People & Places

SAHC Unfolding: 1 Second A Day

18 April, 2023 3 min reading
Based on the dissertation by: Alexa Camacho, M.Sc. in advanced masters in Structural Analysis of Monuments and Historical Constructions.

SAHC Unfolding: 1 Second A Day



Making the decision to leave my job, family, and home behind was an incredible struggle.  Leaving behind everything you know and adventuring to a new city, country, and even continent is extremely terrifying. But how glad am I to have taken this decision and to have experienced every second that came with it.  


Soon after reaching Guimaraes, I was able to meet with other students that had arrived in the city.  Meeting for dinner at the city center, we all bonded over our excitement to be starting this new master, wondering what secrets we would encounter with each new module, and speculating what our time in Portugal would bring. And thus, sitting down at the heart of the city, under rainy skies, our seconds began to come, one by one.  


September welcomed us with clear skies and adventures. Getting to know each other through presentations, talking and dancing the night away on rooftops, and adventuring the streets of Porto and Aveiro. We got our hands dirty mixing mortar, and designing RC concrete beams and timber connections.  


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October started with study sessions for SA1, celebrations of birthdays, picnics up in Penha, overlooking the city, and cheering our local football team towards victory.  We cast our concrete beams, investigated soils, and donned our helmets and vests to conduct a site visit to Batalha Monastery.  


November was eventful, completing an Inspection and Diagnosis Report for the local church Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, inspecting timber trusses, and performing dynamic identification of a steel beam. We also conducted our first site visit to our case study for SA7 in Lisbon, having the opportunity to apply everything we had learned during classes. We ended the month by renting out a restaurant to have a Thanksgiving dinner, with everyone cooking and sharing dishes from their countries, laughing the day away, sharing stories, and playing card games.  


Festive December started with a tree lighting ceremony, where the city was lit up with Christmas lights shining on every street and a Christmas market appeared in the city center full of trinkets and snacks. Celebrations and gifts were shared during the SAHC Christmas dinner before everyone embarked on their own Christmas adventures.  


January was challenging, with SA2 (Structural Analysis Techniques) and SA3 (Seismic Behavior and Structural Dynamics) pushing everyone to their limits.  Long days and nights were common, trying to figure out the bugs in codes we wrote and Finite Element Models we created.  Although extremely demanding, figuring out problems, working together with our teams, and presenting our findings to our fellow classmates made us all much more confident in our engineering abilities.


February began strong, with the SA3 exam and the second progress report for our SA7 project.  However, it ended rather mellow, with movie nights, dinners, and more football excursions.  


March came too fast. Many lasts were had: last assignment, last exam, last site visit, last presentation.  And just like that, SAHC coursework ended just as I had started it:  sitting down at the heart of under clear skies, however, this time I was not surrounded by strangers.  I was surrounded by friends who had slowly become my second family.  


Overall, SAHC coursework has truly been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one I am glad I took a leap of faith for.  Although challenging at times, and pushed me to face situations that placed me outside my comfort zone, such as navigating a new country and working with people with different strengths, this program has allowed me to grow personally and professionally.  I am now off in Spain finishing my Dissertation portion of the program and applying all the skills learned during my time in UMinho, excitedly looking forward to all the seconds that are to come.