Visiting Writer: Brexit through the eyes of an EU-student in Britain

Eden Hubara is a Sociology student at the University of Aberdeen, and the President of Young Europeans Aberdeen. She strives to make EU-related issues more accessible and understandable. Her passions range from Europe and the EU to popular culture and social media studies.
I regard myself as an EU citizen. I was born in Finland in 1997, roughly two and a half years after it joined the European Union. All I have ever known is the freedom brought upon this unique membership.
I spent my childhood travelling around Europe with my family, which made me fall in love with the prospect of seeking education and career opportunities outside of Finland. Ultimately, I formulated my ten-year plan at age nine, when I decided I was going to end up in the United Kingdom to pursue a university degree. I did just that.
When I received my acceptance letter from the University of Aberdeen in May 2016, I cried. Prior to this, I had visited the UK many times, and each time, piece by piece, the country stole my heart. My dream of ten years was finally becoming true, and I felt overjoyed. I was fully aware that I was applying for my degree in precarious times. The Brexit Referendum was ongoing, yet I was assured by news outlets and high school teachers alike, that there was nothing to worry about. Brexit was an outrageous and impossible idea. Nobody would, in this day and age where we are more interconnected than ever before, withdraw from a union like this.
Yet, a mere month after receiving my acceptance letter, it was official; Brexit was happening, and the UK was on its way out of the European Union. As I scrolled through social media, I was struck by how devastated young people all across Europe were. It spoke volumes to me how young people from all over were outraged on behalf of all the British teens and children who were now being stripped of the freedom and opportunity which were a result of decades of solidarity and cooperation.
In these past three and a half years, the Brexit saga has had more ups and downs than a roller-coaster. The number of speculated possible outcomes feels infinite. As I am starting my fourth and final year of university, I am sad to report that Brexit still remains a confusing, complicated mess. I, and all other EU citizens living in the UK, feel conflicted. The work, effort and love we have put towards this society now feels worthless. We are not sure exactly where we are going to end up.
As President of Young Europeans Aberdeen, I come in contact with EU students and British students all the time. A fun fact: Aberdeen has the highest percentage of residents born outside of the UK in Scotland. This diversity is not just reflected at university, but all around us, across different sectors. Sadly, I have witnessed roughly all of my fellow EU students give up their pre-university plans of staying in the UK to pursue postgraduate studies and careers. I have seen friend after friend turn their career trajectories around because they do not feel welcome anymore, or they have simply been filled with so much disenchantment that at this point staying feels useless.
Others have told me they have felt scared and unsafe as a result of xenophobic attacks on non-British people after the referendum. Others say they only feel disappointed, or angry even, with the way they are forced to change their life plans so suddenly. I remember a few years back, when many of my fellow EU students were still considering staying after their degree. Now, I cannot name a single one.
As a nine-year-old, I saw myself getting a degree in the UK, and staying here for the rest of my life. Had the Brexit vote not taken place, I am fairly sure that this would still be my plan. However, now I am making back-up plans like everyone else. It is upsetting, on more levels than I can explain.
I am certainly not the first one to point out that Brexit is merely a result of one egotistical leader after another attempting to grab power, at the expense of millions of innocent people. Even entertaining the thought of pursuing a No-Deal Brexit was nothing but irresponsible, with deaths being the worst, but very possible, outcome. On the other hand, thinking that a “soft” (or as I like to call it, cherry-picking) deal, where the UK would get all the good parts of an EU membership without having to give anything in return was just a utopian lie sold to the more moderate people who did not fall for the most outrageous of accusations made by the Leave campaign.
I do not want to repeat everything that has been said on this topic before, but it breaks my heart that so many of the facts were buried under lies during the Brexit campaigns. However, I believe that the lies caught on, as the EU has arguably been struggling with a bad reputation for quite a long time now. Still, the way forward is not to abandon ship, but to work together to create change.
What the United Kingdom needs, and what all citizens, British and EU alike, need, is a responsible leadership who is truly interested in the well-being of its country and its citizens. However, as already stated, a project like this which was born out of pure egoism has slim chances of doing this.
The current Brexit deadline is the end of this October, and it seems unlikely that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will ask for a further extension. I would go as far and say that most people have felt so blindsided by most turns Brexit has taken in the last three years, that I find it impossible to try and estimate what the end result will be. Even over the course of writing this article alone, my phone has been constantly bombarded with Brexit updates, each more confusing than the previous one.
Nobody believed that we would find ourselves in this position, yet here we are. It is clear that no one is better off in this situation, and that should be addressed. These are the last moments to make meaningful decisions, and I deeply hope that that happens. In the end, I do think that some irreparable damage has been made, in pushing away so many people who worked incredibly hard to advance this country and its people. It is truly a lose-lose situation.
TEKSTI Eden Hubara
KUVITUS Katerina Panina