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ArchaeologyPart of Humanities

Crystal El Safadi PhD in Archaeology

PhD in Archaeology

Crystal El Safadi's Photo

Hi I am Crystal El Safadi studying PhD in Archaeology

Following my first MA, I wished to continue furthering my education at Southampton because I experienced and knew what it can offer. I was then fortunate to be awarded a scholarship for a second MA in Maritime Archaeology and for a PhD.

What made you choose to come and study at Southampton?

I first came to Southampton for an MA in Archaeological Computing-Spatial Technologies. The program was offered by few UK universities at the time, but I was drawn to the research quality by the staff of the department of Archaeology at the university of Southampton and by the city itself, which provides an affordable lifestyle and benefits from a warmer weather compared to other parts in the UK (in as much as that sounds like a cliché). Following my first MA, I wished to continue furthering my education at Southampton because I experienced and knew what it can offer. I was then fortunate to be awarded a scholarship for a second MA in Maritime Archaeology and for a PhD.

What were you anxious about before coming to Southampton, and once here were these fears overcome?

Few matters were on mind before coming to Southampton. Most importantly was adapting to a new research and educational environment that is different to what I was used to. I was worried whether I can perform to acceptable standards. In addition, leaving home meant leaving my comfort zone and facing up any challenges on the way.

I found the community of staff and students, especially in the archaeology department, very welcoming. I was able to quickly fit in the social and work environment.

What is it like studying here?

I am sure biased in my favouritism for studying at Southampton. It might be because I have been in Southampton for some time now. In short, I love it. The lecturers and my supervisors are very supportive. They offer all the help they can be it advising or providing opportunities to gain skills and knowledge. At times when my research required reaching out to other disciplines at the university, I found a substantial network of individuals and researchers willing to share their expertise.

I enjoy my social life and work responsibilities equally. I find it important to strike a balance. Even when work is overwhelming, embracing limited social activities can still lighten up the path.

How do you rate study facilities at the University, such as the Library?

I would not qualify myself as a regular library visitor, though I am aware of its amazing study spaces.

My topic of research is not one that is supported by a substantial amount of resources at the Library. However, the library’s staff are supportive and willing to put all their efforts in providing what is needed. Even though resources may not be readily available, I have so far always been provided with the material that makes my research feasible.

What have been your Southampton ‘highlights’ (best experiences) so far?

It is difficult to summarise some of my best experiences at Southampton. There has been so many. I have been fortunate to meet lovely people from around the world with whom I shared my best of times and formed strong relationships.

I am very passionate about my research, combining different methods to reach a way of representing the past. My favourite work experiences have been times fully dedicated to work out models and make them achievable, all whilst having fun. This was only possible by drawing on all the support available from friends to supervisors.

What other activities have you taken advantage of while at University?

Many activities at the university have enhanced my experience. The university’s open days, departmental tours, field visits of archaeological sites and museums, seminars, lectures and reading groups. There is always an opportunity to join an activity.

I am a regular user of the university’s gym and swimming facilities. Either in the morning to start the day on the right foot, or in the evening. Not to mention the courses offered by the Sports and Wellbeing Centre like the RYA Power Boat, sailing courses and tasters. I had also joined the dive club for a year and was able to complete some diving training.  

Have you had any exposure to employer involvement or research-led learning during your course?

I was fortunate to take part in projects within the commercial and non-academic sector. It has strengthened my skills. I learnt about managing expectations, which is very important in a field where results cannot be always guaranteed. It made me aware of some of the requirements that employers seek in employees.

What are you enjoying most about your course?

One of the things I truly enjoy about my course, and this probably does not directly relate to the course itself but to the process of studying and researching, is the ability to discuss research with friends, colleagues and lecturers, to be inspired by each other’s work, construct ideas collectively and work in an amicable environment.

Do you have the opportunity to study modules outside of your core subject area, and how do you think they are adding to your experience / will affect your future plans?

I was able to attend several modules outside of my subject area, either for credits or just for involvement. These courses in fact changed the outlook of my degree and provided me with skills that I employ frequently.

The experience and knowledge I earned from modules outside of my subject area allowed me to participate in specific archaeological fieldwork and surveys around the world, and be considered as an appropriate candidate with sufficient knowledge base to carry out the necessary work. Hence, it positively influenced my career path.

What networking, employment and work experience opportunities have you undertaken and how have they enhanced your undergraduate experience?

 I have taken part in several archaeological fieldwork opportunities, attended many conferences worldwide and was employed on specific projects for short periods. All these opportunities have allowed me to test and apply myself, and provided a platform to complement research and course-work with hands on experience.

Do you have any idea of what you would like to do in the future?

When I first started my program, the future was a blur. I had no clear ideas of what I wanted to do once I complete my course, and in which way I should direct my efforts. However, after being involved in different projects and being part of an active department, my self-confidence grew and I discovered how to apply some of my strengths. This has led me to form a clearer idea of what I want to do. My plans so far are to continue research work and commit myself to a post-doctorate position, given the possibility to do so of course, in the hope that I can keep contributing to archaeological research in any way I can.   

What advice would you offer to potential students?

It is easy to isolate oneself from the research community at the university, especially on a PhD level of studies. We can live in a bubble made up of our work and us. However, even though that might be the case for a short time, on the long run, the only way to truly benefit, experience wise, from what the university has to offer, is to open up and be involved in activities, events, research, seminars, etc. That social and work network becomes a backbone from which lasting relationships can be formed.

Do you like living in Southampton?

Southampton is a city that is growing. There is lots to do and lovely places to visit. It strikes a good balance between not so large of a city and not so small. That makes it easy to engage with and get to know the local community. It is within commutable distance on a daily basis to London and other big cities, which makes it a very convenient location to live in. There is a lot to find out about Southampton. It might take a bit of effort to find the people and places that respond to your lifestyle, but it is worth it. I have never felt unsafe in the city, but then I have never put myself in a situation to feel so.  


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