Dear Small Town Gal Who Is Dreaming of Life in Foreign Places,

Written by Katie Ann Henderson

Growing up in a small town is rough. You are never just your name, you are always related to somebody else. You bump into your teacher at the grocery store and babysit your preacher’s grandchildren. I grew up in a small drinking town with a fishing problem. I found joy in friendships, school involvement, and performance arts. However, I still never felt like it was for me. My heart wanted to be amongst the hustle and bustle of big cities, or at least just places that stayed open past 9 pm.

When I was 17 I had big hopes that college would be my ticket out of Texas. I dreamed of a coastline that overlooked an ocean and not the Gulf of Mexico. But I ended up in the middle of the Lone Star State. I was lucky enough to attend the University of Texas at Austin for four years. I loved a lot about my college experience. I met wonderful humans, ate delicious food, and found out more about my own personal identity. But, I could still drive home in 3.5 hours. Austin was bigger than my hometown but it still had a history of family members and expectations laid out for me. I never felt like I could make big mistakes or have crazy nights on the town in fear of letting down my family or breaking organizations rules. A bigger city didn’t really mean I was free of limits and expectations. I was always the girl who had a plan and timeline for life. About my junior year I panicked, I didn’t like the plan I had made for myself. I changed my major, changed my dream job, and thus threw away any sense of direction. In a panic to answer the question, “What are your post-grad plans?” I filled out an application for a gap year program. Several interviews and personal statements later I found myself saying I was moving to Glasgow, Scotland.

After forcing a years worth of clothing options into two suitcases I boarded a plane to move to a city with three strangers. If you were curious, Scotland is not at all Texas. After nine months of finding my way around the city, meeting new people, and eating all the potato products I have found ways to make this new city a home. I miss some things about Texas, mainly the tortilla usage and my family but dang my heart has found a home. Moving to a new country hasn’t come without struggles, tears, panic attacks, and urges to buy that one-way ticket back home. I want to scream at my flatmates some days for not understanding my need for tidiness. I come home from work often so exhausted from translating the Glaswegian accents all day. I’ve cried on the phone to my mom at 1 am because time zones throw a wrench into mental health stability. But the struggles of the move all seem worth it to me. I am learning so much about who I am as an individual and what is important to me because I am so removed from all comforts. Moving to a new country is like jumping into the deep end of a pool. Refreshing as hell if you know how to swim, but panic-inducing if you aren’t willing to figure out how to float.  

I don’t think everyone needs to move to Scotland to figure out who they are but I do think we should all find a way to be so out of our comfort zone that we just gotta figure it out. Moving can be an easy way to accomplish this, but so can changing your career path, starting new relationships, changing your diet, or even cutting your hair. Shake up your life and disregard expectations of yourself. You deserve to be an individual even if the process if messy and maybe even heartbreaking. But also don’t forget to call home and tell your mom you love her.

The gal who is still defining home

Photo by Chelsea Francis

Photo by Chelsea Francis

Katie Ann is a South Texas gal living in Glasgow, Scotland. Her days are spent working in the 3rd sector doing everything from event planning, youth work, to gardening. Her weekends are consumed with coffee shop hopping and open mic nights. She wear a lot of stripes and eat a lot of queso (when it can be found in the UK). Overall she is just looking out for human kindness.

Chelsea Francis