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I bought my first house in rural Scotland at 22. Housing is affordable in the countryside and I love it here.

Gouri Sharma   

I bought my first house in rural Scotland at 22. Housing is affordable in the countryside and I love it here.
  • Simran Kaur is a 22-year-old tax associate at PwC who moved from India to Scotland when she was 18.
  • She bought a house in the Scottish countryside after graduating from university in Glasgow.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Simran Kaur, a 22 year-old tax associate living in Kilmarnock, Scotland. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I moved to Scotland from Punjab, North India, in 2019. I was 18 years old and stayed with my relatives while I studied accountancy at Glasgow University.

When I first moved from Punjab, I worried about making friends and communicating across the language barrier. But thankfully, that worry eased very early on. No one laughed at my accent or how I dressed which gave me confidence.

I remember having issues with which side of the road to get buses from, but strangers would often help. Scottish friendliness is one of the perks of living here. The weather is debatable, though.

I came to Scotland without a set plan for my future. Four years later, I've graduated, landed a good job at an internationally renowned firm and bought my first house here.

I started looking for a job and a house at the same time

I started looking for a job during my final year and around the same time, there was talk of my sister joining me to pursue her further studies.

Initially, I thought it would be nice for us to rent a place together in Glasgow, but my family suggested it would be worth looking at the mortgage possibilities for a foreigner. So, I started looking into both my home and job options.

Working and living with relatives helped me save money during my studies

Working and saving during my university years meant I had enough savings to consider buying a house. I worked 20 hours a week during term time, the legal limit for students on a study visa, and 40 hours during holidays. I worked at a Chinese restaurant at one point and McDonald's, where I got promoted to be a trainer.

During my fourth and final year, I wasn't sure of my next steps, so I stopped spending money on things I didn't need, like clothes, and started saving.

As a student, I was exempt from paying council tax and didn't have to spend money on rent because I lived with relatives. This helped me save.

By the time I graduated, I had saved £10,000.

The application process for accountancy firms was tough

I applied to three companies, including Ernst and Young and PWC, and it took around three months to pass all the different tests. The process was lengthy, and I had to find a company willing to sponsor me, but I progressed with PWC.

The interview was difficult — I had to show my knowledge of the field, confidence, and friendliness. But it was worth it. I landed my role as a tax associate and started last September on a three-year contract right out of university.

I needed a loan to buy my first house

It was quite challenging to find a bank that would lend to me since I wasn't a UK citizen, but other than that, buying the house as a first-time buyer was a simple process.

I hired a lawyer to help with the process. Given how much work she did, I think her fee was reasonable, and I paid her after I was two months into my job, which was helpful.

I was looking for an area where I could reach my work and relatives easily. My search took me to Motherwell, Prestwick, and Glasgow, which was particularly expensive. Ultimately, I found a lovely three-bedroom house in Kilmarnock, a town an hour away from Glasgow, which my sister and I moved into in December.

I chose Kilmarnock because house prices are affordable, and it is easy to commute to work and reach my relatives.

Once I'd found a bank, I could cover 90% with the mortgage and 10% through the deposit. The total deposit was around £12,000. I contributed 9% of the deposit, and my dad gave the final 1%.

I love living in the Scottish countryside, but I don't know if I'll stay forever

I'm glad I worked and saved during university because I love where I live now and don't feel like I missed out on anything. I'm more of a countryside person and enjoy seeing the mountains from my window when I wake up.

If I had more money, I would move to Loch Lomond, in southern Scotland, which has more beautiful scenery.

I'm not sure what I will do after my contract finishes and whether a move to another country is on the horizon. But I would highly recommend the quality of life in Scotland, especially the countryside — it has a quieter pace of life than in Glasgow, which I prefer, and there's a good balance between work and your social life.

It's possible to make a life for yourself here with proper planning

Moving to a different country is a huge decision, and it's very costly, so it's good to have some money before moving as it may take a few months to find a job.

Rather than spending on things you don't need, it's better to save. You have to ask yourself questions like what you need in your life and what you want to achieve.

I was lucky as an international student to have relatives to stay with, but for those who don't have that option, it's still possible to make a life for yourself in Scotland. It just requires proper planning.

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