A personal view of the EU
The recent British referendum has been a whirlwind of statistics, predictions and numbers to justify voting to leave or remain in the EU.
I couldn’t vote, as I’m an Italian citizen living in London. I’d like to tell you my view of the EU, because it may tell you why I would have voted to remain.
I barely remember switching from Lira (our currency at the time) to Euro. It was around 1999 and I was 15. Some people said it was tough, prices were rising and we all had to make sacrifices. I must say that thanks to my parents I don’t remember any of that. I didn’t notice. I did know we were in the EU though, which was a great feeling. Going to France for a holiday was dead easy, for example, and I was really excited when I would find a coin from a different country. Coming from a small town, the feeling of being part of a bigger world was incredible.
It all sank in gradually and I didn’t pay much attention to it. I was happy to benefit from easy travelling, true, but apart from that not much else. A few years passed.
In 2005 I started university, a New Media degree. I remember doing an Information Technology course and being advised by my professor to apply for a professional course he was managing outside university. It was a programming course to learn how to make websites with Java and Oracle. I didn’t understand much of that at the time, but I enjoyed tinkering with computers, so I enquired more about it. Turns out it was sponsored by the EU, open to young people, either students or unemployed. It was a few months long and it included a work experience. I wouldn’t have been able to afford this on top of university, but I remember thinking that the EU was incredibly cool to do that. I did it and it made programming my favourite spare time activity. I went on with university and then work, first as a sort of journalist-translator and then in a videogame publishing company, doing marketing. Around 2010 that job worn me out completely so I decided to become a professional software developer, after all I had been tinkering with that for years. With a couple of friends I managed to freelance for a year, but I still needed a jump so I moved with my partner at the time to London to find a job and better life there.
You may or may not understand how it feels to decide to leave without knowing if you’re coming back. It also changes from person to person. I was happy to leave certain things behind, but also scared of what I could find. Would people be welcoming? How different is the culture there? Will my English be enough? More and more questions were popping up in my head.
I found dozens of people like me: from Spain, France, Italy, you name it. We all had the same questions but at least we were all grateful because at least the process of migrating was easy. We were from EU, so we didn’t need a visa and we could work anywhere without any issue. But more than that, it’s the feeling of someone always having your back. You get used to it.
I got married last May and my wife is Turkish. She has to deal with visas, residency, different border controls and all sorts of other limitations. More than ever now I appreciate how easy it is being part of the EU.
I’ve been in London for five years now. I’ve always worked regularly, paid taxes, registered to vote, barely used any health or other social service. I’m strongly convinced that I’ve contributed to this country and I’ll keep doing that. I’ve met incredible people from all around the planet. I’ve met wonderful British people that made me feel incredibly welcome, even at times when things got difficult.
I’m grateful for EU: it smoothed things where they could have been more complicated and helped me see a much bigger world.
I hope that whatever happens after this vote those principles, those ideas won’t get lost.