Chinos To Scotland, Travel Photos, Family and Vintage Suitcases

Reflections on Moving Abroad: The Hard Stuff

One Year Ago, Chinos To Scotland

Summer 2013

One Year Later

Summer 2014

When we told people that we were moving to Scotland, for the most part the responses fell into two general categories.

1. That sounds crazy!

2. That sounds dreamy!

And you know what, both of these descriptions are spot on.

Moving abroad is crazy AND it’s a dream come true. At the same time.

Like many life experiences, living in a new country is hard and amazing.

My life strategy of trying to find the beauty in the world has helped me (for the most part) to look on the bright side of our first year abroad as a family, but I would be lying if I never mentioned that there are some really hard things about facing two more years here in Aberdeen. I really try to stay away from negativity in general, and especially on this blog because it is my “happy place,” but I want to try to strike a balance of remembering our first year in Aberdeen as it truly was.

So as I look back on our first year, I want to share how God has richly blessed us with new experiences and places to live and dear friends. When I think about all that we have gotten to see, I am just dumbstruck with wonder. But before I post the “LOOK AT EVERYTHING WE GOT TO DO IN ONE YEAR” list, I thought I would list some of the things that have been hard about moving abroad, and more specifically, to Aberdeen.

Hard Stuff about Moving Abroad:

1. Schools

You know how people say that children are resilient and flexible and they will benefit from being thrown into new situations and new cultures. Yep, that stuff is totally true. But the part that we might not mention is that making those adjustments to new schools, systems and cultures is really hard.

Without divulging too much of their personal journeys, I will just say that each one of my kids faced some serious challenges in our local Scottish schools. Collectively, between the four of them, they were bullied and cyber-bullied, were hit and kicked, failed courses, felt completely alone, skipped lunch to hide in the library and missed opportunities because of cultural and even language barriers.

I don’t want to make them sound like victims. It’s just that it has taken us our entire first year to figure some things out about the way the systems work. They also (again collectively) made friends from all over the world, learned the history of a new country and continent, earned awards for being top students, learned new languages and new sports and (I think maybe) have a new appreciation for each other.

I’m incredibly proud of all four of them and I believe that this move has been good for them. But there is a little place inside of my heart that twinges and makes me tear up when I think of all we’ve put them through in the last year. And as they reluctantly head back to school this week, I hope desperately that this year will be brighter.

2. Money

I have mentioned once or twice that it is quite expensive to live in the UK, even more so in Aberdeen. We have watched the dollar decline slowly in value all year. Filling up our gas (petrol) tank costs us roughly $200. A trip to the grocery store for about a week is around $300. A return bus ticket in Aberdeen is $5 and for the six of us to eat out at a casual restaurant is between $80-$100.  We try not to eat out and we eat a lot of lentils and rice.

Still, when we gasp at how much things cost, we have to acknowledge in the same breath that we have had everything we need. And more. We have a place to live and a van that holds all six of us. We have food to eat plus we have Europe on our doorstep.

Every month is a new journey of faith in figuring out how we are going to make it all work, and in fact, most of the time it does not look like it is going to work at all, but we have been provided for all year long. I keep reminding myself of this staggering truth as September and a new round of tuition payments looms around the corner.

3. Family and Friends

Before coming to Scotland, we lived for over ten years in Arkansas in a close community of family and friends. We were so loved. And we loved so much. Those kinds of relationships and circles of people who love you and who even love your kids do not come easy.

We have the beginnings of what I believe will be life long relationships here in Scotland for which I am truly thankful, and we’ve also been blessed with the visits of many dearly loved ones. I’m encouraged by both and relieved that as we start year two here in Aberdeen, that we are in a place of nurturing friendships already made instead of starting all over relationally like we did a year ago. We’re also super encouraged by the fact that we’re going home for Christmas this year!

4. Weather

Ok, now I’m just being petty. I know, I know. I might as well list not having a dryer or Tiny Oven as hardships as well. Or not having access to corn tortillas and real Mexican food. (The Struggle!) But sometimes it’s the little things that are the hardest. I feel a heaviness in my heart when I start to think about what time the sun is going to set in November. It’s almost like I’m dreading it more because I know it’s coming.

But the knowledge of how very dark it is in the winter in Aberdeen has made me so grateful for summer’s light. I have spent every possible minute outside that I could.

And as the rain falls even as I type this, I am thankful that I have learned the art of getting outside regardless of the weather and that I have acquired some waterproof pants.

I’m also thankful that I have learned how to fix lentils about twenty different ways and I am undaunted by another winter of beans and rice.

However, I’m not sure I can go another year without a dryer.

Still, it is strange how when I look back and think about the darker parts of the last year, I truly am grateful for them. Because probably even more than the sunny holidays, they are the ways in which I have seen God. He has shown us again and again that we are not alone.

We are not abandoned to aimlessly wander a new place, but rather to wonder at how He leads us along every step of the way on this crazy + dreamy journey!


  1. Fabulous post! You spoke to so much of what is in my heart as we start our second year in Aberdeen with our 3 boys. It’s the hardest and the most exciting thing we have ever done, in all ways. And I find that when we look for how God has blessed us we find the rays of light!!

    1. It’s so great to hear that someone else relates Tami! Thank you for saying so. I hope your second year is full of wonderful! 🙂

  2. Right on! I think all of us expats face the same basic struggles no matter where we are. I live in China but my list of difficulties is about the same – except we have corn tortillas and al the fixins! Tell those Scots to get on it, they don’t know what they’re missing!

    1. That is so true Zhou. It always makes me feel better to talk to another expat. Recently a friend of mine who has been abroad for six years was able to really affirm that we are totally “normal” and actually right on track for year one of being abroad.

  3. This is a great post! And I don’t think the weather is a small matter. Seriously, the struggle is real to find a silver lining with the weather here (Edinburgh). I hope your kids have a better year this year!

  4. You give peace and hopefulness.

  5. I promise, the second winter is much easier than the first. You know the dark is coming, but you also know how quickly it starts to get light again. Celebrating Christmas right at the peak of the darkest season brings a whole new meaning to “a light to lighten the darkness” that isn’t nearly as obvious at US latitudes!

    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement! I think you’re right!

  6. Brilliant post! So glad to finally see someone writing for the hard stuff when living abroad! I’m planning on moving overseas next year and I needed something like this to help me in my decision. Thanks!

  7. We’re trying to decide whether to move our family of four to study in aberdeen…would love to chat of you want to send me an email!

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