Erasmus and the EU: Where Are We Going?

Ethan McLaughlin, Contributor
Looking ahead to one of the defining votes of my generation,
this year we will go to the polls to decide if we want to continue to be part of a multi cultural liberal European community. But leaving the UK will come to symbolise becoming a closed minded island in the arctic sea, wholly focused on our own superiority. The symbolism of our cooperation as a nation that would change with a Brexit scares me.

UK students are better being able to take advantage of the opportunities of their European neighbours. A little back round about what this programme I am so proud to promote:

The Erasmus exchange programme, the European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students, was a scheme which was launched in 1987, making me part of the 58th group of students from across the continent to meet and learn in a new environment. It is a scheme which not only offered students’ great opportunity, but assisted us through financial assistance, to take advantage of being on a continent so inter connected.

What I have now taken to be an ingrained right since the Schengen agreement seem to be less secure. Currently the European Union is faced with a situation where the governments of these European states are faced with a crisis, questioning what it is to be part of Europe , arguing whether their nation is based on a predisposed national identity which is exclusive to the people which live there. The UK is no better despite being a country that talks of tolerance we often do a bad job of showing it.

We seem to be living at a time when our shared European identity has been forgotten. But when we are faced with crisis and difficult economic times, countries turn inwards.
There are a couple of points from my trip which have really left a mark in me:
1) The UK, as off 2012, only sent about a third of the students on Erasmus programmes, in comparison to France, Spain and Germany. If we leave in 2016, I am massively concerned that we will become a continent which cannot share our values or promotes our way of life.
2) We are not that different. Europeans are a unique group of people. Our generation shares so much more, than differentiates us. We have grown up in a post-cold war world which is so different to that the leaders of today have built much of their political opinions upon.
3) One of the things that I will stay with me from this trip, was being able to hear first hands some of the often harmful stereotypes people hold about us as a nation, and our opinions on our European Neighbours.
4) Our exit from the EU, a Brexit, will only continue to enforce stereotypes, promoted by miss-information of a nation which seems to be turning inwards.
5) Nationalism has become part of a national existence. This is something I don’t have a problem with.
6) But why don’t we be proud of the similarities between our way of life and other countries. Instead of an ethnic nationalism, being proud of something which is exclusionary and discriminatory.
At some point hopefully this year we as a country will go the ballot box, to decide if we want to stay part of this union. We have already voted in a government which is slowly taking away people ability to study. Let’s not make a decision which may take away student abilities to take advantage of one of the best things about university.
Being apart of Erasmus symbolises, to me, that the UK is about being open minded to what is around us. The UK being out the EU is not a nation I want to be a part of of.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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