“If things get worse, I might leave”: Strathclyde EU students speak out on life in post-Brexit Britain

By Lukas Vojacek

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, we are pretty sure you have heard that Britain officially left the European Union on 31 January 2020, triggering a transition period which should last until the end of this year. There are approximately 135,000 European students in UK universities and the conditions of their future life in the country are clouded in constant uncertainty.

Even though many of these individuals have lived in Britain for years and have been successful in their studies, the unstable political climate puts them in an awkward position, with some fearing they might be forced to change their career plans and ambitions entirely. How did they feel during the prolonged negotiation process, especially when they could not vote in the pivotal general election in December? Are they still willing to remain in the country? And what are their views on Brexit in general? We asked two of our own EU students at Strathclyde what they thought.

“My opinion on Brexit is mostly negative. To me, it embodies division and hatred, but mostly a false promise to people,” says Nina, a French student. “I can understand a desire for change, but Europe is blamed for the wrong reasons. Leaving will only bring the UK isolation.”

As Nina points out, studying abroad has played an important role in her life: “It brought me an education, new experience and even love, as I am with someone not speaking my native language. I feel very grateful that I had this chance.” She says she didn’t feel threatened in any way during the political debates and, like so many others, never believed that Brexit would actually happen.

“It has been nearly four years since the referendum and I hoped – until the very end – that the government will consider a change of path,” adds Martina Cau, from Italy. She says she feels completely secure in Glasgow so far, however, both Martina and Nina agree that the situation might be different in other parts of the UK and praise Scottish people for their welcoming attitude towards foreigners. Nevertheless, Britain’s divorce from Europe prompted them to start thinking about changing their life plans.

“If things get worse, then I might just leave the country, which is really sad,” adds Martina, “because before moving to Scotland, I had never thought I would find another place to call home, except Sardinia, my homeland.”

Nina is even more sceptical: “I already decided to go back to my country. I think that Brexit will only bring ignorance and lack of openness, but I hope that I am going to be proven wrong in the future.”

Martina and Nina are just two of the thousands of students struggling to comprehend a life outside the European Union. After more than three years of contentious political debate, an end appears to finally be in sight in the Brexit negotiations. But the future of so many young people with ambitions of living and working abroad remains shrouded in mystery.

In the meantime, all EU students at Strathclyde who wish to stay in Scotland are advised to register under the UK’s Settlement and Pre-Settlement Scheme. They can also seek help from Strathclyde’s International Student Support Team, which organises daily drop-ins in the McCance from 10am-1pm. Further information can be found at: https://www.strath.ac.uk/studywithus/internationalstudents/brexitinformation/