The Multiple Benefits of a Directed Study in Maritime Archaeology

By: Chelsea Colwell-Pasch

I have now completed my semester long directed study topic at Flinders University, with only the final draft of my field work report for the industry partner involved, Heritage Victoria, remaining. It is the perfect time to reflect upon the semester and the benefits of partaking in a directed study topic. For the purposes of my research it was in maritime archaeology, but I imagine that any directed study would carry the same benefits and this blog could be taken synonymously.

This has been a hard topic. I know that this blog, the last in my required blog posts for this topic, is supposed to be about the benefits of a directed study but I feel that it would be amiss if I didn’t let you, the reader, know that it was a very taxing endeavour. You spend a lot of time thinking about it, working on it, doubting yourself, having the pressure of a professional or industry partner being involved, and the scariest of all, relying on yourself to do what needs to be done. I do not want people to get the wrong idea: it was hard, yes, but in the best possible ways. 

Even now as I write this I am thinking about the quality of my writing and whether or not I will meet the standards required for a professional maritime archaeology field work report. I have read through multiple field reports by various government and commercial maritime archaeology firms and have created what can only be described as a ‘Frankenstein-esque’ version of a report, with the pieces I could use cut and sewn together, because no field report is alike. Sections included in one may not be relevant in another and vice versa. The end product is very specific and a very large report covering every possible aspect that I or others could conceive. This has been a great exercise in understanding what maritime archaeologists actually do as a job. By understanding at least one end product of their work, I can better understand how to conduct myself in the field to make the task of report writing easier.

Another beneficial outcome of this project is acknowledging your personal work ethic and drive. I am not being paid to write this report, on the contrary I am paying a substantial international post-graduate course fee to write it. That being said, I treated it as a job, as if it was my duty to write this report to the highest standard and not let my industry partner or professors down. Pressure to succeed is a good stressor (to a certain degree), and it will be a part of any career you choose so to understand how you handle it in a safe, academic environment is very nice.

For this entire semester, I was the ‘captain’ of my professional report writing ‘voyage’. I ‘steered’ the way the report was going by choosing what to include and how to include it. The best part of being enrolled in a course is that my ‘safety beacon’ if you will (apologies for the nautical puns…occupational hazard) was the very knowledgeable university staff who were there to answer any and all questions and guide me to ‘safe harbour’ when rough water was met (I will stop with the puns now, I promise). This is a luxury that is not afforded in the real world.

I will end my last directed studies blog with the best part of enrolling in this topic: experience. I will, once everything is completed, have a professional report under my belt. I will not be intimidated by report writing once I am in the professional realm. I can show future employers, colleagues and, most importantly, myself that I CAN do this. The only real issue I have about this topic is that I am not able to take part in another one.

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