Brexit – the event on the tip of everyones tongue. It must be tiring for some to see such talk all over the place, with newspapers, social networks and television news programmes obsessively covering the argument until the 23rd June. We have seen the referendum splitting not only parties from one another, but also causing fragmentation within parties. This is particularly true of our current leading party, the Conservatives, with Boris Johnson calling for an end to the union believing at a time when Brussels should be devolving their power, they instead are ‘hauling more and more towards the centre, and there is no way that Britain can be unaffected’. PM David Cameron thinks otherwise.
I find it amusing that the news of the referendum struck me during a lecture on the political geography of the European Union at the University of Amsterdam. Not only have I learnt why such a European Union had come about in the first place, primarily due to states in Europe desiring peace after the devastating effects of World War 2, but I have also come across how the EU has truly impacted individual states and their relations with others in cultural, political, economic and social senses. However, I am not here to sway your vote, but as a student studying in more than one member state of European Union, it would be hypocritical of me to say I have not enjoyed its perks – and here are a few ways I have done so:
- ERASMUS+ grants– The ERASMUS programme was an initiative set up by the European Commission to make it easier for students within the EU borders to study and travel for a year or a semester. This has particularly been in the form of grants. It isn’t as large as a maintenance loan instalment, but nevertheless is a healthy chunk of money that can take you a long way.
- Enhancing studying of languages – of course part of the reason the EU was developed in the first place – in short – was to encourage more cohesion among the European continent. One such way the EU wanted to do this was to increase the importance of multilingualism. Language can be both a barrier and instrument of connection for people, and the EU aims for its citizens to learn at least one or two foreign modern languages. The ERASMUS + programme available also comes with online programmes to develop language skills for free before embarking abroad.
- Without the EU, taking advantage of studying in other countries overall would be a much harder prospect, especially when moving to countries where higher education is less in cost or completely free! It may not seem that much, but the union has helped in ways the state cannot.
- A few academics within universities are also generally from states in the European Union – even in Amsterdam I have found one of my tutors coming from the UK, and I am sure the University of Sussex too has benefited from professors moving across borders for both work and research purposes.
- Students taking ERASMUS courses are less likely to experience long-term unemployment than those who stay at home according to the ERASMUS Impact Study, and it is the single largest source of funding for students who want to work or study abroad.
Unfortunately, I will not be in the country to cast a vote and hopefully will be one of many who will be voting from abroad. As to whether I will be voting no or yes, I am still not 100% sure. However I do urge readers to keep well informed during these months leading to the referendum. Will we be the first to leave such a union? What events will unfold if one or the other were to happen? Either way, it will indeed be a historic moment in EU history, of which we will all bare witness to.
The image used is this post from the Catholic Herald.
Ryshel Patel is a second year Geography student who is currently completing a semester abroad at the University of Amsterdam through the Study Abroad programme.