When Courtney Willms joined an archaeological dig in Poland last summer, through an experiential learning opportunity with Trent University, it opened up her eyes to a world of new possibilities.
As a Forensic Science student who had long planned to work in law enforcement, she said the unique experience of digging up a skeleton from the Bronze Age made her consider switching to a career in archaeology.
While she has since graduated and opted to continue looking for a job with a police service, she says the dig took her out of her comfort zone, helped her learn how to apply forensics in different settings and has made her more appealing in the eyes of future employers.
“Exploring a variety of subjects allowed me to gain knowledge in my field of study and how to apply it to others, and showed myself that there really aren’t any limits,” she says. “That’s one thing I really appreciate about Trent - always being offered different opportunities to challenge yourself and gain extra knowledge in what you’re interested in.”
While the dig had been organized by a Polish university, it provided her a full academic credit at Trent. While there, she was joined by other students from Canada, the United States and Europe in a group ranging in age from 18 to 30 and involving a wide range of programs including Forensic Dentistry students.
Ms. Willms recalls digging up top soil during the first week and starting to see outlines, eventually finding the full skeleton as well as artifacts including a leather jacket, bronze buttons, a hat and an iron flint starter.
This wasn’t Ms. Willms’ first experiential learning opportunity. She had previously completed a placement with the North Bay OPP in which she was able to attend crime scenes, help process evidence and learn from autopsies.
Ms. Willms encourages all students to explore Trent’s abundant experiential learning opportunities, saying you never know what you’ll learn, who you’ll meet or what path it might lead you on.