Guest Blog

Guest Blog: Upcoming March Highlights Hostility Issues of Brexit

This post is an article written by our guest blogger Rebecka Durén who is a Swedish journalism student at Newcastle University. Rebecka has interviewed students as well as Dr Anders Widfeldt who is a professor at University of Aberdeen. This interview was conducted closely after our society held an event with Dr Widfeldt and the Nordic society. Rebecka’s article does not represent the views of the society as we are neutral and do not have an opinion.

As  the upcoming People’s Vote march raises unsolved issues of the Brexit negotiations, many Swedish residents are increasingly worried about their ability to stay and continue their studies or work in the UK. Many report even having experienced hostility since the vote to leave in 2016.

Since the details surrounding the deal are still unclear, the potential consequences of what leaving the EU might mean for Swedish residents in the UK is something that is frequently discussed in forums and Facebook-groups. People are asking about their children’s right to stay, for their ability to continue their studies or what this might mean for their career. 

I applied to my university just after the Brexit vote and I remember feeling disheartened and worried. Now, almost two years in, those feelings are as strong as ever and I feel uncertain about any prospects of continuing my career in the UK. Speaking to other Swedish students in the UK a lot of them seem to relate to these worries.

Mitali Singh, a second year law student at the University of Sussex, says she knows a lot of students are frustrated about the vote to leave and the consequences it has left its young voters with. Singh also said she believes that many will choose to move somewhere else to study and pursue a career. 

“London won’t be seen as the international hub as it is seen as today. Working there used to mean you can work anywhere, and I don’t think it will be like that anymore.”

There have even been instances where discriminating comments have been reported from Swedes living around the UK, seemingly as a result of Brexit. Sara*, a mother living in North Yorkshire describes how a man told her to “fuck back off to her own country” when he heard her speaking Swedish to her daughter.

“When I defended myself he started getting out of his car to ‘teach me a lesson’.” she added.

Christine Nilsson Liddle living in Berkshire said: “I had never experienced xenophobia directed at me until the day after the Brexit vote, when I was told off with a number of swearwords to learn the language or get out of here”.

Teaming up with the Independent’s campaign Final SayPeople’s Vote aims to ‘make political leaders sit up and take notice’ according to their website. The march wants to prevent the UK leaving the EU as they believe it would ‘make our country poorer, trash our vital public services and wreck the life chances of the young’. 

Dr Anders Widfeldt, a Swedish lecturer in Nordic Politics at the University of Aberdeen stated that UK leaving the EU could result in political instability for Sweden.

“Sweden and Britain have often worked together in the EU on budgets and other things, so Sweden will lose an ally here that could affect the whole power structure in the EU, and not for the better.”

*Sara did not want her surname to appear in the article.

The original article written by Rebecka can be found here

Bosnia Trip 2018

Guest Contributor: Conor Haggerty

The PIR society’s trip to the Balkans must have been one of the high points of travelling I have had so far, and without a doubt will play a significant role in my future studies, not least due to the abundance of knowledge to be gained from this diverse and recently infamous region of Europe. Due to its unique nature on the continent, there were things we learned which would simply not exist in order to be learnt in other parts of the wider international community.

Educationally, we had various fascinating meetings with high-ranking diplomats and policymakers in both Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), as well as in Kosovo. In Sarajevo, we had the luck of meeting British Ambassador Edward Ferguson, followed by a meeting with Matt Field at the EU delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Just a few days ago, it was announced that Matt Field will succeed Edward Ferguson in August of 2018. We congratulate Mr Field on his appointment and wish Mr Ferguson the best in his future career. Despite Brexit, both were involved in many aspects of Bosnian accession into the EU, which they admitted had stalled for a variety of reasons. Unlike most diplomats, they also played a governance role, liaising with a “High Representative” who was from the international community. They have supreme power, mainly so any nationalist politicians threatening the peace can be removed from office before the barely healed wounds of the country bleed once more. After going to various museums detailing the atrocities that all sides had committed, and the siege of Sarajevo, the peace agreements seemed more akin to tape over a cracked wall. More work in that regard was required, over 20 years later.

Much of the lack of progress in EU accession also came down to the ethnic tensions in the country between the Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs, who all had various legal entities which often didn’t effectively cooperate like a country would elsewhere. This also meant that there were 14 parliaments present in BiH, with two alone being in Sarajevo. As we soon discovered to our annoyance, when our next visit was to “the parliament” it wasn’t as simple as you would have thought!

Eventually, through the confusion we made it to the (Federal) Parliament, where we got insight into the legislative structure of the country. Again, it was unusual, with seats guaranteed to each ethnic group based on their population.

Of course, we also explored the vibrant city of Sarajevo. It is a place of so much potential, with a stunning old town, and we can all honestly say that despite its scars, it is moving forward. The food and drink too were great and cheap, with a diverse range, from local delicacies to food from outside Europe. One of us even tried Brazilian cuisine! I can honestly say that all of us had a great experience there and would go back in the near future without much hesitation.

However, the 15-hour bus journey to Pristina was not as amazing, for obvious reasons. Despite the cities being about the same distance as between Glasgow and Aberdeen, we arrived 15 hours after we left. The Balkan’s have one thing in abundance; mountains. There is also one thing they sometimes lack; good infrastructure. The two put together can be a slight hinderance. On the bright side, while some views in the light of winter looked melancholy, others were absolutely stunning, especially in Montenegro, the most mountainous and smallest of the Balkan nations.

So, 15 hours and 3 countries later (we took the longer way through Albania as well as Montenegro) we arrived in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. The city was noticeably different to Sarajevo, mainly since it was far newer and had few old buildings. The streets were also more polluted, with smog occurring often in this relatively small city. We learned later on that there was still a heavy reliance on coal for heating in many households, something alien to many cities in Europe nowadays.

To quench our thirst for knowledge, we visited two notable institutions to gain a better insight into the country. The first was the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). We talked with various people on many aspects of the organisation’s important role in building the governance structures of Kosovo after Serbian forces withdrew in 2000. They played a major part in the creation of the Kosovar Police Force, and continue to work to improve the country. While inter-ethnic tensions between Albanians and Serbs are still prevalent in Kosovo today, we talked to both ethnic Serbs and Albanians. While these people got on well, it was pointed out that integration currently is almost impossible for the two groups due to the language barrier. While in Bosnia the three groups speak “one language with three egos”, Albanian is in no way like Serbian. As Serbian regions of the country teach solely their own language, they remain isolated from the larger Albanian population. Improvements had been made though, with minority participation in certain institutions doing well.

We also visited staff members of the United Nations who worked specifically on human rights in Kosovo. The country, while having extensive rights on paper, was still struggling to implement them in real terms. The lack of recognition of the country by nearly half of the United Nations member states had also cut off access to U.N. schemes and money, which while not lethal was a handicap (e.g. it could fix the coal pollution issue).

That made Pristina different to Sarajevo. While Sarajevo had been well established with many interesting places, the Pristina had less of these and felt like it was struggling more due to these factors. It still had its nice parts of course, and could have a bright future, if money came in more easily. While many states see it as a part of Serbia, it certainly was anything but, with it having separate institutions like any state (I have a Kosovo stamp on my passport) with the vast majority of people being Ethnic Albanian.

As we left to the airport, I could not help but reminisce on this trip as a great insight into a fascinating place. The newly acquired knowledge, but also the cultures and places we came across made it an unforgettable experience.

Guest Blog from a Fellow PIR Student Studying in Mexico for the Semester

We are happy to share our first ‘Guest Blog Post’!! Our Guest Post today is from Second Year PIR Student, Marguerite Treppoz. Marguerite is currently studying in Mexico! Here is her experience so far:

“I’m an exchange student” – “awesome, how long are you staying in Guadalajara?” – “A semester, which is not really six months, but rather four months” – “only?” – “yes, I know, it’s short, I’d like to stay more but my university hasn’t chosen for it to be this way…”
“Only. Too short. Stay longer.” That is what comes to my mind when I have to bring my stay here to an end. Obviously, I am grateful to the University of Aberdeen for making this exchange possible and to give me the opportunity to discover Mexico for at least a little while. But why this deep feeling inside that it is too short? Simply because I am just loving my life here in Guadalajara – the second biggest city of Mexico – the Pearl of the Occident.

Two months. That is how long I have spent here. Two months. It’s also what I have left here. I spent half of the time, already. I have done so much so far and still have so much to do. I have mixed feelings looking back with everything I have already accomplished. But one feeling I have is that it, literally, flew by.

I realise every day how the life of an exchange student is a bubble compared to the life of a ‘normal’ student. Obviously, being a ‘normal’ student is full of experiences, but the ways to act and think everyday converge. The exchange is a fixed-term contract of a really short period – a period that has to be filled and enjoyed as much as possible. The exchange students live in another time-scale, living everything twice or ten times quicker. The time spent in the library diminishes consistently, the time spent travelling has never been so much, and you wish you would live your life this way forever.

I was born and have lived of my all life in France. I decided to study my entire degree in Scotland, Aberdeen. Starting University there, I was immersed in a whole new world where I made many international friends, got involved in societies, got a job as a waitress and volunteered for associations where I got to live the experience of being a student in its entirety. I did travel a bit, taking two days off of my exam revision to go see a concert of The Red Hot Chili Pepper in Glasgow, or hitchhiking and falling in love with Edinburgh. Though, I spent way more week-ends on-campus than getting to discover my environment and only a year after living there I had realised that I still had never set foot in the park of the city centre. As soon as I arrived here in Guadalajara, I already had my list of the ‘one hundred things to do before I leave’, which was a useful guide for the day of where I had nothing really planned but knew I could tick one or two things if I wished.

Talking about Mexico and Guadalajara itself, I do not think I could not have asked for a better experience. When I began filling my application to study abroad in January, I was far from imagining I would go there. I almost did not fill the international section in order to focus on Erasmus, but finally I filled it in, because after all, why not? My mind was set on one full year somewhere in Europe, without a clear idea of where. In my second semester in Aberdeen I had the opportunity to meet a pack of Mexican ‘gueys’ (guy in Mexican slang) studying in Aberdeen who gave me a taste of what life could be like in Mexico: warmness, accessibility and generosity. When I learned I was going to spend my next six months in their land, excitement directly followed the surprise. I realised living there, the appetiser of what I had seen of Mexican culture was just an opening of this wonderful country so welcoming towards foreigners, which somewhat gives you a sense of fresh air when you come from France. Being the ‘huerrita’, the blond girl, white skinned and green-eyed you cannot expect to be ignored and I must admit I was sometimes tempted to try a different hair-colour to see how I would be treated, but it had its advantages, so I took the opportunity to enjoy my time here even more.

I know the travelling is not finished yet, and I would tell you even more about my adventure once it has come to an end, but from now, the thing I can advise you on is: as soon as the time comes for you to fill the application to move abroad, do not even hesitate to give the chance to loco Mexico, because soon it is going to be your turn to say ‘I’m an exchange student’ and think once you’re there that: ‘I’d like to stay more but my university hasn’t chosen for it to be this way…’ whilst being grateful of what you’re already living.