At the risk of putting a Meatloaf song in your heads, this opinion piece by Eloise Millard for The Guardian takes the words right out of my mouth.
You can read it here or in the text below.
The loss of the scheme would be a devastating blow for the social mobility of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Fri 22 Mar 2019 09.00 GMT
Joining the tremendously long list of downsides to the UK’s imminent departure from the European Union is the possible loss of the Erasmus programme, an exchange scheme that has given more than 3 million students the chance to study in 37 countries since 1987. Of course, there are many other exchange schemes across the world, but the majority require the student to have several thousand pounds spare for tuition, accommodation and so on.
Losing Erasmus is another devastating blow for the social mobility of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Not only are they about to lose the freedom to live and work in the EU, they have also lost incredible opportunities to immerse themselves in another culture and build invaluable skills, which research has proven sets them up for the world of work much better than their peers who don’t undertake Erasmus placements.
After the sudden death of my father during my second year at university, I decided to apply for a placement in Berlin. The prospect of having to perform academically while I was grieving was one I couldn’t face. Escaping it all with €2,500, which I spent visiting many European cities, and my student loan, seemed more much appealing. I won’t pretend it was an easy year; the minimal studying and endless partying was reserved for wealthier students who’d headed off to the US and Australia. I moved to Berlin not knowing anyone and with a very loose grasp of the language, courtesy of my lack of GCSE German tuition.
For the first couple of weeks I lived in a hostel, trying to bag a flatshare in Berlin’s rental market, writing hundreds of emails a day in patchy German. Over the year, I encountered doctors, bank managers and civil servants, none of whom spoke English. Before I left, I was pretty socially anxious – even making a phone call was a daunting prospect – but I was forced out of my shell because no one was there to help me. Berlin undoubtedly made me more confident, independent and open to the unknown. I learned an incredible amount about myself and the world. I now have couches to crash on around the globe, from Venezuela to Vietnam.
I undertook rigorous German lessons and spent my evenings learning verb conjugations rather than frequenting nightclubs. At the start of the year, I was immediately detected as a Briton the minute I opened my mouth to mumble a Haben Sie uhhh …, which was typically met with eyerolls and a reply in English. But practice makes perfect, and, by the time I left, I was even able to banter with Berliners. I was one of two native English speakers in the class. For both of us, German was our second language; for everyone else it was their third, fourth or fifth. I soon realised British students were far less rounded than their international counterparts, and I felt a sense of shame at my own shortcomings. However, this was nothing on the profound embarrassment I felt eight months later when I arrived in class on 24 June 2016, my peers, like myself, at a loss as to what had just happened.
It deeply saddens me that I was one of the last cohorts to take an Erasmus year, and that these unique, mind-broadening experiences have been ripped from the hands of students who would have felt the benefit for the rest of their lives. I know for certain that I wouldn’t be writing for the Guardian if I hadn’t lived in Berlin. Now, I’m much more the type to grab life by the cojones, rather than resigning myself to my comfort zone. I will be forever grateful for the scheme, which gave me the confidence to take the plunge into a field I’d long wanted to work in, and to be myself, unapologetically.
-Eloise Millard is a journalist and filmmaker, focusing on poverty and inequality
More on BREXIT (yay) coming soon!
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