Skip to main content
Farah Sami Barham
Studying at ECA gave Farah the opportunity to build on the knowledge she had previously acquired in her career as an architect.

Upon graduating she had planned to pursue her dream career as a teacher but utilising her newfound knowledge and experiences from her time at ECA, Farah has been working on an initiative to create a platform for Palestinian designers who have the talent but lack the resources and an organising body to achieve their potential. Farah has also begun teaching at the Arab American University in Palestine.

Why I chose to study an MA at ECA

I chose to do my master’s degree at Edinburgh College of art for several reasons. The first was the magic of living in a city like Edinburgh. The greatest attribute of living in Edinburgh for me was the fact that I could walk the same streets for a little over a year and continue to be mesmerized each time. The great heritage of the city itself was for me, as an architect, a major factor in making my decision.

As for the college, it was never a question about the quality of teaching or the education itself. It has been the best experience attending such a legendary college, with a remarkable history.

The University of Edinburgh was among the first universities established in Scotland, a country us Palestinians hold very dear. With the amazing staff of educators behind it, there is no better programme than the one it offers.

My time at ECA

My time at ECA was full of wonderful moments, sometimes it was hard; however, each moment was enriching in a variety of ways.

I was part of a cohort from all different parts of the world, with colleagues from Kenya and China. Our diversity was enriching for both my university education and the opportunity to learn about different cultures. We are still friends today and what they have added to my life cannot be taught in schools or universities. We all learnt about each other’s lives, the challenges our countries face, and the challenges we face as individuals. The studios of ECA were designed in a way that allowed us to meet colleagues from other design departments too, allowing us to grow with each other and learn more about the differences we have and the many similarities we share, letting us become part of this vast world.

During my time at ECA, alongside my colleagues, I participated in many collaborative projects as part of my MA degree. The programme was designed in a way that allowed for a variety of perspectives, there was no space or place for one-dimensional or narrow approaches.

For our final semester and for our thesis project we had various tasks to complete, all of which presented a new and exciting challenge. Among these tasks, we were asked to design and curate an exhibition for our college in the annual Interior Educators exhibition in London. The challenge was to design a sustainable, reusable exhibition for our allocated space, take it by public transportation to London, and to assemble and dissemble it ourselves. It was a challenge but we all successfully completed it.

The whole year was challenging, and the stress levels varied during the three semesters. Once I understood how to balance my workload, I was able to enjoy my time in Edinburgh, and everything became easier. If I could start again, I would do everything the same, but I would keep reminding myself that the difficult times will end soon, so I might as well enjoy it and feel less anxious during the last semester at least. I would also allow for more time to travel in the UK to learn more about the country and its diverse culture, possibly meet new people and expand my social network(s).

"Upon graduating from the programme, charged with a huge amount of positive energy, skills, knowledge, and connections I was able to move forward and pursue my dreams."

Farah Sami Barham

Interior, Architectural and Spatial Design - MA alumna

My experiences since graduating

Leaving Edinburgh was difficult. I consider it to have been one of the best years of my life, which made it very hard when I had to leave. Upon graduating from the programme, charged with a huge amount of positive energy, skills, knowledge, and connections I was able to move forward and pursue my dreams. Prior to moving to Edinburgh, I was an architect in my home country of Palestine. Throughout my career as an architect, I felt that teaching was what I wanted to do, as I believe that through education, we can make a really positive change on the next generation.

Upon finishing my studies at ECA, my plans changed drastically, and I returned to Palestine and started working on an initiative for designers. My initiative was to create a platform for Palestinian designers who have the talent but lack the resources and an organising body to achieve their potential. I soon realised that there needs to be an umbrella under which their work can be promoted in the art world.

I have also been pursuing art as a new passion and cooperating with artists in my country in curating exhibitions and installation works.

Still, I will never forgot about my initial passion: teaching. And I have started teaching at the Arab American University in Palestine, where I have been able to implement new teaching methods with my colleagues in an interior architecture programme in partnership with Verona College of Arts – Italy.

I believe this has all happened because of my MA at ECA, it opened new avenues for me, not only in my career, but in perspectives of the world. ECA gave me the motivation and the will to embark upon new challenges without fear. Covid-19 has been a major challenge for my further plans, however I believe everything will start blossoming again once this difficult phase has passed.

My advice to new and current students

For those starting the programme in September, I would say that beginning an MA programme at any university can feel overwhelming. An MA is a challenge in many ways, but for me the key was to focus on my experiences as well as excelling academically. To be able to engage with the experience academically and socially, time management is of primary importance. The first semester might feel difficult and challenging, but once you understand how to manoeuvre your life around the course, it will start feeling easier. Enjoy the challenge, face it head on, it’s the only way to grow. So, prepare yourself for a year full of new experiences both academically and socially. The University of Edinburgh is one of the best universities in the UK, and an amazing place to begin this new journey.

Upon graduating, the opportunities are endless. Make use of your time at university to make connections around the UK and the rest of the world. Once you get your degree, life begins to look different and various new fields are waiting for you to explore. The journey does not stop once you have your degree, keep in contact with your colleagues, supervisors and lecturers; these relationships will last and will enrich your life.

Related people

Associated programmes