Brian Abfal

Program: MA in Classics – Archaeology

Research Adviser: Dr. M. Carter

Program Entry Date: Sept. 2017

Research Topic

The garrisons of Roman Britain were largely made up of homogeneous groups of soldiers from the tribes living along the Rhine and Danube. Vindolanda in Northumbria was a key garrison near the central gate in Hadrian’s Wall at Houseteads. Due to the excellent preservation at this site, the famed Vindolanda tablets give unprecedented insight into the lives of the inhabitants. Using the extensive material evidence, I am attempting to understand the cultural transformations experienced by the local and immigrant populations and whether this led to a new ethnic identity shared by both groups. This has ramifications for our understanding of large-scale migrations and cultural interaction.

What have you learned in your graduate education that you would share with future or current students?

If you felt that during your undergraduate studies you were not conducting meaningful work or engaging with research, that changes in graduate studies. You’re conducting your own work, you shape it, you get to voice your understanding of the results.

For those already in graduate studies and are not happy with their research topic. CHANGE IT! You get to decide what you research so it had better be something that interests you. Do not be afraid to say when things are not working. Your research does not have to always lead to an affirmative result, but you should be prepared to modify your research to make a meaningful conclusion.

What are your tips for thriving in grad school?

SLEEP! Procrastination is innate, but you have to work hard to prevent it from snowballing into a monstrosity by the end of term. Plan things out and accept that you will not keep that schedule but by making one you are aware of where you stand. Set an early alarm and become a morning person, you will be more productive. I write great work at 2am but it kills my ability to function long-term. Go to bed, get at least 6-8 hours of sleep and get straight to work in the morning.

What do you wish someone warned you about being a graduate student?

You will be as absorbed by your work as you feared you would be. Prepare for that and make sure those you care about are aware they may not hear anything meaningful or anything at all from you for a while.

What were the best parts of your experience at Brock? Why?

My colleagues are amazing and my professors really know their fields. It creates a great office dynamic and someone has an answer or at least a heading for any question you may have. It pays to show up every day even when you have no scheduled events.

How is being a graduate student different from being an undergraduate student?

The professional expectations really start to become relevant. You should be aware of your conduct and habits and make sure they produce meaningful results. You can scrape by but it is dangerous and damaging to your mental state.

There are fewer things to think about but deeper and more thought-out research is needed to properly discuss them. You may only have one course to work on besides your own research but the work for that course will be much greater than any one undergraduate course. *Edit to add: course loads vary by program*

Do you feel your degree has prepared you for your plans academically and otherwise?

Absolutely. I have a much better control over my life and where it goes now and I do not believe that would be the case straight out of my undergrad.