A Weekend in Oxford (and some thoughts on Brexit)

After my third term at Utrecht University ended at the beginning of April, I visited my friend Natasha in Oxford for a weekend.

Natasha and I met in my first week at UVic. She was in her second year, and on a year-long exchange from England. We hit it off right away, and I remember the sadness of saying goodbye to her when her time in Canada ended two years ago. But as hard as it is to have friends living far away, it’s also a great excuse to travel to visit them!

My weekend in Oxford was so full of wonderful things. Eating hot cross buns for breakfast. Drinking dozens of cups of good tea*, punting on the canals (it’s harder than it looks!), eating burgers at a pub, and walking through Oxford’s gorgeous colleges.

*By good I mean steeped black tea with milk. In the Netherlands, ‘tea’ is a teabag dipped in water for no more than half a second… sacrilege!

Traveling to Oxford in April 2019 was particularly interesting to me because of Brexit. The Brexit vote happened in the summer of 2016, two months before I began my first year at UVic. For my entire time at university, it has been a major topic in most of my political science courses.

I’m not going to try and explain Brexit in one blog post, or even make a judgment on whether I think it’s right or wrong. If you need clear, concise, and (relatively) unbiased background information on Brexit, I suggest you check out this article.

What I want to do is share my perspective as a university student studying European politics and living in Europe in 2019. I would love to hear other students’ thoughts in the comments below, because of course my experiences and opinions don’t necessarily reflect those of others.

From a purely selfish perspective, Brexit isn’t good for my academic future. I have always loved England, and almost went there instead of the Netherlands for my exchange. But knowing that British universities may no longer be as closely tied to the European Union has made me reconsider whether it would in fact be a good idea to study there if I want to pursue a career in European politics. Of course it’s impossible to predict the future, but I am having to think more carefully than I would have before.

When I participated in Model EU in 2018, it was interesting to see how the representative for the United Kingdom participated (or more accurately, didn’t participate) in negotiations. Although this was only a simulation, I thought it was a pretty good representation of how Brexit is influencing people’s attitudes towards the EU. Recently, Brexit Party MEPs even turned their backs in the European Parliament as the EU anthem was played. What worries me most is what this will mean for the cohesiveness of Europe. One of the EU’s great successes has been to ensure peace in Europe after two devastating world wars. Although World War 3 doesn’t seem imminent, I do believe that the stability of the EU is important to ensure good relations on the continent.

With the Brexit saga still going on (we still don’t know when it will actually happen), it’s been a fascinating year to study, live, and travel in Europe.

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