She Studies Old Money

November 14, 2018

Master's student Nisha Ramracha (Liberal Studies) forges a fascination with ancient coins.

Born in Trinidad, Nisha Ramracha earned her associate degree at BMCC and a B.A. in classical archaeology from Hunter College. She has a knowledge of nine languages and a lifelong passion for archaeology, which brought her to The Graduate Center to pursue a master’s in liberal studies. Then her curiosity about ancient coins led her to the American Numismatic Society and an Altfest Graduate Internship through The Graduate Center’s Office of Career Planning and Professional Development.

Nisha Ramracha headshot

GC: Were you interested in archaeology as a child?

Ramracha: History and archaeology have always been my life. They have consumed my academic existence and intertwine with my extracurricular art interests. I knew history before I knew myself! This might seem terribly clichéd, but as a child I wrote a lot of historical fiction and continue to do so, and I remember movies like The Mummy and Indiana Jones. They made me think, this is what I want to be, an archaeologist, because within the layers of these stories lies an archaeologist’s inspiration. I became enamored with archaeology as it complemented my writing, my self-discovery, and began to take on a deeper meaning of its own. Every archaeologist will tell you their childhood dream was to dig up treasure, but a love of archaeology is like evolution. Now I want to dig up the process of civilizations.

GC: What sparked your interest in studying ancient coins?

Ramracha: In 2015, I completed my first excavation dig in the ancient Greek, Roman, Getae, and the Byzantine site of Halmyris in Romania, near the Black Sea Coast, where my team discovered a coin with the emperor Justinian on it, immediately providing a multitude of information about the site. As an archaeologist, I was inspired and motivated to connect more with the ancient world through the visual imagery, text, dates and other evidence that can be harvested from antiquity through the medium of coinage. Then, a year later, my Great Digs of the Ancient World class with Professor Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis (Liberal Studies) visited the American Numismatic Society (A.N.S.).

I once again had the opportunity to interact with more ancient coinage. It was inspirational. With a summer internship supported by The Graduate Center Altfest scholarship, I have sharpened my focus at the A.N.S. I continue to be dedicated to this study and am working with the ancient coinage of the Macedonian Argead Kings, starting with the silver denominations of Phillip II of Macedon along with the gold coinage of Alexander the Great. My work aids the society’s online international database, called PELLA, and contributes to a continuous global effort by scholars.

GC: Why did you decide to get your M.A. in Liberal Studies at The Graduate Center?

Ramracha: I fell in love with New York and wanted to build my life around this vivacious city that reminded me of the diversity of Trinidad and Tobago. The GC provides a flexible, engaging, rigorous and multifarious academic program that meets all my needs, and the Liberal Studies program is the best suited for me because it has a unique combination, beginning from the time of Alexander and the Hellenistic world, dealing specifically with my concentrations. My education at the GC gives me unsurpassed access to the best museums and resources that are paramount to my studies. The flexible schedule also means I can engage in many of my other enthusiasms, such as music, travel, research, and writing. 

GC: What do you plan to do after you finish your master’s degree?

Ramracha: My goal is to develop my potential as a curatorial and numismatics scholar who can study, protect, and conserve these precious artifacts from around the world. I would also like to take some time to travel, gain more excavation experience, and visit more of ancient sites before going on to pursue a Ph.D. in classical archaeology. I would like to become a professor and full-time archaeologist and can even see myself as a museum curator. A more personal goal would be to increase global awareness of the importance of history through education in the inspirational world of classical archaeology.

GC: What would you tell others that you wished you knew before you began your studies?

Ramracha: Pursue your passion and the days will be effortless; and life will never be uneventful. Know who you are and what you want out of a fulfilling life, and pursue a course of study that supports and complements you. For those of you who love history and archaeology, don’t just love the adventure, live it.