How the EU Saved My Life

By Kristina Bergwall

Posted in Lifestyle on March 1, 2017

It’s a dramatic headline, I know. And I normally don’t share very personal details on the blog but I felt the need to share some of my story in the light of recent political happenings. I don’t have the intention of making a political statement or make my blog political in any way, I just want to share my thoughts on something very close to my heart as I think it might resonate with others who are also worried and scared right now.

I was inspired by Dei at Sunnydei after reading her blog post on sharing her story and her thoughts on Brexit. My story is a bit different, but we share the same concern. Before talking about those concerns and to give you a bit of background, let me take you back about 6 and a half years ago…

I had just come out of a long term relationship. I was living in Stockholm on a mattress in my friend’s one room flat. I was studying English at Stockholm university. I spent most my money on wine and sandwich ingredients and for the first time in my life felt very alone even though I was surrounded by friends. I was unsettled and desperately looking for a way to reinvent myself, although I didn’t realise this at the time. One day I saw a poster in the loo at the university about the Erasmus exchange programme: a one semester studying abroad opportunity with a fast approaching deadline for applications. It was perfect. I applied and got in. I randomly got placed in Leeds. My response: What’s Leeds??

Leeds

I came to Leeds on the 19th of January 2011. It was a very cold and dark and I was as scared as I was excited. I got into a taxi and gave the driver the address to the student halls. He started making small talk and after I’d said “sorry” for the 5th time I decided to just smile and nod. I’ve never heard a broad Yorkshire accent before! The halls were so alien to me, I had never seen anything like it. I felt like I was in an American comedy (/horror) movie. The food was a chock as well, I struggled to find anything that I wanted to eat – it was a massive culture chock.

I was fortunate enough to make some friends, not many British ones though. At university, foreign students seem to stick together. A totally natural thing to happen as we get placed in the international halls, have welcome sessions together, and international nights out. We were also going through exactly the same things; we understood each other’s issues and worries and we could help each other get through them.

When I decided to stay in the UK indefinitely and not move back to Sweden after my semester, I found myself without this support as my friends moved back to their countries. Instead I found the support I needed in my other half who I had met at that time, he was British. I think having his support made the process much easier than it could have been. For example, when talking to the bank or the phone provider he could help me with explaining new concepts, difficult words, and the strange (to me) bureaucracy.

What was amazing at this point was the ease of the process of becoming a resident of the UK, I kind of already was! I was still studying with the intention of staying beyond my studies and work in the UK. No one ever questioned my intentions or why I was staying around, and I had finally found a place where I was happy. It was easy to settle down and I was never worried about a thing.

6 years later I’m really happy where I am, although not in Leeds anymore but in south England. I’m also scared. Scared for my own future in the UK. I’ve been working, paying taxes, and pension in the UK for the last 5 years. England is my home. People rely on me here. I don’t have a life in Sweden apart from my childhood home where all my memories are and my parents and family of course. What makes me upset, is not just the unknown future of so many EU citizens in the UK, but the loss of the right that I had to easily be able to start a new life and make my own happiness where I wanted to be and felt at home.

I hope that the unknowns will be resolved soon. It’s really hard not knowing. Should I apply for a permanent residence card, or British citizenship? Is it worth doing now as the queues are long? Can I even afford it?

I follow a group on Facebook called Swedes in the UK (Svenskar i Storbrittanien). From the threads on there it’s obvious that both option comes with its own difficulties. What’s also very prevalent is the worry and concern about the future. We just really need to know what’s going to happen. It’s becoming torturous and I’m struggling to understand how the government is getting away with letting so many people, that call this country their home, suffer like this.

The opportunity of making England my home did save my life; I was given the opportunity to make a life for myself and be happy in a place that I love. I want everyone else to have the same opportunity.

I don’t want to start a political discussion, but I would love to hear your stories and if you have any worries or concerns. Tweet me or comment below.

Kristina xx

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  • Deimante Baurinaite

    This post has stirred up so many emotions. It’s beautifully written and I hope it all works out for us! Deimante x http://www.sunnydei.com