The Real World: Not for Uni Students Apparently

Since the Brexit referendum there have been many debates and topics fueling fall outs in British households and across social media. It’s gotten touchy and sensitive, and people have been judged harshly on whether they’re ‘remain’ or ‘leave’.

One of the topics I have noticed popping up more frequently since this Brexit debacle is the attitude shown towards British university students, and their political opinions. I can’t speak on behalf of all British university students, but from talking to my friends and seeing the posts on Facebook and Twitter, the majority of those I know seem to have supported remain. So unsurprisingly, a lot of us have found ourselves debating with leave voters. Sometimes healthy debates, with people sharing their well researched knowledge and keeping things civilised. Other times the debates have been…not so civilised. Insults, condescension, a heavy use of caps lock. But a prominent attitude I found myself and others facing was that university students (or those just graduated) who voted remain were silly and naive and know nothing about the real world.

Once when in a debate with someone I know very well he used the line on me “When you’ve lived in the real world – you’ll see!”.

I’ve never realised that I have been living in Narnia all my life.

I had to drop that debate before things turned nasty. Also because I was so insulted I was speechless. I do find it utterly insane that people don’t see going to university as living in “the real world”. In Britain, the majority of university students move out of their parents’ houses whilst studying – they live with friends and organise paying rent and utility bills, plus all the fun responsibilities of dealing with landlords and shitty accommodation. Many juggle a part time job and even do volunteer work along with the heavy demand of studies. We often take the opportunity to travel and see the world, rather than just a two week stay in a resort. Our studies make us more analytical, logical, and free thinking. I have seen university mature many of my friends and myself. And what’s more – university students are often the most politically engaged. It’s kind of a cliche of students always being on marches, handing out leaflets and stuff (I won’t deny I did all that!), but being politically engaged is hardly a bad thing when something as important as the EU referendum was all over the news.

And me personally? I studied politics before university, and since then I have always kept involved with politics both actively and simply by paying attention to the news. I’m about to start a masters degree in International Relations (which is a fancy way of saying politics), and I have lived independently both in London (no easy feat), and abroad in Europe. I’m involved with NGOs and I’m one of those people constantly writing to my MP and others about issues. I have travelled across Europe and the Americas, and in my spare time I read and write, and I study Spanish, photography and human rights for fun. Yet I still haven’t lived in the real world.

Yet we are all still seen as naive and not in the real world. Made to feel our opinions don’t count because we are still too young, so what do we know. Despite the fact that it is our generation’s future that has received the biggest blow from this referendum, and it is us who will feel the impact the most and for the longest. The university educated tend to have a more international outlook of the world, so of course we are concerned about the EU referendum and what the result will mean.

It’s frustrating having to put up with way too much condensation and patronising remarks, and I won’t lie they often came from people who are self contradictory and maybe not always the most knowledgeable in debates. The irony hurts.

I’ll always encourage those around me to keep politically engaged, even if you’re made to feel like your opinion is worthless by those who disagree with you. Never be afraid to ask others for their opinions or knowledge – I’m often asked by others about things but I never shy away from quizzing my friends who know more than I do. A lack of knowledge about a topic is no reason to be embarrassed – it’s an excuse to learn. Ignorance is one of the worst enemies – it’s what fuels hate crimes across the world and makes people so angry, insulting and even threatening on social media.

We are all living in the same goddamn world, and it’s as real and as scary and as unpredictable as anything. And the beauty of being able to live in a country that protects freedom of speech means that everyone is entitled to their opinion – whether they’re a working class, middle aged person, a silver spoon in mouth politician, or a young student who maybe a little too into Marxism.

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