Archaeology student Francesca Meneghetti has been named Orkney College UHI’s 2022 Student of the Year.
Francesca received the prestigious award in recognition of her academic excellence and devotion to the wider student community.
Francesca moved to Orkney, from Italy, to pursue her dream of studying archaeology and was nominated for the award by her personal academic tutor, Dr Ragnhild Ljosland.
Ragnhild said: “Francesca has distinguished herself academically by contributing to the student community, by overcoming personal hardship, and going the extra mile outside of the curriculum to learn more. Francesca is a star student who works extremely hard and has achieved excellent results all round. This she has achieved while working in a foreign language.
“Francesca actively seeks out extra learning on top of the college curriculum. This summer, she grasped the opportunity to apply for funding from the UHI Student Development Fund to attend an academic conference in Germany (9th International Symposium on Runes and Runic Inscriptions).
“This conference is aimed at researchers working professionally with rune-inscribed artefacts and is thus aimed above the level of a L9 student, but Francesca did not let this put her off and attended all the presentations at the conference with great interest. She has also made contact with academic staff from other universities to gauge for further opportunities to gain experience in practical archaeological excavation.
“She was very brave to come to Orkney to study archaeology, not only moving away from her family to live independently for the first time but doing so in a foreign country and language. However, in her first year of study the pandemic struck, leaving students isolated at home. For Francesca, the consequences of the pandemic were extra tough, because it meant she was now cut off from her parents and family for over a year and with ongoing uncertainty around how long this situation would last.”
Dr Ljosland added: “In 2020, Francesca was elected by fellow students as the Highlands & Islands Student Association (HISA) depute for Orkney College, a role which she has continued to fulfil with great enthusiasm.
“She is always on the lookout for ways to enhance the student experience at our college and works tirelessly for the student community. Among other things, she has been a champion for student mental health and student housing.”
Francesca, who has just begun the fourth year of her degree with the UHI Archaeology Institute, described becoming part of Orkney College UHI as “life-changing” and one of the hardest, and yet most natural, processes she has undertaken.
She explained: “After being highly discouraged from studying archaeology back in Italy, I took my chance and moved abroad to pursue my dream. I came to Orkney straight out of high school at 18, and I did so out of pure intuition and hope, without allowing much logical reasoning to come in my way. The Scotland I knew was the one I had seen in movies and heard songs about and appeared to me as a land of promises and opportunities – a place I could call home. Looking back on my approach to this kind of decision-making, I would say that whilst not being the most reliable, it enabled me to dare to shape my future with intention and trust in myself.
“I came to Orkney College UHI without many expectations of my performance as a student here, in order not to be heartbroken in case I would not make it. I did not unpack my suitcase for the first four weeks on the island, ready to go back home.
“Unexpectedly, feeling significant pressure in not wanting to fail those who had invested their time and resources in me, I rediscovered my strength 2,500km away from family and friends, and took refuge in studying.
“I fell in love with articles and books I would be reading for my courses, and slowly started finding myself the happiest I had ever been up at night, reading and writing essays.
“My immense gratitude goes to the entirety of the archaeology department for enabling this, as well as the wider UHI Orkney staff. Here, I found an outstanding receptiveness to one’s passion and motivation for studying, making me feel welcome and valued. Being able to witness the enthusiasm of lecturers talking about their fields of expertise and their willingness to fully engage with students, made me regularly rejoice in the daily challenges and achievements.”
She added: “This award reassures me as I enter the fourth year of my archaeology degree, and further motivates me to never stop exploring the possibilities around me.”
Each academic year, Orkney College UHI also runs a special award scheme, which celebrates the achievements of outstanding students within specific departments at the college.
The winners of 2022’s archaeology prizes are:
- Judith Robertson Memorial Prize (Orkney Archaeology): Kathrine Page
- Best Performance in Undergraduate Archaeology student: Sara Marinoni
- Best Undergraduate Archaeology student dissertation: Susan Dyke
- Best Performance in Postgraduate Archaeology student: Adam Markham
- Best Postgraduate Archaeology student dissertation: Cameron Taylor