving and Instagram gold.'

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