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Brexit Britain: A Foreign Student's Blues

22/09/2016 17:36

As I'm about to start my second year at university, I can't help wondering what on Earth am I doing here and is there any point to it all. A university student faced with an existentialist crisis is really nothing new. What with all the pressure to find internships, get a decent degree, all the while keeping up with your social life and (possibly) sports. But, I can't help but feel that in some ways my situation is unique, but also similar to that of numerous immigrants in the UK right now.

The fact that I spent the last week saying good bye to good friends who went back to their country of birth after completing their Masters, because they couldn't find anyone to sponsor them for a worker's visa. Not surprising to be honest, given the difficulty of obtaining one. For one, it required the prospective employer to guarantee a salary of £20,800 or more.

Makes me wonder whether after graduating in two-years-time, I will be sent packing. A daunting prospect, especially since I left Russia at the tender age of 11 and didn't plan to return. Not that I have anywhere to return to. After my parents divorced, my mother moved to London to live with her now-husband and my dad's relationship with me is a whole different story. Well, at least I'll be in good company of the likes of Jackie Nanyonjo - a lesbian activist deported back to Uganda by the Home Office.

Obviously, there's no better motivation to do well in my studies than the prospect of being kicked out. Especially, as I need to cough up another £18,600 in fees for the next academic year. Not that those £18,000 will guarantee a long and happy future for me in the UK.

And were I to try staying legally, large amounts of paperwork would have to be filled in, not to mention solicitor fees that run in the thousands (literally). Still this is no guarantee the prized permission to stay will be granted, as my friend's brother who spent more than a year waiting for the Home Office to deliberate could testify. In the end, he gave up and went back to Hong Kong.

In the end, it didn't matter that he had a Maths Masters from Cambridge and a BNO (British National Overseas) passport. I can't even begin to imagine what it'd be like for me with my Russian passport and a somewhat vague degree from UCL. Not to mention the demeaning nature of the process itself. It begins to look like Britain is not so much a promised land as a land of promises that never come true.

This is definitely the case in Brexit Britain. Even though the Leave Campaign claimed that leaving the EU will benefit non-EU migrants, so far the only noticeable change was the escalation nationalist aggression against all non-British and in non-white people; whatever dignity we had as people studying and working in this country has been stripped away; never did I have to think twice before sharing a joke in my mother-tongue on the public transport.

All things considered, I am no longer sure I want to stay. The only consideration keeping me here is last year's £18,000 university fee - it would really be a waste not to graduate. I can only hope that as Britons are confronted by a longer non-EU queue at Charles de-Gaulle's airport and the need to apply for a visa for a weekend break in Stockholm, these attitudes will change.

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