My Next Steps: Why I’m Leaving the UK and Emigrating to Europe
The year so far
2016 has been a year of infinite changes. So much change! I’m generally ok with change and I find it quite exciting, but it seems that my normal way of dealing with change is to cry, and this year has seen an unusually high tissue consumption rate!
First of all I moved to Nepal for 4 months, which I loved to bits, but where the inequality and hardships that women and girls face there pushed me to sobs in front of my entire team (so embarrassing). Nepal also gave me the most tearful goodbye I’ve ever been part of – a 40-strong mob of criers, both us volunteers and the villagers too, as we bid farewell to Bhalu Khola and our newfound families. Days later I had to bid farewell to Asha too, my Nepali co-Team Leader who came to be my best friend and confidant, and that was a horrifically sad day featuring very ungraceful, uncontrollable sobbing. Leaving St Petersburg, a city I fell in love with, also kick-started the waterworks mid-train to Moscow. Waking up to the nightmare result of the EU referendum left me sobbing intermittently for literally days – I was in an absolute state. I then bid farewell to my best friend Imy who’s moved to Australia for at least a year, possibly longer, and that was very emotional. I am honestly turning into an utter cry baby!
On top of an already emotional year full of change, I’ve been wrangling with a difficult decision for months. Just one of those small decisions like… what do I want to do with my life? Yes that tiny little decision.
Back when I started my sabbatical in November last year, I had a longer-term plan that I wasn’t ready to shout about publicly, but which I’ve been working away on secretly in the background. Now I can finally confirm that the decision has been made and that my plan is turning into reality.
I’m leaving the UK and emigrating to Europe. I’ve just resigned from my job and in September I’ll be returning to university to begin a 2-year double Master’s degree in a sub-field of International Relations: European Studies: Society, Politics and Culture in a Global Context.
- I loved, loved, loved my four undergrad years at university – I was in my element. I love studying, exercising my brain and I’ve always deep down wanted to do a Master’s. It’s been on my personal to-do list for years and I started researching it way back in 2012.
- I’m changing career direction and want to re-train in something more relevant. I’ve found working in the Tech industry fascinating and my employer has offered me some incredible opportunities to travel the world, move to Madrid, attend One Young World, take a sabbatical and even (indirectly) allowed me to buy a flat. But I’ve been at the same company for 4 years now, ever since I graduated, and I need some fresh air. A different direction. An academic Master’s may not be strictly essential for the career I want, but I’m 100% sure it will help me move from the private sector into my chosen field.
- I’ll lose my EU citizenship when the UK (very stupidly) leaves the EU. I am devastated by the idea of not being able to freely move around Europe as and when I please, working as and where I please, and so while we have at least a 2-year window of negotiations (hopefully longer!), I am bloody well going to take advantage of my EU passport!
- A Master’s is cheaper on the continent than in the UK, as it’s heavily subsidised by both the national governments and the EU itself. On top of the low tuition, I’ve also been offered a partial tuition fee waiver by the EU.
- I’m a bit over London at the moment (and I’ve only been back for two months!) and I crave abroad. I’ve been dying to move abroad for the last year and a half. This Master’s lets me move to at least 3 different countries in 2 years.
I’ll be studying for 2 years to gain a double Master’s degree in the field of International Relations, focused on Europe within a global context. I’ve been so torn over the subject matter, especially since the news about the EU referendum. While I’ve accepted this course, I was also offered a place on a Global Studies course that dealt with the political and economic processes of globalisation, rather than focusing on just one continent (and a continent I’m shortly to be ousted from at that!). And it was impossible to choose between the two courses. But in the end the European course content appealed to me more, analysing not just the political and legal structures of the EU, but the diverse nationalities in Europe, their identities, cultures and how these societies interact and evolve as a result of close integration and migration patterns. As the EU embraces a membership crisis and the UK tries to extract itself, it will be a fascinating time to study the subject at an academic level.
The two year course follows the EU’s Erasmus Mundus format and is run by a consortium of 8 European universities split into 4 semesters: 1st semester at university A; 2nd semester at university B; 3rd semester doing a relevant internship anywhere in the world or studying at a university outside of Europe; 4th semester writing a thesis at university A or B.
While I’m studying I also want to carry on with my Russian, pick up the basics of some other European languages and dedicate more time to writing and this blog, which an academic timetable should allow more flexibility to do.
Where indeed! The best year of my entire undergraduate degree was my Third Year Abroad as an Erasmus student and intern in Europe. So it made sense to try and study abroad again for my Master’s, instead of staying in the UK.
I could choose from any of the eight universities in the consortium for my first semester, but I have settled on studying in Groningen in the Netherlands – a country I have actually never been to before! But from what I’ve read online and heard from Dutch people, Groningen sounds perfect – a small, medieval university town where 25% of the population are students, in the top 100 research universities worldwide, in the top 30 in Europe and the co-ordinating centre for the degree.
Then in my second semester I can choose between: Bilbao (Spain), Gottingen (Germany), Strasbourg (France), Udine (Italy), Uppsala (Sweden), Olomouc (Czech Republic), and Krakow (Poland).
In summer 2017 there will be a 1-week Intensive Programme in Krakow, before I hopefully start an internship somewhere in the world (I’m currently thinking outside of Europe, like Hong Kong or Latin America). If I choose not to do an internship, I can instead study for a semester in Mexico, the US, India or Japan.
Finally I’ll return for my fourth semester to either Groningen or my 2nd-semester-university to write my thesis. And that brings me to summer 2018!
A few considerations
I am so excited about what the next two years might hold and where I might end up – I feel like so many doors have opened. But I also have to recognise that with this decision to do a Master’s, some doors are closing too. I’m taking a 100% pay cut for a start, which is going to hurt initially and will also limit how much I can afford to travel. Some of my travel wishlist items will have to be put on pause. I had originally hoped to complete them all by aged 30 (that’s happening in summer 2019, gulp) but I’m now pushing that deadline back to 32 to take these two years of Master’s into account.
I’ve also turned down a job offer in the UK’s civil service to do this Master’s. It was a job I’ve applied for four times in total. This year I finally succeeded through all the various stages, only to find that perhaps I didn’t want it quite as much as I originally did – oh the irony! In the long-term I do want to make a difference in society, but I’m just not sure it fitted with what I want at this exact point in my life. It would have also been a very big pay cut…
I’m also conscious of what will happen to the UK and the EU in the meantime. How on earth will Britain manage the mess it finds itself in? Will the EU survive this crisis and still exist? I hope this Master’s will equip me with the knowledge, skills and contacts to handle the uncertainty and unknown times ahead. Whether we are still part of the EU or not, I feel confident that an understanding of Europe will always be beneficial, and the UK does currently have a serious skills gap in this area.
While the tuition fees and living costs of this Master’s course are both cheaper in the EU compared to the UK, they’re not free. And sadly I don’t qualify for any student or career loans whatsoever… So I’ve entered a photo competition to win a £5,000 postgraduate scholarship and all it requires is plenty of votes! My photo (to the right) needs to be in the top 10 most voted in order to be shortlisted, so I’d be ever so, ever so grateful if you could take a minute to head over to the FindAMasters website to vote for my photo. A couple of clicks is all it takes and with that £5,000 I could pay for a whole two years’ tuition. Thank you for your help!
It’s been four years since I was last at university, and while I’ve enjoyed the working world and this blog and London and everything the last four years have brought me, I’m excited about this new adventure in Europe and ready to throw myself into academia for a few years. I will still blog and in these 3 different countries I’ll have plenty of new places to explore, languages to learn and different cultures to understand. I’ll be back in London outside of term-time, and I’m only moving across the English Channel after all. I have to say that I’m really excited to escape Britain and this post-referendum atmosphere of doom and gloom… I’m lucky with the timing, as this opportunity is still open to me for the time being. If this referendum has taught me anything, it’s to appreciate the opportunities and freedom that we currently have inside the EU, and to make the most of the EU while I can!
Good luck with everything 🙂 Reading all your exploits makes me ever so jealous as for all of my 20s I was working and didn’t do any extra studies/sabbaticals/prolonged travelling etc. I’m sure the opportunities were there but nowadays everything is much more visible … anyway I’m only 40, not 80, so I digress.
I studied in Göttingen in 1997 as part of Erasmus and would thoroughly recommend it. A huge University in a city with its original city centre (not bombed during the war) with many happy memories. No FB album to share to you mind due as that was 10 years pre Facebook but it’s reminded me That I really need to go back and see how it is now
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Thank you Biggsy! But you did do Erasmus, so you hardly did nothing! And you in no way act like a 40-year-old, you’re so young at heart. I’ll have to grill you on Gottingen next time I see you to help me make the next decision, glad you enjoyed it though.
Sounds like a great adventure! Exciting times ahead 😄
Thank you so much!
Wow!! This sounds so exciting! It’s amazing that one course could give you the opportunity to study in four different places. I voted for your picture so good luck!
I studied abroad during my undergrad in the US (Oregon) and it was the best experience. I also noticed one of your study choices is Mexico City – I will be moving to Mexico City for work in three weeks time so keep an eye on my blog if you’d like to know anything about it, as an option!!
Best of luck with it all,
Caitlin – http://headoutwest.co.uk
Thank you Caitlin and how exciting for you too that you’re moving to Mexico City! I hope it goes smoothly and I can’t wait to read about it!
Good luck with everything Virginia! I know two people that have studied in Göttingen and Uppsala and both appeared to enjoy it! I start my Erasmus year abroad in Germany in just three weeks now so I’m going to make the most of being in Europe at this post-Brexit time too!
How exciting that your year abroad is about to begin and thank goodness we’re in time before the UK is potentially excluded from Erasmus when we leave the EU. Good news that your two friends enjoyed both places – I’m hearing good things about quite a few of the universities so I’ve now idea how to decide! Enjoy Germany!
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I studied abroad in 2014 and went to Zurich. It remains one of my favourite times at university.
All the best with your masters in September and I enjoyed reading about your time in Nepal. You inspire me to travel more and I hope to soon.
Thank you so much Tunrayo! Glad you enjoyed your year abroad too and I hope you have some travel plans for the future too!
That’s so exciting, good for you for going for it! Coincidentally I’ve also been looking at studying the Media Arts Cultures 2 year masters degree from Erasmus Mundus, but from 2017-2019. I would only be able to do it if I received one of their Scholarships but the idea of studying across different universities in different countries is so appealing and an amazing opportunity.
Thank you! I just found your website and that Masters would definitely fit in with your career direction – I hope you go for it! I also at first thought I’d only do it if I got a scholarship, then I found out they mainly offer them to students from much poorer countries outside the EU, my Masters only had 1 scholarship available for an EU student this year. But the tuition and living costs are both cheaper than in the UK, so I’ve decided to go for it anyway. I think it’ll be worth it! Good luck with your application!
AMAZING!!!! this write-up makes me feel so envious. The exposure you are garnering is simply awesome. Keep writing and inspiring 🙂
Thank you so much!
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Good luck Virginia! Sounds like a wonderful opportunity with lots of new adventures! 🙂
Thank you Anna! Hope you’re still enjoying Milan!
This sounds like such a great way of doing a Masters, I never knew you could do one that involved living and studying in so many places! Can highly recommend Strasbourg as a place to live, having spent my year abroad nearby and currently out in Hong Kong, so will be posting on that in the coming months! Good luck with it all and look forward to reading about your experience! 🙂
Thank you Rosie and how interesting, what are you doing in Hong Kong? I love the city and have always wanted to move there.
Fitting in a bit of travelling before I move to France in late August, staying with my boyfriend’s family (as they’re from Hong Kong) so it’s been great seeing both the local and touristy sides to the city! It’s such an incredible place, I particularly like how you can escape the busy centre so easily and swap it for empty beaches and hikes.
All the best for the program, hopefully the modules you study and the theoretical underpinnings adjust sufficiently to the rapidly evolving Brexit climate. Real jealous of your continued travels, it is very inspiring what you do!
Yes I think it will do, and it’s certainly becoming a bit more of a relevant topic in the UK than it has been before. And thank you!
Just voted. Best of luck with this exciting next step!
Thank you so much Jayne!
I haven’t kept up to date with your blog in far too long, and this was such a refreshing read! I’ve been umming and ahhing over whether to do a masters myself (although in something quite different) and very recently had that “YES” moment when I discovered I could get funding.
I share your despair over the EU… After two years living in Madrid I’d decided that I would be returning home in a year or so (after trips to South America) and Brexit has forced me to reconsider, and I think many fellow travellers are doing the same.
I can’t wait to read about how your masters programme goes! All the best 🙂
Congratulations on finding funding for a Masters, well done! What would you like to study? And make the most of Madrid while you’re there, I loved living there 2 years ago. And I’m very envious of your trips to South America!
I’ll be doing Youth Studies (Young People, Social Inclusion, and Change) at Glasgow hopefully… I’ve left Madrid now and come to the UK to work for Summer. Its a great city!
How fascinating and what an important subject! Good on you, I’m seriously impressed!
Good luck with the move abroad! I am sure you will be very happy! Very jealous you get to go back to university…I miss it too!
Thank you so much Kait, I can’t wait!
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Can I ask what your undergraduate degree was in? I quite badly want to do a masters in Europe doing either Global or European studies, but my degree is in Visual and Media Arts. It seems that in the states we can do one thing for our bachelor’s and another for our masters, but in the EU you have to have the BA/BA in the same subject area to qualify for the masters. With that in mind I’m looking at the Global Studies program at Frieberg, because they don’t care as much about what your bachelor was in, but I’d love to do a program like this one, honestly!
My BA was in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, so not technically a politics or social science degree. However while studying the languages I also studied the history, society and culture too (literature/film) and obviously they are all European languages so that helped. I also did a couple of International Relations modules on the side, which I made sure to mention in my application. On the continent my experience is that the two subjects do have to be quite closely linked, but in the UK however it’s much more flexible, so have you looked for courses there? For example, my sister did a Geography BA and then a Journalism MA, and I know quite a few others in the UK with unusual combinations like that too. There’s no harm in applying, and you could always email the admissions team first to ask their opinion. Good luck!