Articles Conservation People & Places

What is it like to be a SAHC student?

14 December, 2018 4 min reading
Nicoletta Bianchini, PHD student in Civil Engineering, University of Minho, Portugal

What is it like to be a SAHC student?

SAHC classes start in September and finishes at the end of March, with one course per month, which goes from structural analysis and seismic engineering to materials, strengthening techniques and monitoring. All these courses are linked by a 7th course unit, which is a complete project with historical and cultural value and it takes 7 months since the beginning of the master. Every subject keeps an eye on the main goal of the master, which is the conservation of historical and monumental buildings.


Beyond the technical schedule, everything is combined with an international context: students and lecturers come to the University of Minho from all over the world. Everyone wants to discuss and to learn how Engineering and Architecture can be significantly helpful for the conservation process of heritage buildings. In fact, thanks to SAHC master, you can learn which are our heritage values whose give memory and proof of the identity of each country. The city of Guimarães joins experts with the dedication for the conservation of the architectural heritage and their safeguard.

And this is not the end, because on April all the students start their dissertation period. This is the most intense and exciting period of SAHC master, during which you have to do your best for making reality of what you have learned through the courses. For me that period was exactly like this. Heart, mind and time were the keywords of my experience that I am going to tell you now.

I got the opportunity from the SAHC Consortium to study a Buddhist temple, named Loka-Hteik-Pan temple located within the archeological site of Bagan, in the center of Myanmar (Burma). Bagan is an expanse of more than 2500 temples, which is one of the most famous destination of pilgrimage between the Buddhist people. Loka-Hteik-pan temple is a middle-size temple made in the 12th century, very important for the local community because it contains original paintings of Buddha’s life.

image of buddhist temple loka hteik pan in bagan myanmar burma

First of all, I needed to understand the context and the environment where the temple is located. You can imagine that it is not so easy to feel confident with something you have not ever seen. Moreover, my supervisor and I had the necessity to plan perfectly the site visit, which occurred in May.  In just one week all the tests and all the data should have been performed and collected. This leads to consider more unexpected events than you can imagine in a place you know.

image of buddhist temple loka hteik pan in bagan myanmar burma

In Bagan, the conditions in fact were not easy and manageable: working under the sun at 45°C, without shoes because inside of the Buddhist temples they are not allowed, with your feet start to burn and without the possibility to plug easily the equipment of the tests.


I admit that I was not completely prepared but I started to love and take care of my case study. I was knowing the country, the Burmese culture and my case study. I felt the need to help the local institutions to understand how better maintain it, to reestablish its function and to protect it from possible earthquakes. For reaching this goal I was never alone: my supervisor, SAHC consortium, all the institutions and professors helped me. We were part of a unique project.

image of a advanced masters in structural analysis of monuments and historical constructions student from

After the local visit, when we went back to Guimarães, inside of SAHC study room, I felt like I was there, with Loka temple well imprinted on my mind. You start to understand that you are doing something notable and your enthusiasm is growing more and more. Your aim is not anymore to obtain the degree, your aim is doing your best as your SAHC family taught you during the courses and through remarkable examples of conservation and restoration projects of UNESCO heritage monuments for 20 years.


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image of buddhist temple loka hteik pan in bagan myanmar burma

And now, everything is concluded or maybe it is better to say that is started because I am still here in Guimarães at the University of Minho, where I won a PhD position that has been my dream since the end of the University in Italy. This new chapter of my life would not have started if I have not attended the SAHC master. I will try to bear in my mind all the notions and all the approaches that all professors taught me. I am aware that they are essential for working with dedication and care.

bagan myanmar burma

I wish all the new SAHC students to have the same satisfaction and to be passionately involved in what they are studying without forgetting how much they are lucky to enroll this program.


SAHC master is not just a degree, it is a remarkable life experience, difficult to forget.