Ah, Brexit. How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways…
Kidding. Well, kinda.
I voted remain last year. I remember feeling encouraged when I realised that about 90% of the people I knew were going to as well. I didn’t quite realise back then that of course they did – I was living in my own personal ‘echo chamber’, which isn’t surprising when you think about it; the people you surround yourself with are often on the same wavelength as you, with similar outlooks on the world and values that they hold dear. I went to bed on the night of the election feeling relatively confident that I would wake up to the same country I went to sleep in.
The result shocked me. Disappointed me. Worried me. And despite it being over a year later, despite the attempts by pro-Brexit supporters and the government telling us (to paraphrase) ‘it’s going to be rough for a while, but it’ll all work out fine in the end’, that’s not what I feel deep down. So yes, maybe I’ll eventually be able to subdue my anger at the result of last year’s referendum, enough to muster up a relatively expletive-free post about why I believe it was such a bad result for this country. But instead, for now, I’m going to put a slightly positive spin on things. I’ve put together a list of some essential experiences that will help you squeeze the last remaining drops out of our time in the EU!
1. Make the most of visa-free travel
One of the huge benefits about holding an EU passport is the freedom it movement it offers. Book that flight, grab your passport and get going – there’s no need to go through the hassle of filling in paperwork, checking boxes in online forms, and shelling out the money for a visa to travel to other EU countries.
With that in mind….
2. Find a job abroad
Just to make it clear – I’m not saying that after Brexit you won’t be able to move to another EU country for work! But the likelihood is that it’ll be a visa based system – you’ll have to hold an offer of employment first and be sponsored for a visa by your new employer… and possibly even pay for part of the cost of that visa yourself. If you’ve ever attempted to find a job with sponsorship in a non EU country… let me tell you, it’s a long slog. I’ve personally spent more time than I’d like to admit over the last couple of years looking for jobs in the USA, as it’s always been my dream to emigrate there. As it stands, I still live in the UK – that alone might give you an idea of how tough it’s been! Ok, maybe it’s a bit unfair to use the USA as an example, as it’s known to have some of the strictest and hard-to-navigate visa regulations in the world. But the truth is that post-Brexit, you won’t have the same opportunity to find a job so easily, without the hassle that comes with visas. So if living and working in Paris, Rome, or Prague has always been your dream – do it now, what’s stopping you?
If you want to work in the EU, but aren’t sure about what job to go for….
3. Take a TEFL course head to France/Spain/Poland/anywhere to teach
This is no doubt one of the best ways to travel while earning money along the way, and it’s something I’ve previously considered doing to fund my wanderlust. While we’re still in the EU, Europe is your oyster – you could get a TEFL certificate, pick a country, head to a TEFL job board (Dave’s ESL Cafe, ESLbase, etc) and within 6 months you could be teaching in Madrid, Prague, Krakow… all without the hassle of having to apply for a visa! You could even throw caution to the wind and head off on your travels without having a confirmed job yet. And after a year, if you fancied a change of scenery, you could finish your contract and hop to another EU country to teach.
Not sure if you want to work abroad? How about you…
4. Study at a University in Europe
Another great big tick in the EU’s ‘Pros’ box (particularly for us travel lovers) is the fact that, as EU citizens, UK students are entitled to reduced rate tuition fees in Universities around Europe – essentially you will pay the same rate as someone from that country would pay. In many public universities in Europe these fees are much, much lower than in the UK, and some countries even offer undergraduate degrees for free! The bad news is that when the UK leaves the EU, UK students will be classed as ‘international’ students, so tuition fees for Brits wanting to study in cities like Vienna, Berlin or Paris will go up. If you’ve been thinking about studying your undergraduate or Masters degree in Europe, now’s the time!
Or, if you don’t want to commit to the full 3/4 years abroad…
5. Take an exchange year with Erasmus
I know lots of people who took an exchange year in Uni, and what’s the one thing they all say? It was the best year of their lives. If you don’t want to commit to a whole degree abroad but you still want to experience studying in another country, you’re in luck – the EU has a program called Erasmus, which (through partnerships between different European Universities) allows students to spend time in an exchange university abroad. That means as a student at a UK university you can apply to live and study at another university in Europe for a year. And the best part? There are bursaries to cover your expenses! Plus, you will still receive your normal student loan. With Brexit looming in the distance, Erasmus could very well be lost to UK students, so if it’s something you’ve been considering, now’s the time to go all in!
6.Use the EU lane at the airport
Yep, that lovely quick lane we head straight to when disembarking from a flight in the EU. Wave bye bye to that, because afterwards we’ll be joining the longer ‘All Other Passports’ lane beside it. Make the most of it while you can.
7. Book a last minute cheap flight anywhere
One thing I love about living in Europe is our proximity to so many amazing countries. You can hop on a plane in London and within hours be sipping red wine at a cafe in Paris, while the Eiffel Tower sparkles in the distance. We have great access to cheap flights with budget airlines, and a lot of this is thanks to EU air service agreements. With Britain now on the road to leaving the EU, if negotiations don’t go well it could spell trouble for budget airlines being able to operate freely all over the EU, and that in turn will hike up the low prices that, at the moment, we take for granted. Again, we don’t know this one for certain yet, but just in case it’s worth taking advantage of those cheap tickets to your favourite European city….
8. Get compensation for a delayed flight
This is something everyone should do! At the moment under EU law if your flight has been delayed (or cancelled) by 3 hours or more, you are entitled to claim compensation up to 600 euros as long as:
- The flight departed from an EU airport (regardless of the airline) OR
- Where an EU airline landed at an EU airport.
This is amazing, full stop. I’ve personally used this, and I received about £500 back for delayed flights! The great part is you can also go back to flights from 2005, although apparently it’s harder to get compensation for pre-2011 flights. Still, that’s a long time. If you’ve had any delays in the past that you think you might be able to claim compensation for, do it now, because as this is EU law we may not be able to claim once we’re out, or it may become a much more complicated process for us Brits – possibly involving having to claim in a specific country’s court before seeing any money being refunded.
9. Get free healthcare in the EU
Being a member of the EU also means we have access to free and reduced-cost healthcare in other European countries, thanks to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is brilliant for travellers and those living abroad, because while it’s not exactly the same as travel insurance (make sure you still take a policy out!) it means that if the healthcare you receive in another European country isn’t covered for free by the EHIC card, many travel insurance policies will waive the excess fee on a claim. Depending on how Brexit goes (more importantly, what rights to the NHS Britain offers other EU citizens once we leave the EU) we might not benefit from this card any more.
10. Enjoy using free data and texts on holiday
Did you know about this one? In June 2017 the EU passed a law to abolish roaming charges for people using their mobiles abroad, which means that when you’re off on your travels in Europe you won’t be charged any more for sending texts, making calls or browsing the internet than you would do if you were back home in the UK. Pretty awesome. When Brexit comes into force it would be up to our government to decide whether to keep this law or not…
11. Move abroad
Last but not least. Think Brexit is rubbish? Use steps #1 – #4 to move to another EU country, have an awesome adventure, maybe stay there, get dual citizenship and keep the benefits of having an EU passport…. just an idea 😉