By Andreea Ros |
Depending on how you look at it, this has been either a particularly good week to write about coping with Brexit stress or a particularly bad one. If, like me, you’ve managed to lull yourself into a false sense of temporary security by repeating “it’s fine, nothing will change until 2019 and that’s ages from now”, you might’ve had a rude awakening last Friday. In a joint press conference, Michel Barnier (the chief Brexit negotiator for the EU) warned the UK government that they have two weeks to agree to significant compromises on key issues otherwise negotiations will not be able to progress in time. This, coupled with another embarrassing offer on “settled status” from the UK government and the slow moving disaster of the Withdrawal Bill parliamentary debate have made Brexit seem much more real than it was just a few weeks ago.
I have no idea what kind of bureaucratic nightmare I’m going to have to wrestle while simultaneously trying to finish up
I began my PhD a couple of months after the Brexit vote and I’m set to submit my thesis in autumn 2019, a few months into whatever post-Brexit world we’ll have to endure. Because of this Brexit feels intimately tied to my PhD in ways that it probably isn’t for other people. Everyone at my university has been very kind and tried to reassure me that Brexit won’t interfere with my PhD (and that they didn’t vote for it). But I still get cold sweats thinking about my submission date because I have no idea what kind of bureaucratic nightmare I’m going to have to wrestle while simultaneously trying to finish up. Or what kinds of jobs I’ll be allowed to apply for afterwards.
Many people just don’t see the referendum result as something that affects them personally and can’t understand Brexit stress
Sometimes I tell myself I’m just worried about finishing on time like everyone else and Brexit is a way to project that unto something else. But then I read the comments section on any article about Brexit and get distinctly not chill about this all. Many PhD students, regardless of immigration status, have to juggle multiple responsibilities and worry about stuff that is not the PhD. But Brexit stress has its own particular flavour, part of that is the fact that it’s often hard to talk about openly. Sharing these worries, through forums like 3 Million or this post, has been comforting because it acknowledges that these worries are real and that others share them. Many people (regardless of their political views) just don’t see the referendum result as something that affects them personally and can’t understand Brexit stress as a worthwhile feeling to have. But I’ve found that a fine balance between sharing and acknowledging your feelings and trying not to obsess over the worry is the best way I have to cope.
In addition to sharing the stress, two things have helped to process the worry: trying to understand immigration law and what it says about EU immigrants and asking some realistic questions about what moving elsewhere would mean.
Given the ease of travelling and working in different EU countries, many EU citizens pre-Brexit vote lived in a kind of blissful ignorance of EU and UK immigration law. If you’re not already become fluent in the lingo of CSI, MET and PR, New Europeans have put together quite comprehensive advice on the rights of EU immigrants. If you would like free legal advice on more complicated personal circumstances, the UKCEN Facebook group and brick and mortar immigration law centres are good places to start with.
Nothing warms the heart to a Brexit imposed relocation like looking up postdoc salaries and proximity to good beaches at universities in Australia. And after years of salivating over the sick leave and pension rights of PhDing friends in Germany and the Netherlands, you finally have an excuse to move there. The reality of post-PhD job searching in another country is – obviously – not quite so romantic, but it’s good to know what is out there for you. Talk to friends and colleagues who live or have lived in other countries, ask them how they got their PhD and / or their academic job and what the process of moving there was like. Look up universities in countries you can see yourself living in and sign up to their job alerts. Familiarize yourself with how postdoc funding is awarded in other countries.
Moving no longer seems impossible but it also doesn’t feel like I will have to move yet
Initially I felt overwhelmed by the task of having to figure the job market Everywhere in the World, particularly as everyone seems uniformly pessimistic about the chances of getting any kind of academic job. But talking to friends and doing research on my own have reassured a lot of fears. Requirements for jobs are slightly different in different countries but they’re not radically different. I have already picked a few fellowships outside of the UK I will be applying to and I’m working on building a more international network of professional acquaintances. Moving no longer seems impossible but it also doesn’t feel like I will have to move yet. After all, I need to finish the thesis first and that’s not due until 2019 and that’s ages from now.