Reflection on my experience as a QES Scholar

Author: Skye Skagfeld

I am writing this post after receiving congratulations on the final confirmation of the completion of my Masters of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management. So, now that I have indeed finished and the document has been sent to the printers, I can breathe, sit back, and reflect on the experience.

I am astounded at my accomplishment; the fact that I travelled all the way to coastal Australia and returned home, all the while working within tight deadlines and parameters to produce an acceptable and valid report. It is surreal thinking back now to the whirlwind year which started with receiving the QES scholarship to travelling across the globe and conducting primary research independently, to returning home to Vancouver Island to my coastal city where I defended my thesis. In all honesty, undertaking a Master’s degree is a feat that I did not ever think of myself tackling, and here I was alone in Australia, traveling abroad as a scholar, sponsored by a prestigious program, and representing my institution abroad.

Traveling as a scholar, rather than a tourist, was new to me and it required me to constantly reflect on my role internationally as I focused my efforts on data collection, rather than visiting tourist hot-spots. It also meant that the interactions I had with locals was unique. I found that even when I was not actively seeking participants for my study I was drawn to people in the creative industries, and so my travel experience was enriched with authentic artistic events. An example would be an art show held in a suburb outside of Melbourne, in which I assisted in the ‘hanging’ of the artwork and was asked to ‘open’ the show, meaning I gave a short speech addressing the artists involved in the show and the conceptual aim of the works. This was an exciting and new experience for me, and I found throughout the experience I was constantly operating outside of my comfort zone and pushing myself to remain focused on my goal. By having a set number of three months where I was required to stay in the context of the research, I was forced to engage in rigorous data collection and execution of the study.

My educational history is focused around management and tourism, and my professional background is in teaching English as a Second Language. Before starting the master’s program, I discovered a passion I had for painting and the arts. And although I hadn’t any formal training in arts education, or much experience in ‘the art world’ I was able to infiltrate this community through my research in the role of observer. The result was a genuine and raw introduction to this industry fueled by creativity and artistic vision. I am so grateful for the opportunity I was given to apply the skills I had learned through the coursework of the program and marrying the idea to creating a livelihood through the arts. I found that this creative industry requires resilience as those artists (my research focuses on painters) who dedicated their lives to creating artwork navigated this volatile career choice which relied heavily on external patronage. In the face of global change (the Global Financial Crisis was mentioned by subjects of my study), these individuals adjusted their approach and managed to continue pursuing their passion by making a living through the arts.

Beyond the invaluable experience I gained as a researcher abroad, my personal interest in creative industries was heightened and I am eager to see what’s next. Now I am in the stage of knowledge mobilization, and I will continue to look for opportunities where I can share my results. I believe that my work within researching the potential the arts has on the resilience of communities is useful and relevant. Without the QES program I would not have had the chance to explore this exciting industry, and I hope for further opportunities to pursue this avenue in various capacities.

- Skye Skagfeld, VIU Masters of Sustainable Leisure Management Student & QE Scholar 

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