Will We Stay or Will We Go?
Of course I’m talking about the EU, you can’t miss all the debate at the moment. Tomorrow we can vote on the following question ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ We have been a member of the EU since 1973 so back when I was 2. I can’t remember having an opinion at the time which didn’t involve Farley’s Rusks, so safe to say it passed me by.
I’m interested in politics but I don’t profess to be the most knowledgeable about the whole EU thing. I’ve had various discussions with family and friends and we all have different opinions and perhaps reasons for those opinions. I am definitely in the IN camp and I suppose a lot of my reasons are based on my own personal experiences of being in the EU rather than any strong political convictions or ideology.
Living in Spain
I have lived in Spain twice. I au-paired in Mallorca for a year when I was 19 and I lived in Valencia for a year when I was studying Hispanic Studies at university. I’ve spent a month studying in Barcelona and had various holidays and visits to the Balearics and the Costa Brava. I’m in love with Catalan culture and language which is the main reason why almost all of our visits have been to Catalan speaking areas. As members of the EU, it was very simple for me to go over and live in Spain for those two years. No hassle of visas, permits and the like and living there for that period really made me feel part of the EU community. It was because of our membership of the EU that I was able to spend a year at the Universitat de Valencia as part of my degree course.
Between August 1994 and July 1995 I lived in Valencia as my year abroad which formed part of my BA Hispanic Studies. There were a number of options available to me including applying to be an English Teaching assistant or working, but I chose the final option and became an Erasmus student. This meant that I could enrol at the university and study alongside home students. There were two reasons why I chose to do this, firstly I didn’t fancy doing a dissertation and the offer with the Erasmus course meant that I could take courses at uni and have my end of year exam marks counted towards my final degree. Secondly from a financial point of view being an Erasmus student meant that I would receive an additional grant from the EU to support my studies. As a cash strapped mature student this made a lot of sense. I had an amazing time living in Valencia, it’s a beautiful city and I have fond memories of my time there. I also did well at uni and got some great marks to add to my final degree (including 100% in Catalan Language which I am very proud of!) I’m not saying I couldn’t have studied abroad without being an Erasmus student, (my husband studied in Barcelona the following year under his own steam). I found it more of a structured year abroad and I have to say the additional money was a lifesaver.
EU Funding – Further Education
I stayed on at uni to do an MA in Catalan and then after that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I found a job at a local FE college as a European Funding Co-ordinator. I stayed there for three years and my job was to raise awareness of the EU and facilitate exchanges between our college and other educational institutions across the EU. The college I worked in was in a deprived area of Liverpool and for many of the students who were involved in the exchanges it was the first time they had left the North West let alone the country. The students were predominantly vocational students and they had the opportunity to participate in hairdressing programmes in France, catering in Germany and Italy and Hospitality and Tourism in Spain and Iceland. It was a very rewarding aspect of the role as the students would return from their travels so motivated and inspired.
Another part of my job was to assist the Finance Director with bids for ESF (European Social Fund). The funding that we tapped in to was specifically targetted at unemployed people in the area, providing financial support for them to gain vocational qualifications and hopefully employment in key areas. The funding was quite considerable and enabled many unemployed people to be given new opportunities that they might not have had, had the funding not been available. For this particular area I feel that the funding was invaluable at a time where unemployment was high and opportunities were low.
EU Funding- Higher Education
I moved on to a new role at a local university. I was mainly involved in UK government funded projects, specifically teacher training and post-graduate education training. There were occasions where I was involved in EU funded projects, particularly with the arrival of a new Dean who was intent in making her mark in Europe. Whilst I had dealt with EU funding in my previous job, the scale of funding in HE far surpassed that. Many important university research projects are funded by the EU and the amounts that are bandied about are not inconsiderable. It would be really detrimental to the world of research if we didn’t have this funding to tap in to.
So those are my personal experiences of the EU, not extensive and yes, I know that the argument exists that we put more into the EU than we take out. What worries me is that if we did come out of the EU, the Government probably wouldn’t re-prioritise money back into those areas. I also like the idea of another entity being involved in the UK, just to keep an eye on things. And most of all I feel European!
The Guardian recently shared this video about the European Convention on Human Rights, which I thought was perfect! (it does have some strong language, but some great actors).
So what are your thoughts? Should we stay or should we go?