International Student or Economic Immigrant?

Greece 2
Greek Parliament building stands tall in the face of a crisis – Photograph by Rafaela Dimou

By Rafaela Dimou – Reporter

Since I was ten I knew what I wanted in my life, and that was the freedom of choice. Luckily I was born in Greece; a country that, in my first steps, provided me with the best possible equipment to build my future. Or at least, that was what I was thinking as a child.

Two years ago, I made my decision to come to England and study International Journalism at UCLan. The United Kingdom was my first choice for studies, and since 2013 was already a really tough year for Greece concerning the economic situation, as well as the services provided in the educational institutions, my decision was made easer.

Financial difficulties had always been a major topic in my family, but you couldn’t imagine that as the months were passing the situation could become worse.

After the elections in January 2015 the situation went out of control. Reforms and suggestions on socio-economic sector had created a sense of insecurity, while the PM couldn’t reach to a beneficial agreement with the members of Eurozone.

In the early morning of 27 June 2015, Greek Prime minister Alexis Tsipras announced a referendum to decide whether Greece was to accept the bailout conditions or not, a decision followed by the closing of the banks and the limitation of the cash machines to 60€ per day. Capital controls were imposed and money transfer to other countries became impossible.

Members of the public queue to use the cash machines - Photograph by Ria Kuriakidou
Members of the public queue to use the cash machines – Photograph by Ria Kuriakidou

Many Greek students studying abroad are now stranded to the countries where they study and they cannot travel back to Greece.

With Greek banks due to reopen earlier this week with tight controls, millions out of work, and over a third of people at risk of poverty the future of the nation, let alone the future of students studying abroad is a blur.

At this point it is difficult to say what the future will bring. I started as an international student; I had dreams about the future. To travel around the world, to meet new people and cultures, to gather some memories and experiences, and then when I’m older return back to my country wiser, to start a new life.

Under these circumstances and watching my country falling deeper and deeper into the abyss of crisis, I felt hopeless. I said to myself: “Now you are an economic immigrant, there’s no way returning back.” Thinking about it more and bearing in mind that I left Greece some years before the great bankruptcy, made me realise in fact, how lucky I was.

However, living abroad it’s not an easy decision. Today, economic crisis is a worldwide phenomenon. Wherever you go there is unemployment or low salaries in relation to the high quality of life. That was the main problem I was facing last year in Madrid, as an exchange student.

At the same time you may come across some typical prejudices about the Greek attitude: Some people abroad will say that Greeks are not willing to work, while people coming from the inner side of the country will believe that living abroad you has solved all your problems. But that’s only the typical behaviour of people who have never seen anything apart from their home towns.


Current PM Alexis Tsipras meeting with local politicians in Rafaela's hometown of Drama - Photograph by Ria Kuriakidou
Current PM Alexis Tsipras meeting with local politicians in Rafaela’s hometown of Drama – Photograph by Ria Kuriakidou

Once you leave your country to travel the world, nothing is the same anymore. It feels like living somewhere in between the nations, your horizons are open to new things and ideas that allow you to see the world from a totally new perspective.

If you were going to ask me now if I want to return back to my country, I would say no. It took me years, but I finally understand. I’m not an international student or an economic immigrant, I’m just a citizen of the world that is free to choose their future regardless the political or the economic situation of his country.

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