Erasmus, heartbreak, and Brexit: 2020’s finale.

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I’m not sure about you, but I’ve been feeling pretty angry of late. Angry about the pandemic, angry about Brexit, just angry about a lot really. This morning I was mindlessly scrolling on my phone (this is a habit I vow to stop in 2021) and came across an article titled ‘I was an early Erasmus scholar, and I grieve for what British students have lost’… 

The day that I woke up and found out the UK had voted to leave the EU was honestly one of the most heartbreaking days of my life (not to be too dramatic obviously). At the time, I was living in France, in the home of an Italian-Franco couple with trilingual children, a family that was virtually a product of the EU. The people I worked for understood (as much as they could) just how upset I was and gave me the day off after hugging me and telling me ‘it would all be ok’. I spent the day in bed with a jar of nutella, crying and wrote a blog called ‘a sad day to be British’, the last I wrote that year.

My host family’s EU passports allowed them to travel from Italy and France respectively, to meet in London and start a little European family together – along comes their British, French-student, aupair for the summer and you’ve got a little European utopia. A utopia which will now no longer include the British. During the rest of my time at that job, my friends (most of whom were EU citizens) repeatedly asked me why the UK had made that decision and I repeatedly told them I didn’t want to talk about it. Every single person I met, the gardener, the bartender, the bus driver, that found out I was British was like ‘uh oh Brexit’. It followed me around everywhere. Being British suddenly became very, very embarrassing. 

The things I gained from that year of my life will never leave me. Before I spent the summer aupairing in my little EU utopia, I lived in a lush place called Chartres and was an English Language Assistant at three primary schools. I spent my weekdays teaching cute kids English and my weekends travelling. I met the best people, I drank more wine than I thought humanly possible (wine tastes better in France, don’t fight me on that one), and I lived my absolute best life. I don’t think anything will ever compare. The friends I made, the experiences I had and the things I learnt are priceless to me. I genuinely believe that any of other period of my life will struggle to enrich my life that that year did and ~ ok fine I am getting a ~bit~ dramatic now…  

I do want to highlight though that I now have friends all over the world and being in a family that spoke so many languages only inspired me to further my education and get my Masters degree in Applied Linguistics. Studying for my MA ultimately gave me the time I needed to discover my passion for writing and has directly contributed to where I am in life now.

The year that directed the course of my life was only possible, easy and attainable because of the Erasmus scheme. The Erasmus scheme that the UK is leaving – collateral of Brexit and quite frankly, a tragedy.

I won’t get into the details of Brexit and what I think of it. I don’t have the means to articulate it in a measured way because I think it’s frankly a shit show and there’s plenty of other people who can articulate the ins and outs of the deal much more eloquently (and without swearing). But what I will say is that every time a Brexit milestone (for want of a better word) is reached, I feel a twang of that heartbreak and anger that I experienced so vividly back in 2016. It’s like that one toxic ex that won’t leave you alone, that keeps popping back into your DMs just when you think you’re moving on. 

The Erasmus scheme has offered opportunities for students to live, study and work in EU countries since 1987. According to the Guardian, “under the latest version of the scheme, Erasmus+, around 200,000 people have taken part including around 15,000 British university students each year.” The numbers speak from themselves really – all those people that will now miss out on having the life affirming experienced I was fortunate and privileged enough to have myself in 2015/2016.

Boris Johnson has announced a ‘replacement’ scheme called the Turing scheme which will allow UK students to go around the world. The issue is that it’s not an ‘exchange’ in the same way that the Erasmus scheme is. We don’t benefit here in the same way. It’s not the same and it’s not a consolation prize. It’s like buying a fake designer handbag that says ‘Prava’ instead of ‘Prada’.

I resonate with the Guardian article I read this morning, about grieving what British students have lost, because I truly believe that loosing the Erasmus scheme is one of the most heartbreaking things that could have happened to British students. All I can say is that I truly hope that for the sake of the next generation of students that this scheme offers some sort of consolation worth having and I also hope that we can still welcome EU students into our UK universities in some way or another in the future.

Oh and also I’m still on the hunt for a husband with an EU passport if anybody wants hit me up xx

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