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Post-Brexit: How To 'Remain' A Global Student

30/11/2016 16:34 | Updated 6 days ago
Nick_Thompson via Getty Images

The dust has finally settled over Britain's momentous decision to leave the European Union, and as politicians begin to negotiate the terms of our separation, young people everywhere are wondering what the future holds for them and their education.

After being outnumbered by older voters who turned out en mass in favour of leaving, young Brits are now worried about the impact Brexit will have on schemes such as Erasmus and university partnerships.

Fortunately, there are still hundreds of ways we can reap the benefits of an international student experience, regardless of whether Britain's 'in' or 'out'! An understanding of the world beyond our own borders is the greatest weapon we have in the fight against insularity. So how can young people maintain their international credentials as the European door swings shut and 'remain' global students?

Study Abroad

What's the best way to make new, international friends and increase your cultural awareness? Why, studying abroad, of course!

No wonder an increasing numbers of young Brits are choosing to study overseas - and it's not as inaccessible as many people are lead to believe.

Many funding opportunities are available, such as the Santander Award and the Student Finance Travel Grants, amongst others, so that even students from low-income backgrounds can take advantage of the opportunity to go abroad as part of their degree.

Programmes such as Generation China UK , Generation India UK, and Full Bright all offer fully funded study programmes, whilst individual universities here in Britain have their own agreements with partner institutions allowing students to experience life overseas often at the fraction of the normal cost. And you don't even have to speak another language as a plethora of English-speaking programmes exist - even in non-English speaking countries.

And, don't forget - we haven't left the EU yet! So in the meantime British students should take full advantage of the heavily subsidised study opportunities such as the Erasmus Programme which are, for the time being, still available to them. And if you're having trouble deciding, Global Graduates is a handy guide designed by students for students which offers tips and advice for every step of the year abroad process.

Volunteer

Doing voluntary work is another invaluable way young Brits of any age can remain outward-facing and internationally-minded in these uncertain times - and again, it is not as inaccessible as many believe!

Extortionately expensive, ethically questionable 'Gap Yar' programmes are merely the dubious tip of the large volunteering iceberg; numerous grass roots organisations offer committed individuals the opportunity to volunteer for free for longer periods of time, whilst WWOOF-ing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and networks such as Work Away - where volunteers work in return for accommodation and food, remain very popular amongst cash-strapped youth.

But you don't need worry about dusting off your passport just yet - various organisations have been established across the UK offering advice and services, such as English classes and legal advice, to immigrants and refugees. This is a fantastic and cost effective way for young volunteers to involve themselves in the international community here at home.

However, if you do opt to go abroad, it is imperative you do proper research and travel responsibly. Fortunately, online resources promoting safe travel have never been better. Check the Foreign Office's travel checklist to make sure you are prepped and ready to go and follow their Twitter @FCOtravel to keep up-to-date with information, travel advice and any security developments whilst you're away.

Learn a language

Making the effort to speak to someone in their own language is the equivalent of holding your arms open wide and saying 'I'm listening'; it is a beautiful albeit nerve-wracking gesture of human solidarity and compassion. So let Brexit inspire you to take the plunge and pick up that phrase book!

The benefits are endless: everything from your self-confidence to your cognitive performance will improve, you'll begin to see the world through different eyes, make new international friends and your experiences travelling will be taken to a whole new level. It will even make you more employable as almost two thirds of UK businesses actively seek out foreign language skills amongst their employees.

And it's not all about the personal benefits either: the future of the UK - our prosperity and our national security, depends on our knowledge of other languages and other cultures which is why it is particularly shocking to hear that, according to research carried out by the British council, three quarters of British adults can't hold a conversation in a foreign language .

Nor does learning a language mean having to sign up for costly classes: free apps such as DuoLingo will kick-start your learning, whilst 'Mixer' nights in bars and pubs and events run by student societies geared towards a particular language or culture are a great way of practicing languages face-to-face.

If you do head off to test your new language skills, then remember, just knowing the words isn't enough, you need to make sure you're aware of cultural differences and identities to really understand them. The FCO's country specific travel resources are a great place to start.

Change Your Media Habits

But it's not all about the big commitments; making small changes to your media habits can ensure that British students remain globally aware, and is an extremely effective way of maintaining an international mindset.

Seeking out national news outlets from other countries to hear the other side of the story, tuning in to foreign radio channels, following a foreign journalist on twitter, reading books in translation, picking a famous director from a country you're interested in and working your way through their films, and likewise with a musician - all these are small ways in which British students can expand their horizons with a mere click of a button.

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