CHARLESTON — For many students studying abroad is a dream come truth, but for Molly Button her trip to Belgium was so much more than that.

Button, a senior, history major at Eastern Illinois University traveled to Belgium for a month through Eastern’s study abroad program and said the trip was a way for her to gain more experience for a future career.

During her stay in Belgium, Button earned three credits towards graduation for helping excavate a medieval castle called Walhain.

When Button was excavating on the castle grounds she said her and other students found very interesting items such as: ceramics, old coins, pottery, window glass, and much more.

Button said all the items found during the excavation were brought back to a lab, cleaned and preserved.

“You learn so much in the field. It didn’t matter if you ever found something because every day was so exciting and brand new,” Button said.

Besides excavating, Button also went to a school in Belgium called the Catholic University of Louvain, where once a week she learned about the history of archeology and the history of Walhain Castle.

“It was a truly rewarding experience to have some hands on activity and not just lectures,” Button said.

Button participated in many activities while studying abroad and she also explored different places in Europe like Amsterdam and Berlin.

Many Belgium students as well as American students helped excavate the castle.

Bailey Young, the director of the summer archaeology program in Belgium, said students all the way from the College of New Jersey to the University of Alabama come together to participate in excavating the castle.

Young said thanks in part to the program, Eastern is now one of the better known universities in Belgium.

Eastern students have been helping excavate the Walhain Castle since 1988 as part of Eastern’s study abroad program and their partnership with the Center for National Archaeology at the Catholic University of Louvain.

Button said she wanted to study abroad because her mom had done so in the past and told her how great of an experience it was.

“I have always wanted to study abroad when I started college and I’m thankful for the opportunity I was given,” Button said.

Another factor that Button said influenced her decision to study abroad was to experience a different culture.

“I didn’t travel to Belgium in hopes of anything happening. I just wanted to experience as much as I could and soak up the culture,” Button said. “To be able to see and experience everything was my goal and to make the most out of my trip.”

Even though excavating was hard work, Button said she still found the trip fascinating and loved every minute of it.

“Your working hard, but playing hard at the same time,” Button said. “The trip was a lot of fun and a learning experience as well.”

Contact Bilharz at or 217-238-6839.

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