Today the news broke that Britain has voted to leave the European Union, and I’m not ashamed to admit that this news made upset me. Actually, I experienced a range of emotions: anger, devastation, fury, sadness, desolation. Surely it is an odd thing that this would have had such a personal impact on me? I’m not an EU immigrant and my status in this country is not immediately under threat, so why do I feel as if my world is crumbling down around me?
Let me tell you why. For me, this is personal. It is about the future of the United Kingdom, but it is also about me. One person among the multitudes. Brexit hurt me because well, my entire life has been a struggle. I have had the garden variety problems which face young adults: bullying, parental separation, mental health issues and more family problems than one person should ever have to deal with. Despite this fractured upbringing, I went to a Top Ten University (Lancaster) for my undergraduate degree and I achieved a First in History. I have now gone on to study for my Masters at the University of Durham – a decision which has been incredibly hard and, at times, not worth the money and energy I have put into it.
But what does this have to do with the European Union? They could not prevent my family issues, and they sure as hell wouldn’t be able to fix the administration at Durham, so why am I so upset?
It’s quite simple actually. The European Union offered me a future. It offered me a way out. The recent governments of this country have targeted Higher Education and turned it into a scheme to make money. If you can’t make a profit out of it, it’s not worth keeping. I truly believe, rightly or wrongly, that this idea underpins the educational reforms of the Conservative governments. They don’t care that I will never be able to pay back my student loans, and it baffles me that they think education is something which should have to be paid for. Despite what rhetoric they use, it feels as if they are attempting to price-out low income families such as mine to prevent them from gaining an education.
They didn’t. I beat the odds and I am about to gain my MA qualification, which I think most people would agree is quite an achievement. But again, what does this have to do with the EU? Well, that has to do with my career choice. I want to be a lecturer in Modern History. To do this, I need a PhD in either History or a related subject. A PhD costs money. The tuition fees vary from different institutions (roughly starting from around £4,000 per year), and those plus the cost of living would be the biggest drain on my personal finances. It is not a financially viable plan for me in my current situation.
The EU could have helped me out. They have various means of funding PhDs across the UK and the rest of Europe. I could have studied in Germany, Paris, Amsterdam or Vienna. I could have participated in funding projects and schemes that would have allowed me to gain my PhD either at home or abroad.
But, we have left the EU. That funding no longer exists. As hard as it was to start with, as in gaining a funded PhD from a reputable institution with supervisors who could help me attempt my PhD thesis, the Brexit vote has just made it so much harder for me. I am a woman from a low-income family. I already feel as though the deck is stacked against me, as I see wealthy people able to go on to MA or PhD with their parents support. And before someone points out the obvious, I do have a job; part-time to allow me to carry out the research necessary for my MA dissertation. Attempting to take on a full-time PhD and a full-time job would be both unreasonable and impossible. My choices are therefore limited.
If I face facts, leaving the EU could just be another hurdle for me to overcome. And maybe I will. But the main reason that I am so upset about leaving is because I’m tired. I’m tired of living in a country who thinks that anyone under 25 is a second class citizen.
This government has brought in discriminative legislation based on age which boils down to the fact that they think that we are worth less than those over 25. Due to the cuts to housing benefit, and the housing crisis, I have to accept the fact that I will never be able to own my own house because we will either be in a post-Brexit recession or because of cuts to Higher Education, I will never get my dream job to pay for a house.
I have always wanted to be an intellectual. I love to learn. I love progressive values, tolerance and peace. But I wake up today in a country that, I feel, has discarded those values in exchange for xenophobia, islander mentality and an inability to see the consequences of Brexit for my generation.
Recent polling suggests that around 75% of people aged 18-24 wanted to remain in the EU. The older generations didn’t listen, and now my future, our future is uncertain.