Department of Classics and Archaeology

Owen Say, Archaeology and Geography BA

An archeological dig in a dusty field on a scorching day. Archaeologists wear hats looking hot whilst the sun beats down on dusty, dry earth.
Owen is not only a student but also a talented athlete, we spoke to him about studying archaeology and how he manages to balance his university work with competing as a para swimmer.

So, is archeology all about muddy fields?

Although I've spent my fair share of time in muddy fields, digital skills are becoming increasingly important in archaeology.

"Although I've spent my fair share of time in muddy fields, digital skills are becoming increasingly important in archaeology. Particularly GIS (Global Information System) which is like an extremely advanced version of Google. It allows you to do mapping, find co-ordinates and compare historical maps with what is really there. Not only is it an amazing resource, but it can be used from anywhere, even your dining table!

On one of our field trips we spent a week volunteering at the Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project in Norfolk where we were excavating, mapping and taking pictures. It's an AngloSaxon work site so there were a lot of kilns, blacksmith areas and animal bones. We took these back to the lab for radiocarbon dating which allows you to work out how long something has been in the ground. It was a great trip, so much so we're thinking of going back in our own time to volunteer this year as well."

Balancing competitive sport with full time study

"I'm a para swimmer and have been awarded a sports scholarship by the university to support my training whilst studying at Nottingham.

I started swimming competitively at around 10 or 11 and it's built up from there to swimming at regional and national level. Recently, I competed at BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sport) and am hoping to go to the World Championships next summer. In fact I'm swimming at BUCS this weekend and then next weekend, I have the nationals. It's a busy month!

Balancing sport and my studies can be tricky. Luckily, swimming falls outside of academic hours but unfortunately that means I have to wake up at 5am to get to the pool. I'm usually back by 8am in good time for uni, then it's back to training in the evenings. Fitting socialising in can be difficult, but I have to prioritise what is most important to me. Sometimes I just want to hang out with my friends so I make sure I fit that in.

Owen wears a gold medal and stands on the winners podium by a swimming pool.

Now that I'm in my final year, I'm getting to the point where I need to start writing my dissertation so there is a lot to squeeze in. But over the last two years I've learned how to juggle everything and I've found that I've got the knack now. When I need help there are places I can turn. My tutors are really helpful in accommodating my swimming and if I have to miss a lecture to attend a competition, they make sure to record it. But one of the biggest helps is my Sports Scholarship which offers not only funding, but also support and mentorship, my mentor has been great in helping me manage to balance everything.

My sporting ambitions are to participate in more international competitions, obviously the Olympics would be amazing. I'd also like to try out for the Commonwealth Games and then there is also the British Para Swimming International which I hope to qualify for."

A swimming career can end in your late 20s, which is why I wanted to study archaeology and geology alongside competing - I want to have options open to me once I retire from sport.

Finding support as a student with a disability

"I have found that having a disability has impacted on my student life to a certain extent, but it hasn't been the bane of my existence, I just get on with it. I get support from the uni and I'm able to request extensions if I need them. Hannah Webber, who is the Disability Sport Officer, has been really helpful, I'm always in touch with her. She's part of the sports team at Nottingham but she isn't only there to support my sporting activities. I had a meeting with her the other week and she was checking in with me to make sure I was coping financially, socially and emotionally.

I've also been talking to her recently about setting up a disability sports section in David Ross sports centre with strength conditioning equipment for para swimmers and para athletes."

If you are currently applying to uni and worried about how a disability may affect your experience, my advice is that there is a lot of support here. You'll have a support plan that caters to your specific condition. I remember being given a whole list of adaptations and support that was open to me. They will definitely find a way to help you make the most of your time at Nottingham.

Go further

Study archaeology

Department of Classics and Archaeology

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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