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A Summer Adventure To Gambia

Photo: courtesy Katelyn Kean

Newtown resident Katelyn Kean, third from left, with members of her host family, other compound residents, and her fellow field school travelers.

Making it all possible may have taken effort, but reflecting on her recent trip to the Republic of the Gambia, Newtown resident and St Mary’s College of Maryland rising junior Katelyn Kean said, “The experience was well worth it.”

Katelyn, who has lived in Newtown her whole life, explained she had to complete work with a “field school” through her college to graduate with an archaeology degree. So last summer she began researching. As an anthropology and history double major with a minor in museum studies, Katelyn chose to study with an archaeology group she says travels for a field school every two years.

But before she could travel, Katelyn raised money through the website gofundme.com. She needed $6,000 for the field school, and ended up raising a portion of that amount through the online account. Along with working on campus, Katelyn credits her friends and family members for helping make her trip to Gambia possible.

Katelyn traveled between May 20 and July 9, and while there she picked up a second language, Wolof; completed hours of work at two archeological sites; was “adopted” into her local host family; spent time at museums on weekends; and traveled to other locations near where she was staying.

During a typical weekday, Katelyn said she and the other 17 people she was staying with for the field school would wake up around 7 am, and take public transportation into Banjul, the capital, where there was work. Around 2 pm the students would have free time, and in the afternoons the students would sometimes spend time with their host families or return to complete lab work.

When she first arrived, Katelyn said she was accepted into her host family through a ceremony. She was also given a godmother-type relationship with one woman, who Katelyn was renamed after, as Mamisambou, through the ceremony.

Everyone on the trip brought back artifacts from the dig sites, Katelyn said, in order to transport them back to the school. A coin from 1867 was found along with ceramics, and a typeset piece, according to Katelyn, was also discovered.

Once she returns to school, Katelyn plans to work with one of her professors in further researching the smaller field school finds.

Katelyn recalled stalls of fish and mangos, having a dress made from one vendor, and interacting with her host family as other highlights of her trip.

“The way the family structure works there is everyone looks out for each other in a compound,” Katelyn said.

Since returning from Gambia, Katelyn said she realized her travels put her life at home in a different perspective, for the better. Katelyn said she views the “little things” for what they are now, and has realized that traveling is easier than she thought before.

“It really put things in perspective in my everyday life,” said Katelyn.

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