“I’m Romanian by birth, but I’ve lived in the UK for seven years in total and for four years consecutively. I’ve studied at one of the UK’s top universities and I’ve been an intern at several City banks and finance firms. I’m interning at a London finance firm this summer, but I’m seriously thinking about leaving.
I don’t have to go. I’m Romanian, but even if the UK votes to leave the EU this Thursday, I could still stay in the country if I wanted. Next year, I will have lived in the UK for five years – making me eligible for permanent residence if I want to take it. I’ll probably still apply, but I’m less bothered about it than I used to be.
My preferences for where I want to be based are changing. London is still up there among my first choice as a place to start my finance career, but China and Central Europe are a close second. It’s not just the tone of the referendum debate that’s put me off staying in the UK – it was also last year’s general election. UKIP achieved 3.8 million votes in 2015. Xenophobia isn’t transitory in this country; it’s entrenched.
I’m not the only one who feels like this. I know a lot of Romanian students who have been put off by the tone of the referendum. Many have already decided to do their Masters in Central Europe – it’s cheaper and why stay in the UK when you’re not wanted? If the UK exits the EU, studying here will become even more expensive for us as we’ll be considered international students. It just doesn’t seem worth it.
By comparison, China is the future. It’s an emerging market and an emerging hub of Asian business. China seems to value international students and talent a lot – I’ve been offered many scholarships and internship opportunities there.
Before the rise of UKIP, the UK seemed like a home to me. It felt like Eastern Europeans and Western Europeans shared the same values and wanted similar lifestyles. Nowadays, that doesn’t seem the case. – I’m scared to say which country I come from. If you want to work in finance, the City of London is still an excellent place to start your career, but it’s not somewhere I want to grow old. London cannot be a home to me, and that’s a shame.”
Anca Grigorescu is a pseudonym