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Lingyin Fan

Working with pandas was pivotal in waking Lingyin Fan's desire to learn more about ecosystems. The ecological economics graduate now coordinates with social enterprises to tackle environmental issues through eco-tourism and education.


Lingyin (Lynn) Fan


MSc Ecological Economics

Year of Graduation 2015

Your time at the University  

Lingyin Fan

During my undergrad in China, I was attracted to magic tricks, hoping to be the best magician, until I realised that it was such a male-dominated industry where female magicians were rarely recognised or offered performance opportunities. Failing to overcome this obstacle and stand up for my rights, I left the magician world. Later I was offered an opportunity to work with pandas at a research centre, where I discovered my passion for how our ecosystem worked.

Deciding to follow my passion while still having a dream to be a magician, I chose to pursue my study of Ecological Economics at the University of Edinburgh, where pure magic – Harry Potter – and real magic – Dolly the sheep – were born. The year I spent in Edinburgh equipped me with the essential knowledge needed to work in the sustainability industry, taught me that there were many diversities, and most importantly, reminded me that my voice could be and should be heard.

I kept pushing my limits, I joined an English class half a year before my masters to adapt myself to the local culture, I also insisted on looking for a flat with local people instead of a student dorm. I still remember that I couldn't understand a word from my London flatmate and her friends but I would stand next to the group to listen and practice my English.

With students from 10 countries with different backgrounds, languages, and cultures, we studied and worked together, argued, laughed, and became close friends. Edinburgh is the friendliest place in the world where you can talk to everyone and make lifelong friends. Edinburgh is so small that you almost know everyone, yet Edinburgh is so big that you are always surprised by new discoveries.

​​​​​​​The year I spent in Edinburgh equipped me with the essential knowledge needed to work in the sustainability industry, taught me that there were many diversities, and most importantly, reminded me that my voice could be and should be heard.

Lingyin Fan

Your experiences since leaving the University

During my study trip to South Africa, the locals didn’t warm to me because Chinese poachers went there to kill elephants for ivory. In that moment, I decided to come back to China where urgent environmental actions are needed.

I have been leveraging what I learned at the university and applying it to the situation in China, bridging the gap between academia and reality. I turned down an offer from a Fortune 500 company, joined an international environmental non-governmental organisation, engaged in international and local communities, networked with industry leaders, and hosted dinners to gather like-minded people.

Afterwards, I joined an environmental consulting firm and coordinated with social enterprises to solve environmental issues through eco-tourism and education. Meanwhile, I volunteered at the Nature Conservancy and joined LeanIn, which focuses on women empowerment. As an alumni ambassador, I have strengthened the connection between China and Scotland.

None of those would be possible without my time and experience in Edinburgh, pushing beyond my comfort zones.

Since graduating, there has not been a single minute where haven’t dreamt about coming back to Edinburgh. Magic taught me that no matter how impossible things seemed, we could always find ways to make them happen.

Earlier this year, I was invited by the University of Edinburgh to participate in the Planetary Health Annual Meeting to discuss health and environmental issues with experts from top institutions around the world. When I saw the sign at the airport “Welcome to Edinburgh. It’s good to be home.” I said to myself, “My dream has come true. I am back, Edinburgh!” I told the Uber driver how much I missed Edinburgh, he laughed and decided to not to charge for my trip. I even ran the Edinburgh Marathon with Sam Heughan from Outlander. If those are not magic, then what could possibly be magic?

Alumni Wisdom

As well said on my medal from the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, “Great things never came from comfort zones.” Step out of your comfort zones and you will find magic and surprises all around Edinburgh. Talk to different people, try new things, make new friends, and enjoy every single moment (you have no idea how jealous I am of you being there!) Edinburgh is a place where you can make anything happen and where once you leave you can never stop missing it.

Related Links

MSc Ecological Economics

Alumni community in Asia and the Pacific region