Alex Orpin

MA Religious Studies

Alex Orpin 2012

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your current career 

I am a charity worker living in London and love working for organisations where I feel passionate about the cause.

Upon graduating from Edinburgh I took an internship in London with an interfaith NGO named 3FF, it matched perfectly with my degree interest and the internship thankfully turned into a job after 5 weeks. My role was to run a political leadership programme for university students from diverse faith and non-faith backgrounds and arrange for them to be mentored by MPs. This was to open doors and political networks to young people and to encourage a greater diversity amongst our political representatives. When building an Alumni network for this scheme I was pleased to see so many ethnic minorities had managed to get political positions in local and central government upon graduating from the programme. I stayed in this job for two years and got to meet countless MPs and visit the Houses of Parliament on a regular basis.

My current role is also based in London but at an education charity; English-Speaking Union. This organisation works in schools and universities across the world offering speech and debate competitions and cultural exchanges. I am responsible for the Alumni, which is everyone who has ever participated in one of our programmes. My job is to connect with them and get them back involved with the charity through volunteering. The Alumni network is huge as our charity has been running for nearly one hundred years now, it was set up in 1918 as a post WW1 initiative to encourage communication across the globe instead of conflict. I get to visit schools and universities, judge competitions, host networking events and meet interesting people.


Why did you choose to attend the University of Edinburgh and the subject with which you graduated?

I chose Edinburgh due to its prestige as a university, it being a great and vibrant city and the range of courses offered within my degree. I also liked the Scottish education system where you could study subjects outside of your degree, and the fact that it was 4 years meant you could study abroad in your third year and not make your degree longer (instead of coming home to find all your friends have graduated), so I studied in the Netherlands for a semester.


What did you enjoy most about your subject?

The small classes, hanging out in Rainy Hall and having our own library and computer labs- Divinity School was its own little community! Tutors were very open to you meeting with them to discuss your essay and were very friendly and approachable.


What specific skills did you develop whilst attending the University of Edinburgh?

Presentation skills from tutorials, research, the ability to analyse and to see other people’s point of view. I also had the opportunity to help out at an academic conference about peacekeeping in Bosnia which was really fascinating and a good insight into the logistics of how conferences worked, plus I learnt how to take minutes.


Why would you recommend your subject to other students?

Religious Studies at Edinburgh was amazing. I liked the diversity of courses we could study and the fact they were properly organised i.e. instead of 500 students in lecture theatres and crowded tutorials with ‘group presentations’, there were 40 students in a lecture and about ten in a tutorial with weekly assignments so you couldn’t escape not doing the reading! This also meant the students had a good rapport with the tutors and with each other.

We were also taught not just from texts but how religion is represented in art, economical theories, literature, Hollywood films and comics which truly opened my mind and improved my analytical skills.

The subject itself gave me a greater understanding about the world, and as an adult I can open a newspaper and I can understand global events from different cultural perspectives. I can discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict, the genocide in Bosnia, ethical approaches to the economy and colonial approaches to the developing world at length. It truly is a subject that affects how you view the world.


How did your experience at Edinburgh help you get where you are today?

My degree subject definitely helped me get my first job as it was in the interfaith field.

I met all my best friends at Edinburgh, and I met a huge diversity of people from around the world which helped me become who I am today.