This year I left behind the rolling hills of Rydal and swapped them for the sweeping beauty of Scotland.

I’ve lived in Rydal since I was five years old and it’s where my family have been since we migrated out from Yorkshire in mid-1800’s. Rydal has a population of 50, one business (a pub, of course!), very poor internet and, up until recently, no public transport to the closest town. It’s a small place, with a big heart and a very strong sense of community, and for me it will always be home.

It’s been five months since I moved to Aberdeenshire and the hardest part so far hasn’t been navigating the Doric language, acclimatising to Scotland’s “summer” or the different currency (what is a quid, anyway?) – It’s been finding friends.

What I failed to recognise before I stepped off that plane is that even a flaming extrovert like me could struggle to find friends in a new country.

I recently turned 26, and I find myself looking back in envy to my high school days and how easy it was to form friendships – friendships that have lasted close to 15 years. It was as simple as sitting next to Tiffani in year 8 maths class, horsing around with Tina, or bonding over a shared love of cards and cricket with Aron and Ian (I’ll be a groomsman for Ian in March. Yes you read right, groomsman!).

And upon reflection, the key finding of the Rural Youth Project survey that identified 80% of young people living in rural and regional areas do so because of emotional connections with family and friends has struck a new cord and my false sense of belief that homesickness wasn’t going to plague me was a huge oversight. It’s been the small things that I’ve missed; my Mum’s cooking lessons, coffee club with Dad, talking tractors with my brother and going to the pub with mates.

In an age where we are more connected than ever through technology, young people feel alone. Isolation and loneliness plague regional areas and, unprompted, mental health and the facilities available to young people became a major discussion point at the 2018 Rural Youth Project Ideas Festival. Young people are yearning for connection, whether it’s through community, career, or online, and we need support to help fill the void.

It’s been getting easier. I’ve been really lucky to be surrounded by amazing colleagues – and their families – who have welcomed me by opening their homes and hearts to a small-town Aussie gal who says “no worries” and “too easy” a little too often.

Need help and don’t know where to go? Scotland and the UK have a range free services that can help.

Action on Depression

Offers a range of services to help people affected by depression in Scotland, including phone and email support as well as courses and self-help support groups.

Helpline : 0800 4 70 80 90 or 0808 802 2020 24hrs a day.

Scottish Association for Mental Health

Provides help, information and support for people with mental health problems. Work includes community based support services and an information service which can be accessed by phone, 0800 917 34 66, or email, info@samh.org.uk.

Website : https://www.samh.org.uk/

Breathing Space Scotland

A free and confidential phoneline service for any individual, who is experiencing low mood or depression, or who is unusually worried and in need of someone to talk to.

Helpline : 0800 83 85 87 Open weekdays: Mon-Thur 6pm – 2am weekend: Fri 6pm – Mon 6am

Website : http://breathingspace.scot/

Alana has a Bachelor of Communication – Public Relations from Charles Sturt University and in 2018 was announced as an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Trailblazer for her work on communication and succession planning in family farming businesses. Alana, who recently moved from Australia to Aberdeenshire, is a freelance agricultural communicator, a Rural Youth Project vlogger, cricket tragic and amateur runner who is determined to “bag” a Munro.