Quinn Simpson fell for Scotland during a trip from her native Canada to Port Glasgow, her father's birthplace, and remembers the life changing volunteer work she did alongside her studies.
MA Sociology and Social Anthropology
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Your time at the University
When applying for university, I was certain I would go to The University of Edinburgh. My father was born in Port Glasgow, my cousin had attended from 1998-2002, and I was looking for an adventure. That meant my UCAS application, namely personal statement, was geared for me to get in to Edinburgh over any other university. These were the opening lines, “For me, summer 1999 ended with a twelve-day family trip to my father’s birthplace, Scotland. I knew the trip was going to be the experience of a lifetime, but I never thought I would become as attached as I did. The moment the plane landed, I knew that my place in life is in the United Kingdom. To some, twelve days may seem like a long time; but twelve days is merely a glimpse. I was captivated by the United Kingdom’s energy and culture and can only hope that I will have the opportunity to spend four years of my life studying in what I call my second home.”
And, so I did. I spent four years in a radically new culture, with accents I didn’t know existed. Studying Sociology and Social Anthropology led me to form a new lens of curiosity and wonder. With my Canadian born eyes and experiences, I now had language and perspective from my course of study to analyse and interpret social and cultural situations.
Several experiences during my time at Edinburgh changed my life. The most notable was volunteering with a charity called Homelink. Enrolled in Social Work for my first and second year, I was given the opportunity to learn about the social system of the UK first hand. The course offered experiential learning opportunities through volunteering in our own time, which led me to be matched with a family that lived outside of the city in a council estate. What I learned during this time will never be forgotten and propels me every single day of my life to do the work that I do. The children of the matched family were being brought up in an unhealthy environment at home, school and their community. It felt as though there was nothing that I could do to help them.
As an alumnus, my advice is to study what you are most curious about and constantly ask yourself 'What interests me?'
Throughout my time at Edinburgh, I thought a lot about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Most of my summers were spent writing a self-help book until I decided to write my dissertation about them. Through my research, I realised that young women, my target, didn’t want to read self-help books as much as I had, or as much as I wanted them to. As a result, I found a new career path of being a Life Coach, which was what my findings pointed to. I can attribute where I am now to those key findings.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
After graduating, I went on to become a certified life coach and trainer. I then used this training to start a charity in 2008 called Akosia that continues to run creative filmmaking projects with children in Accra, Ghana. Past projects have been in Mexico, Israel and through a partnership at with Project Mongolia (an Edinburgh University Society); we also ran projects in Mongolia for a couple of years too. Akosia ran it’s 8th project this summer in Accra with 25 children all supported by local Ghanaian volunteers.
In 2011, I co-founded an organisation called Graydin that collaborates with schools to train teachers, students and others to use coaching skills. We believe every teacher can coach and so far have worked with 70+ schools and universities, including Wellington College, Latymer Upper School, London South Bank University (LSBU), Rugby School and through the London Schools Excellence Fund we worked with 30 primary and secondary state schools in London. What is unique about our work is that we focus on culture change, and a systems approach with the organisations. This understanding of social dynamics and cultural contexts came from my time at Edinburgh and shows up in my day-to-day work.
Whilst culture change through training teachers in coaching skills is a huge focus of our work, Whilst culture change through training teachers in coaching skills is a huge focus of our work, we also have a wellbeing and personal development programme called The BE Programme, which is piloting in LSBU’s School of Business.
As a coach, my advice is to ask more questions – of yourself, of what you read, of your life, and of the world. As an alumnus, my advice is to study what you are most curious about and constantly ask yourself 'What interests me?' Following my own curious brain and the random things that have interested me led me into running a charity and a company at the same time since I graduated. I use what I learned at The University of Edinburgh nearly every single day, few people get to say that, and it’s not because I “got lucky”; I followed my instinct, my interest, my curiosity and I made a choice. You can too.