If you’re an archaeologist, the fact that you spend your summers working in a foreign country has probably often been (mis)interpreted as a leisurely vacation.
Don’t get me wrong – working in Greece for four to eight weeks of the year *is* something I am privileged to be able to experience. But it’s still work. And working five or six days a week in the heat of the day takes its toll, mentally and physically, after a while.
Many people have already recognized this, and schedule in a vacation at some point during their trip. I, on the other hand, have been coming to Greece for six summers and have not once taken any time to myself.
This year, however, I had a little extra time in Athens and thought, “Hey, what the hell? No time like the present.”
For those of you who are new here, the hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. This month I’m talking professional development and why it’s so important, especially for grad students.
Professional development and academics have always been at odds.
Either you write your thesis or you take workshops and courses that make you a better job candidate.
Either you spend your summer working on a field project or you participate in an internship that gives you first-hand experience in the field you want to work in.
But you can never do both. Or so it seems.
The truth is that you can and shouldbe able to do both. But there are structural constraints which make it difficult.
It should be unsurprising to anyone who knows me when I say that fieldwork plays a big role in my success as an academic. This is because I’m an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Greece. My fieldwork requires me to travel abroad for several weeks to months at a time each year, usually in the summer.
I am very sad that I haven’t gone to Greece in nearly two years. The reluctance of some of my colleagues to cancel field projects and research trips in light of the ever-changing COVID situation has also been surprising.
I get it, I do. The last year was a total setback for many archaeological projects, including my own. My dissertation has taken a new path thanks to the fact that I couldn’t do fieldwork last summer, despite my best laid plans.
But is getting that dissertation done or that excavation going more important than the lives of the people who live in your destination country?
The answer should be simple: no, it’s not.
The challenges to admitting this are many. It’s no secret that many programs and departments have grappled with how to deal with funding and time to degree for those of us whose research got derailed by the pandemic.
Some places, such as at Michigan, have found ways to support students needing extra time to finish, which lessens the burden on students scrambling to secure support elsewhere. However, I know this isn’t the case everywhere.