A FORMER Carrick Academy pupil met with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in China as she announced the expansion of a scholarship programme between the two countries.

Calum MacDonald, pictured at the front of the group and with the First Minister, is one of a group of students currently studying in Beijing.

As previously featured in the Ayr Advertiser, he travelled to the Far East last August.

Calum, 18, texted Advertiser Maybole correspondent David Kiltie to say: “I’ve been in China for seven months now, and it’s been seven of the best months of my life.

“I’ve had so many opportunities to meet so many cool people, likefriends from all over the world, the Mayor of Tianjin, culminating in today meeting Nicola Sturgeon (she’s very nice by the way).

“It goes to show, anything  can be achieved with a bit of hard work.”
His mum, Helen, added, “I cannot tell you how amazing this has been for him. He has been to a St Andrew’s Ball in Beijing, a civic dinner with the Mayor of Tianjin, met Chinese Olympic athletes, climbed the Great Wall, visited Harbin ice festival and lots more.

“I’d encourage more young people to apply for these incredible scholarships. They are life changing and shaping experiences.”

The high profile meeting between the South Ayrshire teenager and the delegation from the Scottish Government came as they announced an investment of £754,000 in the work of the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS).

On her first day of her visit to China, the First Minister learned how the scheme has helped to build links between young people in both countries, improving language skills and widening horizons for those taking part.

Applications for the programme are open to sixth year pupils in Confucius Classroom Hubs around Scotland. So far 70 Scottish students have been awarded scholarships.

The First Minister said:“Scotland and China have longstanding links which we want to strengthen and one of the most important ways in which we can do that is through education.

“The work of the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s schools has helped to engage more of our young people in learning about the culture, history and language of China, through the growing network of Confucius Classrooms.

“It was fascinating to meet some of the current Confucius scholars – including two pupils from my former school - and hear about their experiences in China.”