Tasfia Rahman not only reaffirmed her love of archeology during a summer abroad at Durham University in the United Kingdom, but the experience has given her greater confidence in her Binghamton University classes, as well.
“I’m talking a lot more in class and am not so self-conscious about my ideas,” she said. “I was always the observer and now I’m an active participant.”
The junior from Brooklyn was one of six U.S. students chosen to take part in the U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission’s U.K. Summer Institute. The students, who spent a month excavating at the Binchester Roman Fort in Durham, came from schools such as the University of Pittsburgh, Rice University, the University of Rochester and Haverford College.
“They are incredibly brilliant people,” Rahman said of her fellow Fulbright Summer Institute participants. “I was honored to be considered at the same level as them.”
The other participants could easily be honored to be in the same company with Rahman, a Harpur College triple major in medieval studies, Latin and anthropology. She is a writer and treasurer for Prospect magazine, a member of the President’s Road Map 2012 Community Engagement Team, and is helping to promote the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies’ spring conference on the 700th anniversary of Giovanni Boccaccio’s birth.
Archaeology and anthropology are subjects that Rahman was interested in before she arrived at Binghamton University.
“I’m somebody who loves learning and wants to know as many things as possible,” she said. “Anthropology touches so many fields. ... One of my main goals in life is to make global connections. We grow up learning that cultures are separate from each other. But globalization has been going on for hundreds of years. People want to move around and connect with each other.”
Rahman was struggling with whether she wanted to become an archaeologist when Janice McDonald, director of the Undergraduate Research Center, suggested that she apply for the Fulbright program.
“I thought: ‘I don’t know if I’m good enough for that!’” Rahman said.
But Rahman received even more encouragement from someone who knows Durham University well: Tina Chronopoulos, assistant professor of classics and medieval studies, who received her bachelor’s degree from Durham.
“She said: ‘You’ve got to do this. You’ll be living in the same community I did,’” Rahman said of her professor. “It was really cosmic. I felt like I had to (apply). I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t.”
Rahman was chosen and headed to Durham in June 2012. The U.S. students spent five days a week, eight hours a day, working alongside Durham students and community members at the Roman military fort that dates to the first century A.D.
Rahman was initially frustrated because she was “digging in a patch” and was not finding anything.
“In the first week, it didn’t seem like I was learning much,” she said. “I was mostly hauling buckets in the rain.”
By the second week, though, she had earned the group’s “Dynamo Digger” award and found a partially oxidized Roman coin. She then moved on to other aspects of the project, such as surveying, recording and planning, and found the variety of work rewarding.
“I learned that I loved archaeology and I could do this as a career,” she said. “I don’t imagine that I’ll be digging all of my life, but I love what comes out of it. By the end of that month, I knew that learning how to identify a formed surface was sometimes more important than finding a coin.”
Durham, located in northeast England, also impressed Rahman. The residents were “sweet and friendly,” she said, and the community featured such attractions as Durham Castle, Durham Cathedral and Alnwick Castle, where interior and exterior shots from the Harry Potter movies were filmed.
Rahman hopes to return to England for graduate school, as she wants to study Indian archeology. Binghamton University has provided her with the foundation for that pursuit, she said.
“Binghamton is big enough to have the resources to help you, but small enough to provide the time needed to invest in its students,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot here from the professors and the staff. I don’t think I would’ve gotten that anywhere else.”