Two schoolgirls are swapping the east end of Glasgow for the Far East after winning scholarships to study at university in China.
Jodi Carr and Maya Hemphill, who have been friends since they were seven, have each secured £5,000 grants to study Mandarin.
The girls, pupils at Lochend High School in Easterhouse, landed the coveted places after passing an exam in Mandarin.
The teenagers beat off stiff competition from almost 500 others to win the scholarships and will study at the Tianjin Foreign Studies University.
Only 22 scholarships were awarded to the 500 Scots pupils who applied through a controversial Scottish Government link with China, the Confucius Institute for Scottish Schools.
It has attracted criticism because of China’s poor record on human rights and warnings from security experts that the Beijing government is attempting to secure footholds in Western institutions through funding research and academic links.
The teenagers first met at primary school in the east end.
Jodi, 18, is deferring a chance to study psychology at Strathclyde University to take the place while Maya is putting on hold her place to study business at the university’s Business school
Jodi said: “It’s the chance of a lifetime to study in China. It’s something no one in my family has ever had the chance to do.
“Hopefully we will be setting a trend for others in our area to follow.”
Maya says they hope to keep in touch with their families through the Chinese messaging service WeChat.
“We will keep them updated constantly on our 10-month stay,” said Maya.
“With any luck we will be able to Skype and chat to them in person,” said Jodi.
The teenagers learned Mandarin during a placement at a high school in the Dutch city of Huissen when they were 15 followed by classes at Strathclyde University and school.
Strathclyde has an ongoing school link with Chinese universities.
“The Mandarin exam wasn’t easy. Dictionaries were banned and we were expected to be fluent,” Jodi added.
Jodi has already studied German and French at Lochend Secondary.
The housing scheme where the girls live has ongoing challenges with unemployment, poverty and life expectancy among the worst in western Europe, but Lochend High is working to improve life chances for pupils.
“Our school is near the bottom of the exam league table but that’s changing fast,” said Maya, 18.
“Don’t write us off! We are both thrilled to win the scholarships.”
The girls need to raise £5,000 to help cover the cost of the trip and have taken summer jobs, held home baking sales and done bag packing at supermarkets.
“Like many families, mine gets by through living on a tight budget so it’s been hard work raising the money,” said Jodi.
They leave for China in September.
“We are the first pupils to go from Lochend so, hopefully, others will be inspired to do the same,” Maya added.
Fhiona Fisher, director of Strathclyde University’s Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Jodi and Maya were successful in what was an extremely competitive interview process against fierce competition from young people from all over the country.
“Both these young women are a credit to their families, school and the Easterhouse community.”
The language scheme is run through a partnership with the Scottish Government and Tianjin Municipal Education Commission.