Student Kirsty on cultural exchange to China

Kirsty on the Great Wall of China
Kirsty on the Great Wall of China

By Andy Grozier

An adventurous student has been clocking up the air miles by mixing her dedication to research with a passion for travel.

Kirsty Ainsworth is currently studying for a PhD a the University of Glasgow and recently returned from a three week ‘cultural exchange’ to China.

She jumped at the chance to join the trip, which was organised through the Confucius Institute at the university.

It’s just the latest exotic destination Kirsty has travelled to in recent years - with her research taking her to a variety of distant shores.

Starting her PhD in 2012, Kirsty has focused her work on autism and has grown ever more interested in her chosen subject.

She said: “The more I have learned about the disorder the more I have realised there is still so much to learn. In the research world they refer to autism as an ‘enigma’, in that there is currently no known cause, no known cure and the disorder presents itself differently for each individual”.

The student’s efforts made headlines when Kirsty was the first to volunteer for a ground-breaking mentor programme, ‘Moving Forward’, organised by the National Autistic Society (NAS) in 2011. She is very much still involved in the project.

Kirsty said: “I have been volunteering for three years as a one-to-one mentor and that experience has been invaluable to help me learn about what it’s like to have autism.

“A rule of thumb in the world of autism is that once you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism. Each person is different from the last and will have their own personal struggles.”

Since 2012 Kirsty’s research has taken her to conferences amongst the beautiful buildings of Bremen, Germany, the shimmering skyscrapers of Atlanta, Georgia, (USA) and the incredible natural surroundings of Vancouver Island, Canada. While the chance to travel with her research was at first unexpected, she says that it has demonstrated the importance of international collaboration on research.

Her latest exchange in China only added to this belief.

She said: “The exchange gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in Chinese culture, which for me was an invaluable experience because research depends so much on collaborations across different nations”.

But it wasn’t all work for the Bishopbriggs girl and getting to sample some traditional foods was a highlight – although the cold ducks feet and scorpions didn’t impress.

Getting to cross off such incredible sights as the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City from the list of sights to see in the world was an incredible opportunity, as was getting to meet many new and interesting people.

She even managed to get to grips with some basic Mandarin, although admits that she didn’t get far past ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’.