University is about more than just studying a subject – it’s a course in life lessons. The students who started at university this week will soon find that out. I think it’s especially true if you go to study abroad, as I did.
I spent the second year of my degree studying in, first, France and, then, in Germany. For the French half of the year, I went to Rennes university (pictured), in Brittany. In Germany, I studied in Mannheim.
For me, my year abroad was one of the best of my life.
But there’s danger ahead for today’s British students. It’s called Brexit. Leaving the EU may rob them of the sort of opportunity I had.
The government doesn’t seem to know what it wants from Brexit. If the UK opts for a deal that doesn’t involve freedom of movement, British students won’t be eligible for Erasmus.
That’s what the Swiss discovered when they voted to limit free movement. They have since set up their own scheme, but really it’s only the students from wealthier families who can afford to take part.
The European Commission launched the Erasmus programme in the 1980s. Since then, more than 2 million young people have taken up the offer of a grant to study in one of the other 27 EU countries.
The UK has been an attractive study destination for other Europeans, not least because of the chance to improve their English. Equally, the Erasmus programme helps Britons learn other languages.
And let’s face it, we need to.
Less than half of British schoolchildren now take a GCSE in a foreign language and our collective lack of language skills is said to cost the UK economy almost £50 billion a year.
“The Erasmus programme also helps Britons learn other languages. And let’s face it, we need to”
My year abroad allowed me to become fluent in both French and German – and expanded my horizons. I also made some lifelong friends.
I hope the British students of the future will have the same chances I had.
Photo © Université de Rennes