I confess that I spent the last few days after Brexit was announced frantically checking every single article on Brexit out there. Yet, I decided to start looking forward and prepare myself for the post-Brexit world.
UK universities have been prompt to reassure their current/prospective EU students that their rights and funding would stay unchanged for the time being. The Vice-Chancellor has sent an email with clear comments: “EU and EEA nationals are currently entitled to pay home fees under UK law and we do not envisage this changing in the foreseeable future.” And “The Minister of State for Universities and Science has said the UK welcomes EU students and that current students and this autumn’s applicants will continue to receive student finance for the duration of their course.” Although we should all keep an eye on further developments, the university has been clear on the issue, and I feel reassured.
UK nationals wanting to go to the EU encounter a similar uncertainty: some programs will likely change (Erasmus, etc.) but it is unlikely to happen overnight. My advice in the mean time would be to take advantage of the language support available at the University of Sheffield: for example Languages for All, the language partner exchange board at the Union, the One World Café, etc. Our University has been a strong #WeAreInternational campaigner; and International, EU and UK students have plenty of ways to interact and get ready for the world post-Brexit.
Other EU nationals are likely to have their own opinion on Brexit. However it does not translate as resentment on the personal level as far as I can tell: EU employers are well aware of the quality of UK education and are more than willing to welcome UK graduates. It is my personal opinion that both gratitude and resentment from WW2 events are largely forgotten in the continent, especially in the younger generations. For now it is too early to worry about potential visa applications or paperwork issues. That being said there are some steps you can take as a UK student/graduate abroad to make sure to be seen in the best light, and that usually ties in with my previous point – improving proficiency in foreign languages. In order to practice for your time abroad, you can also help International students feel at home when they arrive in September during Orientation and Meet & Greet.
If you are struggling to handle the split in opinions over Brexit in your surroundings, I feel for you. As I went back to France the weekend after the referendum for a wedding, I engaged in a heated debate with a member of my family over Brexit. Whatever is your opinion on the topic, I recommend that you take advantage of the diverse workshops and societies (for example ShefMUN) in the University to be able to responsibly and effectively bring forward your opinions to others (and listen to theirs). I certainly feel like I need to take some advice from Debating Society right now.
UK Researchers are worried about EU funding and what Brexit will mean in terms of future work opportunities or stability. This uncertainty cannot be written off, but it is a good time to undertake in-depth research about the difference between EU and UK funding, notably the role of charities and non-governmental funding. There are many opportunities out there, and awareness is the key to effective preparation. The Careers Service is very helpful for job seekers trying to make sense of the hiring field in UK and abroad, as well as checking both CVs and cover letters. There are also workshops and fairs to attend to make sure to be ready for what comes next.
Last but not least, whatever your opinion is on Brexit, in the light of the recent peak in racist or xenophobic crimes, it is our responsibility as students to fight against intolerance. The University and the Union are both supporting us to fight against abuse and speak out against anyone promoting a hate agenda. We can report any incidents here.
As a personal conclusion, I will say that I have spent some of my best years here in Sheffield, and I won’t forget this in a hurry. I am proud to represent this university as ambassador and to continue my studies in the UK.
PS: This was written just after Brexit, but I feel it still applies to current events. #WeAreInternational