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Russell Ó Ríagáin - (PhD student) Archaeology & Anthropology

Russell Ó Ríagáin is a third-year PhD student in Archaeology.  Prior to coming to St John's, he studied for an MPhil in Archaeological Research at St Catharine's, a HDip in Sociology at University College Dublin and a BA in Archaeology and History at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He has worked as a contract archaeologist in addition to working for the Archaeological Survey of Ireland and on the administrative side of archaeology for the Irish government.

 I chose St John's for their strong academic and sporting traditions, and for their reputation for providing a great deal of support, and I have not been disappointed.  Life has a way of providing obstacles, even for the luckiest of us, and St John's have been fantastically supportive through some difficult times, such as a family bereavement and a serious illness, not least my Tutor, but also the staff through the university, from the friendly Porters and administrators to the Fellowship.

 I have been lucky to receive a full Benefactors' Scholarship, without which continuing to PhD would have been impossible, and the additional financial support for conference funding, research costs and language classes has helped me to begin to establish a reputation in the global academic community.

My research is on the relationship between colonialism and the settlement pattern in Ireland and Scotland in the Iron Age and Middle Ages, and is quite multidisciplinary by nature. Having such a strong and varied Fellowship within the College has helped me receive some very beneficial advice on my research and a platform to sound out ideas informally, and the same holds for my peers in the Samuel Butler Room.

College life has been truly brilliant, I have been playing week in, week out for the Samuel Butler Room Football Club, and have had the honour of captaining them for two seasons, and winning some silverware in the process.  I also box for the university, and St John's very good gym facilities have been a great help in keeping in shape for this, in addition to the college being very supportive on a financial level.  The Samuel Butler Room's programme of events means that the potentially isolating process of researching and writing a PhD does not have to be that, and the same holds for the fantastic series of events organised by the Borderer.  The College's Archaeology and Anthropology society, the Goody Society, has also provided yet another social outlet, as well as being a venue to discuss my research with its membership.

I have also been lucky enough to win a scholarship through the college to spend a year at the University of Heidelberg, which was an absolutely fantastic opportunity, of which full use was made.  Further highlights include being awarded a travel grant to fulfil a life-long ambition of visiting the Palaeolithic cave art and series of medieval villages and castles in the Dordogne region, not to mention being presented to the Queen on her visit to the college in 2011, not bad for a first-generation university student from a provincial council estate in the west of Ireland!