An Edinburgher in Wisconsin

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 Stuart Gilgannon became a self-employed lawyer after 

 moving to the USA on a "soccer" scolarship

 

1)  Where did you grow up and at what age did you leave Scotland?

I was born in Stirling where my parents both attended University, but I was raised in Edinburgh from the age of 2. I lived in a couple of different areas of Edinburgh as a child, but spent the majority of my childhood living in the Forrester Park area and attended Forrester High School.

I left Scotland for the United States in 1999 shortly after turning 17.

 

2) Why did you leave Scotland?

Sometime in Secondary School, I had found out about an agency offering opportunities to pursue athletic scholarships at Colleges and Universities in the United States. I knew that I needed to pursue some form of higher education in order to maximise my academic abilities and give myself better career options.

However, as a young, somewhat rebellious 17 year-old my motivation levels were not particularly high when it came to sticking in at school and obtaining the necessary Highers for entry into Scottish Universities. Coming to the United States on a “soccer” scholarship allowed me to wholeheartedly pursue two of my strongest passions – football and travelling – while working towards a quality University education. 

 

3) What is your job/sector and how many countries have you lived in?

I am self-employed as a lawyer here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I offer a full range of services concerning both family-based and business-based immigration to the United States.

I understand from personal experience that life can present circumstances and opportunities that call for an extended stay in countries such as the United States.

I especially enjoy offering advice to fellow Scots and helping those who are going through a similar experience to that of my own following marriage to a United States citizen. 

The United States is the only other country I have lived in apart from Scotland, although my studies have taken me to Georgia, Pennsylvania, and finally Wisconsin where I am now settled with my wife and two children in the Milwaukee area.

 

4) Do you sometimes visit bonny Scotland? If yes, how often?

I definitely make it back as frequently as I can, particularly now that I have two children that I would like to expose to their father’s culture as much as possible.

We usually make it over there at least once every two years, and just recently returned from a visit in May of this year. 

 

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5) Do you celebrate Burns night?

I must admit that I have never really celebrated Burns night too much, other than my memories of having a special Burns supper each year in Primary School!

I am ashamed to say that I don’t even know what time of the year Burns night falls on. As my children get older, we definitely try to commemorate things like St. Andrew’s day just to remind them where the other half of the family comes from. 

 

6) Has living abroad changed the way you think about Scotland?

I think living in another country helps you better understand why so many tourists from around the world flock to Scotland each year. When you grow up in a place like Edinburgh, a bus trip along Princes Street or around Arthur’s Seat just becomes part of your daily routine.

Living in a completely different environment definitely allows you to appreciate how fortunate you were to be exposed to such stunning architecture and landscapes on a day-to-day basis.

Living in a country the size of America also reminds you what a wee country Scotland truly is.  After spending 9 hours on a bus traveling to an away game in Alabama, I certainly felt a bit silly remembering my complaints about that 45-minuite trip to Fife for a Scottish Cup match!         

 

7) Where would you like to spend your retirement?

I think a decision like that will largely depend on family dynamics, such as the location of grandchildren etc.

Other than that, I could see myself spending part of the year in both the United States and Scotland, in much the same way as many people here in the United States spend their winters in Florida or Arizona.

Maybe by that time I will get to enjoy the sight of Hibs finally lifting the Scottish Cup at Hampden!

 

8) What about the independence referendum coming up? How will it affect you and Scotland’s international image?

I still find it amazing how much momentum the Nationalist movement has gained in recent years. As recently as the mid 1990’s, the idea of even a devolved Parliament seemed a million miles away.

I am a strong supporter of independence, and look forward to the day I can collect my Scottish passport along with those of my children. While it may be too soon for a referendum to pass in 2014, independence is definitely on the horizon.

Either way, I plan on timing my next visit to make sure that I am there to witness an historic event that seemed nothing short of fantastical when I was growing up.

I think the holding of the referendum will cause a lot of people around the world to revise their image of Scotland as a land of ancient castles, and understand that we are a prosperous nation with a diverse, modern economy and a strong desire to seize control of our country’s future.  

 

9) What has been the biggest change for you since you moved abroad?

I think by far the biggest adjustment that I had to make in moving from Edinburgh to a small, rural town in the mountains of Georgia was getting used to living in such a car-dependent culture.

I grew up with neither of my parents ever owning a car, yet from a young age I always felt like the whole city of Edinburgh and beyond was within easy reach due to the plentiful public transport that was always on hand. This is not usually the case over here, outside of the largest cities like New York or Chicago. 

I finally had to admit defeat at age 21 and get my driver’s licence and feel like I have rarely left the confines of a car ever since. 

 

10) Do you have any plans for living in Scotland again and have you got a message for Scots back home?

There are no plans to permanently return to Scotland in the foreseeable future. While I do get homesick on a frequent basis, it would be hard to uproot my young family and leave behind the standard of living that America offers. I do however harbor ambitions of purchasing a piece of property over there at some point in the future, probably a flat in Edinburgh somewhere.

It sounds a bit corny, but a message for Scots back home would just be to try and appreciate what a great country you have. It is definitely easy to take the good things for granted and focus on the negatives.

I would also like to extend a wee “pat on the back” to the people of Scotland based on the results of the most recent Holyrood election.  No matter what the results of the referendum or your political affiliation, it has been refreshing to see the people of Scotland shaking things up a little bit and forcing the three main London-based political parties to realise that they are actually accountable to the people of Scotland.

 

Do you know a successful Scot who lives outside Scotland and who Scottish Times can profile? If so contact Ina Göldenitz on team@scottishtimes.com or call 00 44 (0) 344 7570

 

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published this page in Scots Abroad 2012-07-23 16:19:00 +0100