Is It Too Late to Do a EU-turn?

Phoebe Grinter – Columnist
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With my social media memories reminding me of all the fun I was having last year, I decided to reflect on the impact of Brexit on the Erasmus+ programme.

Every day when I wake up, rain pounding against my bedroom window as I  procrastinate getting up and facing another day, I check my memories on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, only to be reminded that this time last year I was living my best life gallivanting around Italy on my year abroad.

As an English Literature and Italian student, I was always certain I was going to do a year abroad as part of my degree. When third year rolled around, I decided to study in the beautiful city of Verona in northern Italy. Although it may have seemed to me (and to all my Instagram followers) that I was on a year-long holiday, I was actually gaining invaluable experience studying at a foreign university, listening and conversing with natives in a language I had been studying for years, and immersing myself in a new culture. As cheesy as it may sound, I am a different person now for having taken part in a year abroad, and I have learnt incomparable skills, made friends from all different walks of life, and I have had a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I wouldn’t have had without the Erasmus+ programme. 

Which brings me to the main point of this article: Brexit. You love to see it. Although we legally left the EU on 31st January, that doesn’t mean it’s over just yet. As a nation we eat, sleep and breathe Brexit and, unfortunately, it looks like we will for some time. One noticeable feature of EU membership that is now a big concern is the inclusion of the UK in the Erasmus+ programme, which helps students travel and become involved in vocational training and work abroad, as well as helping teachers who want to train or work abroad. The programme helps thousands of students a year, including those who want to come to the UK to study or work. The scheme provides valuable experience to travelling participants as well as receiving institutions. The scheme is paramount for personal and professional growth, providing students with skills and experience to add to their CV and memories for life. 

The Erasmus+ programme is run in seven-year cycles, with the current programme running 2014-2020. Although we are officially out of the EU, the remainder of this year is a ‘transition period’ during which time the UK and the EU will be negotiating the future of the UK’s inclusion in the Erasmus+ programme. 

What makes the Erasmus+ programme so special is that it provides students with financial support during their time abroad, which is an obstacle that might stop young people from being able to travel abroad without the help of the programme. Depending on your family’s income, the programme offers students €300-350 a month as well as the usual loans they would receive at their home university. I would not have thought it financially possible to study and live in a foreign country without the generous grant that the Erasmus+ programme provided. With this money, I was able to travel and learn more about the culture and language I had been studying for years, helping me behave and speak more like a local and less like a textbook. 

The Erasmus+ programme is something very dear to my heart and was one of the main things that prompted me to go to university in the first place. The opportunities it gave me and the doors it has opened have been incomparable. I would never have seen the places I’ve seen or met the people I’ve met without the Erasmus+ programme and I am so grateful that I had the chance to take part in it. I can only hope that the UK maintains its relationship with EU countries and that the Erasmus+ programme is still offered to students in the future.