I am currently going into my final semester at McGill University as a U4 student majoring in Joint Honors Art History and Anthropology. My interests include archaeology, postcolonial studies, botanical illustrations, critical curating, and slavery studies with a focus on Canada, India, and South America. My academic background reflects my interests in South Asian archaeology as well as topics regarding the visual culture of slavery. As a McGill student turning 22 and applying for graduate school in the next few months, my mindset during the fall 2019 and winter 2020 semesters was to find an opportunity where I could explore my interests and find a potential path for my future academic career. Luckily, the year prior (in summer 2019), I was given the opportunity by the Arts Internship Office (AIO), Enriched Educational Opportunities (EEO), Professor Peter Johansen, and Dean Maioni to go to India and work on site with the Maski Archaeological Project (MAP) where I developed key archaeological skills including laboratory research and archaeological fieldwork.
My initial plan was to go back to India to work with MAP again under the supervision of Professor Johansen. However, that could not happen due to COVID-19. Instead, after speaking with Anne Turner and Professor Johansen, we quickly updated the MAP internship and I was sure that it would be just as successful! MAP is a multi-disciplinary research project with members from Canada, India and America investigating several topics regarding Neolithic through Medieval period (3000 BCE – 1600 CE) societies in Southern India. The goal of this project is to explore the roles of settlement, agricultural, pastoral, metallurgical and ritual practices in prehistoric and historic societies in South India.
Last year, I was able to apply my knowledge outside of the classroom and gained valuable fieldwork skills through the curation and excavation of artifacts. In 2019, my responsibilities and duties included surface documentation of archaeological sites and the processing, analysis, and curation of archaeological materials. However, this year I have instead been working remotely in Montreal and completing data entry and analysis on the information I collected last year in India. I have also been primarily completing data entry regarding archaeological and textual data analysis. This includes analysing volumes of medieval inscriptions from different districts in Karnataka, India and organizing relevant inscriptions in Excel. I completed these duties within eight weeks - four of which were completed in May and the remaining four in July and August.
From the start of my internship on May 4th to the end on August 31st, I had experienced several challenges as well as highlights. For example, I was disappointing seeing that I (like most students interning abroad) was looking forward to going back to India all year. This was one of my first challenges that I had to face before the internship even started. Another challenge I faced was working not just remotely, but also in my home, as it is very easy to get distracted. So far, I have handled this challenge by changing where I am working in my house every other day. For example, sometimes I will work at my desk, at the kitchen table or on my balcony. Recently, I have also been biking to a local outdoor café that re-opened along the Lachine Canal near Atwater Market. Lastly, I bought blue-light glasses since staring at a computer screen for 35 hours a week was giving me migraines (I highly recommend purchasing some).
Yet, the highlights completely out way the challenges. For example, I realized that I was very useful to MAP when completing data entry because I work efficiently and at a well-organized pace. In those moments, I felt like an asset to the project. Another highlight included seeing what happens to data after it is collected in the field. I found that it was rewarding to analyse and process the data I had collected last year in India and to see how the analysis of such data contributes to MAP and helps the team form interpretations of past societies. It was also great working remotely because I was able to make a schedule that fits with my extracurricular activities. For example, I was very grateful to have been approved to complete my internship while doing a summer course at McGill. Overall, I was very satisfied with the workload and hours.
I quickly learned that working from home and completing data entry is still rewarding, just in different ways from my internship last year. The on-site work I did last year was only one side of the story, whereas the data entry and analysis I have completed this year has provided me with a full perspective on what it means to be an actively working archaeologist and researcher. As such, the combination of my experiences as an intern last year and this year have really helped me fully prepare for graduate school and develop skills on how I will conduct my own research in the future. I also took ANTH 499, an internship course, under the supervision of Professor Johansen last year, who was both my host and the lead of the MAP internship program. This course counted towards three credits of my Anthropology major in which I wrote a final report regarding the rock art we recorded.
In other words, MAP has shaped my academic path in the best way possible. As a student completing a double major, I was having a difficult time thinking about graduate school. Would I apply for Art History or Anthropology? Although I still have a passion for both fields, MAP has helped me narrow it down to Anthropology with a specialization in archaeology possibly in India. With the skills I acquired and the experience I gained from the internships over the past two years, I believe that I could be a great archaeologist and get accepted into an excellent graduate program. I have found a field that I could see myself researching, teaching, and living for a very long time that is both challenging and enjoyable for me.
This year, I received funding under the Faculty of Arts Internship Award. I would first like to thank AIO and Dean Maioni for the funding I received who together made it possible for me, a student paying their tuition with their own money, to have this opportunity to complete two internships in summer 2019 and 2020 that have benefitted my academic prospects, as well as general quality of life. The total funding I received helped me pay for my living expenses and fall 2020 tuition considering that I was not working for eight weeks at my fulltime summer job, which was also closed due to COVID-19. Coming from a student whose parents cannot supply the means to pay for school, rent, groceries, and medical bills, I am forever thankful, grateful, and honored to have received the Faculty of Arts Internship Award. I would also like to thank Professor Johansen for choosing me as both his research assistant and intern for MAP and for always challenging me to be the best student I can be.