Want to pick your family and move across the globe? Alison did! This is the story of Alison, her family, and their move to Scotland. This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things.
Hi, I am Alison Chino and I am a 40 year old writer/blogger from Arkansas, where I spent most of my days at home in the kitchen, keeping the cast iron hot and the soup pot full, because pretty soon four kids would be barreling through the door and friends were probably coming for dinner. I love a quiet afternoon with only my notebook and pen for company and I love to sit around the table with family and friends long into the evening until the last of the wine has been poured.
My husband of almost 20 years and I have four kids, ages 16, 14, 12, and 7. My fourteen year-old is my only girl and she is great company on most days. She and I love to get a weekend away together, and once we even sailed the Mediterranean for two weeks alone. But usually we are right there amidst the boys, jumping across creeks and climbing trees. We spend most of our family vacations and weekends in the woods, hiking and camping.
For years, my husband has dreamed of getting a PhD in theology, and the university programs in Scotland have been turning out world class theologians for centuries. A year ago, he finally decided to apply, turning dream into reality.
Once my husband was accepted as a student to the University of Aberdeen, we just felt like we were supposed to pursue getting here until we either made it over or until all possible doors were closed on us. He applied for a student visa, and the rest of us were able to apply for visas attached to his. We renewed the kids’ passports and set about downsizing from a three bedroom house to three suitcases each. There was nothing easy about it, but we were guided all the way by a sense that this was just the next step we were meant to take in our lives.
Our decision was met with varying levels of excitement and disbelief, but even those who were really sad about our leaving have been happy that we were able to do something that we’ve dreamed about for a long time. In the end, our friends and family joined in and helped with the expense of getting us here, which has made us feel so very loved.
There have been lots of logistical challenges like adjusting to a much higher cost of living and sharing rooms (and beds), but the hardest days are when one of us is really missing someone from home. However, it has been amazing how getting to talk to a cousin or a friend from home on the iPad can cheer you up and make you feel connected again. Technology has changed being far away so much, and though our teenagers pretty much feel like we ripped their hearts out by moving them away from their friends, they are still able to communicate on a daily basis with folks from home. Of course the double edged sword of social media also means that they see everything that they are missing. It’s hard to remember that Homecoming always looks more fun on Facebook than it actually is.
One thing that has been both a struggle and a joy is that for our first months here, we have only had each other to hang out with. On some days, this just means that I am breaking up a lot of fights in a small apartment, but on others, I get a glimpse of how this experience is making us closer as a family. We are spending more time together than we have in a long time. I expect this will change as we all make more friends over the next year, but for now, I am trying to embrace the togetherness.
Of course, we have been blown away by how beautiful Scotland is and we are learning to explore our newly adopted home country, no matter what the weather is. And again, since we have fewer social ties and commitments, we have been free to head for the hills of the Highlands at every possible opportunity. When we are hiking over a pass or through an old growth forest, my husband will look at me and say, “We live in Scotland!” It’s like we have to remind ourselves that it is real.
Our visa is for three years, and that is how long the PhD should take as well.
Go for it. I know that sounds really simple, but living abroad is something that anyone who does not mind a big shake up can do. Obviously, it would be a good bit cheaper to look for a job and go on a working visa rather than a student one, but either way, a lot of perseverance will get the end result of living outside your home country for a season. We have talked a lot at our house about how in order to make something big happen, you kind of have to get obsessed. So start obsessing. And then start downsizing and saving money.
Thanks so much for sharing, Alison! How many of your guys have moved abroad? I lived in Taiwan for a year and a half teaching English and in New Zealand for a year and a half for graduate school.top photo by whitney loibner