Many graduates view their time at Edinburgh as the formative years of their lives. We share a few of your experiences and updates.
Here we share a few of your experiences and updates. At www.ed.ac.uk/alumni/profiles we publish five alumni profiles each month, where you can read short autobiographies of your fellow Edinburgh graduates dating back more than 70 years. You can also submit your own profile at www.ed.ac.uk/alumni/yournews – we love to hear where your Edinburgh experience has taken you.
BSc Geography 2008
I chose Edinburgh because I knew the city was compact and easy to explore while managing to maintain an incredible international buzz.
Memories of university largely revolve around sport and the University Air Squadron. I decided to take up shinty, a sport I had never played, only to end up in A&E in Freshers’ week, having used my face rather than my stick to tackle someone. I later got stuck in with the University Rugby Team, regularly running out with the 2nd XV. There is nothing quite like training on a January evening down at Peffermill in the driving wind and hail.
ESUAS, the East of Scotland University Air Squadron, provided my most formative experiences. As a reserve in the RAF I was taught to fly (including aerobatics), went on numerous ski trips and had the opportunity to work at the Royal International Tattoo in the Flight Operations Department every summer.
On leaving University I spent a couple of years working for the charity Christians in Sport, something I had begun to get involved with at Edinburgh. Part of my work was in Kampala, Uganda, which was a truly rewarding time.
My commercial flight training began with six months of ground school followed by 14 exams, something I am sure I was only able to complete due to the academic experience I had at Edinburgh.
In January 2013 I was awarded a scholarship by the Honourable Company of Air Pilots; my experiences in Uganda and ESUAS warming me to the interview panel. If it wasn’t for Edinburgh opening me up to these in the first place, who knows whether the outcome would have been the same.
This quickly led to another scholarship from the company I had completed my training with, to train as a flight instructor. I instructed for around a year, longing for that door to open into the airline world. Finally it did: I was offered a job with Ryanair as a first officer.
BEd Physical Education 2009
I absolutely loved my time at University. I met some of my best friends there and 10 years later they are still my best friends. I had my heart set on going to Edinburgh to be a PE teacher since my second year at secondary school.
My course was very sociable and I got to know all 100 people in my year. This made it very easy for me to settle in. I was also part of the Edinburgh University Netball Team which was a great experience that allowed me to meet people who weren’t on my course while developing my skills.
During my summers I had some great experiences including the World Youth Championships in the Cook Islands, a tour to Barbados, Camp America and of course my first holiday with University friends. Without the support of the University I would never have managed to get to the World Youth Championships as they supported me as a bursary athlete.
After leaving university I moved to Glasgow to continue to play netball for Scotland and to start my career as a teacher. For the past five years I have been teaching in secondary schools and have recently moved to Bath to further pursue my netball career. Edinburgh’s Individual Performance Programme enabled me to manage my academic and sporting commitments and helped me get to where I am now.
While at Edinburgh I played for Scottish Universities, British Universities and Scotland under-19s, under-21s and the senior national squad.
These experiences have led to me competing in the Commonwealth Games and World Championships, two highlights of my life.
BA Illustration 2004
When I first came to Edinburgh to find out more about Edinburgh College of Art I was overwhelmed by the city and the college buildings. Luckily ECA is a very friendly place and it didn’t take long to make friends and find my way around.
On our course we worked long hours. I think we were all motivated by each other and we were often in the studio at weekends and into the night, by choice. I was in a fantastic year group and most of us are still in touch.
Many of us went on to work in illustration and design, so we often bump in to each other professionally, which is lovely.
If I had to look back and describe what ECA did for me the word I would think of is “time”. There was time to spend on your ideas, with gentle guidance and a nurturing environment. I really enjoyed my time at ECA, but the main thing for me is that it set up my career. I had been offered a publishing contract before I graduated. I still work with that publisher (among others). I felt I was nurtured rather than told how to succeed and this made the transition to becoming a professional illustrator less daunting – it seemed like a natural progression. The degree formed a perfect platform for my career, and plenty of hard work, very long hours and determination have got me where I am today.
I have written and illustrated 13 books to date, which have been translated into 35 languages, adapted for theatre, animated, read on CBeebies and won awards. I also exhibit my artwork worldwide.
In 2015 I was appointed Illustrator in Residence at Edinburgh Zoo, and in 2016 we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of my first book, Augustus and His Smile (I can hardly believe it).
To celebrate we are having major exhibitions in London and Edinburgh and special anniversary gold books are being released in the UK and US.
BSc Zoology 2007
I originally attended Imperial College, but didn’t enjoy the course or the social life in London. Most people seemed to come and go, treating the university like a sixth form college. I had visited friends in Edinburgh and was really taken with it, so applied to join in my second year.
This scary decision was one of the best I have ever made. The course was superb, and the circle of friends I made were inspiring and enduring.
I didn’t have an easy journey through university, finding it incredibly hard to apply myself academically until relatively late, but the support and encouragement I had from various members of staff was amazing.
After graduating I started work with the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol, which had been my dream since the age of seven. I was a PA to Wendy Darke, now head of the unit, and through her I got my first break editorially, as a researcher on the first series of the children’s wildlife series Deadly 60.
I later joined Icon Films where I worked on films for National Geographic, Discovery, BBC and Animal Planet, directing on The One Show and River Monsters.
More recently, I made a move to London doing a lot of development work in a bid to gain commissions. I directed three hours for ITV with Julian Clary called Nature Nuts and currently am series director at ITV on a new six-part series with Steve Backshall called Fierce.
MSc History 1989
I had been at school in Edinburgh and first grew to love the city then, exploring it first by foot and then by bicycle. As a result I got to know it very well.
My undergraduate degree was at Cambridge but I was attracted to come back to Edinburgh for my postgraduate degree partly by Professor Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones’s course on American Espionage – a subject I had become fascinated by at Cambridge after I helped an author research a biography.
My university experience was slightly different to most students as I had a job in publishing in London and was not a full-time student, but I tried to make the most of the University and the city, particularly enjoying the rich cultural life.
Rhodri and I edited a collection of essays based on the work of my fellow MSc students, North American Spies, and I went on to write several books which required frequent trips to Edinburgh – including The Edinburgh Literary Companion and a life of John Buchan. I also set up an office in Edinburgh for my literary agency, taking on many Scottish authors.
Rhodri became a friend and is now one of my authors, and my interest in spies has continued – my latest book is Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess. My next is a collection of stories set in Edinburgh. My son is even thinking of applying to the University.