I miss (E)U

What do you do when half your life is in the European Union, and the other half is about to leave it?

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Pro-EU Brexit protest. Source: Wikimedia Commons

As an EU student, it’s not at all surprising that I am not a fan of Brexit. Along with many others on the continent, I deeply regret the UK’s decision to leave.

However, I am not writing to persuade you of my own not-so-original take on the political debate, as by now I’m sure we’ve all heard every possible argument, several times. Like me, I imagine you are all sick of Brexit chat – sick of attempting to keep up with the latest thing Theresa May, Jean-Claude Juncker, or Jeremy Corbyn has said, as well as the ocean of articles, commentaries, and (of course) memes produced, most of which become irrelevant after a couple of days due to some new development.

Not knowing what the outcome will be and still having so many options talked about this late in the Brexit process is confusing, frustrating, and stressful for everyone. If you only happen to have an EU passport, it is even more so. 

The most stressful part is, of course, the uncertainty. If I knew for sure what would happen, I could begin to prepare for it, but like everyone else I have no idea. Not only that, but the few assurances we were given also seem to be subject to last-minute changes.

Despite having the possibility of staying in Oxford for longer, I booked a flight home for the 27th of March, as I thought at the time that the UK would be leaving the EU on the 29th. I wanted to be home before then because I feared delays in travel, and it’s very important for my family that I join them for Easter. Even that small adjustment was in vain, as we all know.

Not knowing what will happen, not being able to take anything as a given, only increases the sense of powerlessness that I, and other EU students, inevitably feel. This is something for which we cannot plan or prepare. How could we, when we don’t know what will happen, nor when?

Despite this, I find myself constantly reading the news, listening to every statement Theresa May makes, and watching parliamentary debates as they happen. I continue searching for a hint of how the situation might be resolved, and, to my horror, I talk about it constantly. I confess I am guilty of repeatedly subjecting my friends to everyone’s least favourite conversation starter: “Have you heard what’s happening with Brexit?”

Meanwhile, back in mainland Europe, I am questioned about when I’ll be moving back. Everyone assumes I’ll have no wish to remain after my degree, due to the economic uncertainty and my lack of British citizenship.

Sadly, it’s not so easy to let go of a place you have made your home. On the other hand, my future plans do rely very heavily on the outcomes of Brexit, which makes me reluctant to even think about what I might do. This is another way it’s very difficult to make any decisions: I don’t want to commit to staying in the UK, but neither do I wish to commit to leaving it. (Sound familiar?)

Brexit isn’t an insurmountable problem, but it is yet another thing to worry about, which in the stress of Oxford terms I could easily do without. I’ve been finding it very difficult to both keep on top of the latest developments and simultaneously do a degree, and there are plenty of things I would rather do after handing in an essay than to try to understand what the day’s events, talks and decisions could mean for my future.

Moreover, I noticed that on days when something especially important would be decided, such as the three times the government voted on the Prime Minister’s deal, I had some trouble concentrating on my reading rather than speculating about what might happen next and checking if the votes had been cast yet. It’s hard to think of something else when I know that anything decided will tangibly, and almost immediately, affect me.

It’s also very easy to be overly dramatic. Whatever does happen, I know that I will be able to re-enter the country at the end of this vac, I know that I will be able to finish my studies, I know that my fees will remain the same to the end of my degree. I have the possibility to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, which would allow me to continue living in the UK even after the Brexit dust has settled.

Alternatively, I do have another option – I can return to the EU. Brexit is irritating and stressful, but it is by no means the end of the world. After all, I knew the outcome of the referendum when I applied to study in the UK. I knew Brexit would happen while I was at university. What I could not have predicted was that the process would be such an unpredictable mess.

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