European Students in a Brexit World – Part 1

“Europe is very different from Britain. For instance, their windows open inwards rather than outwards, and it is almost impossible to buy Monster Munch in Bulgaria. No wonder we could not get along.”

I found this quote while strolling through a bookshop in Cambridge. There is some truth in it. Even neighbouring European countries are surprisingly different. Though we consider each other as Westerners, and even more, as young Europeans who have a sense of being a European first before anything else, we do currently face challenges. It is not only Brexit; there seems to be something changing in Europe, but it hasn’t yet been decided which direction will prevail – separation or stronger connection. For now, many Europeans are still using their chance to study or work abroad. They come to Britain, to study the language or to make use of the great educational system, with some hoping to stay for good and start a successful career[1].

Brexit seems to be both fascinating and confusing to us non-BritishEuropeans. As a German, I have always loved talking about it, but learned very early on not to mention my views on politics here in this country. When I do so, I can never be sure of my communication partner meaning what he says about Brexit, because of the famous British talent of ‘understatement’! As a German I love a straightforward, honest discussion and so instead of talking much to Brits about it, I have found myself exchanging thoughts with other Europeans. They seem to be on the same page.

They often do want to talk about it. They want to understand the reasons behind Brexit; they want to know where it will lead (though I’m afraid, even the British can’t tell) and what it means for their lives. For the last few weeks I’ve been trying to find European students who plan to stay in England for a longer period and are likely to be affected by possible changes in the political system. In so doing I found a variety of feelings and opinions on this topic.

But why would this matter to us? It is exciting to see how many Europeans are currently visiting our international cafés in Cambridge. They are an essential part of our international family and a possible Brexit makes them think, affects their future decisions, and may even affect how much they feel involved or a part of the society here. What might be some considerations for our interaction with European students coming to our events? Do we as Christians have a role to play, or is there not much we can do about it?

[1] In 2016-2017, the number of EU students in the UK was 134,835, representing almost 30% of the total number of international students. Of these, more than half were pursuing undergraduate degrees. The largest numbers were from Germany, France and Italy, with more than 13,000 in each group. Source can be found here.

First published in Insight, Issue 20, A Journal for International Student Ministry in the UK.

The views expressed in this blog post are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the GC network.

Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

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Sofia Demler

Sofia Demler

Reach Trainee at Friends International
Sofia is currently a Friends International Reach Trainee in Cambridge. She comes from Germany and is interested in politics and reaching out to Europeans.
Sofia Demler

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