Clara was a PhD candidate within the CMA and recently successfully defended her thesis. In the following interview, she discusses life outside her home country of Colombia and her time spent studying at the Southampton. Clara has studied at the CMA at both the MA and PhD level.
What’s your background?
I was born in Bogota, Colombia and lived most of my life there, although I lived in France for almost two years. I studied Anthropology with an emphasis in Archaeology at the National University of Colombia in Bogota.
What made you decide to study archaeology at postgraduate level?
Having recently graduated from my BA, I soon realised that if I wanted to make a significant contribution to the development of Maritime Archaeology in Colombia, I needed to continue studying at a postgraduate level.
Why did you choose to study at Southampton?
The Centre for Maritime Archaeology is recognised worldwide as a pioneering centre for education and research in the field. This was a powerful reason for me to apply for a place in the MA programme. Once I got an offer from the University I packed my things and came to the UK. Initially I was supposed to stay for one year but I am about to complete my sixth year in Britain. After finishing the MA I got funding from my country to do a PhD which is near completion.
Tell us more about which parts of maritime archaeology interest you.
All the topics related to Maritime archaeology are very appealing! I guess right now I am into those areas related to my own research (maritime ethnography, maritime material culture, etc.). I am a diver trained by the Colombian navy so I love underwater archaeology, particularly the study of shipwrecks, from the technological and social points of view.
Are you enjoying your studies? What do you like most about your degree programme?
It gives me a great feeling of accomplishment. Doing a PhD is a very challenging experience. It encompasses a very long time of exclusive dedication to a single research area which means that sometimes it is hard to keep motivated. Nevertheless it brings deep satisfaction when you realise that it is worth the effort.
What’s the best thing about living and studying in Southampton?
I’d sum this up all in one word: people. One of the things I have enjoyed the most is the diversity of people that I have encountered throughout these years. I have learned a lot from my colleagues and from the staff at all levels. On the other hand, I find life in Southampton very relaxed, with the advantages of being a city of a manageable size. I cycle or walk everywhere. It is very easy to go around and visit the sea, London, or the New Forest.
What has been your favourite moment so far?
This is a tricky question as I have had many great moments at both academic and personal levels that have made all this time a life changing experience. I remember my first year as a very happy time packed with fun and exciting experiences, but maybe the time I spent in the field has been the best of all. Having the opportunity to approach a wonderful and different culture and learn all sorts of things from them is deeply enriching. Furthermore, being disconnected from the rest of the world for relatively long periods of time helped me focusing on things that you tend to forget when you live immerse in the modern world.
What are you planning to do after graduating?
I’m not sure yet. I definitely want to continue doing research in Colombia; there is so much potential! In any case, I’m focused on finishing the thesis as well as a couple of parallel academic projects. I’m very open to see what life has to offer.
Do you have any advice for people considering studying archaeology at postgraduate level at Southampton?
I would definitely recommend Southampton and I would encourage people to get in touch with both the academic staff and the administrative people, as they are very approachable and helpful.