No one knows how post-EU Britain will look like. Yet, AEGEE wants to shed some light on this topic and discuss the potential consequences – in the conference “Brexit – What’s next?”. It will take place in Sheffield and Manchester from November 29th to December 4th. You can be one of the lucky 25 people who will have the chance to participate in this unique event. The Golden Times asked Oksana Prokopchenko, President of AEGEE-Sheffield about the programme of the conference.

Oksana Prokopchenko

Golden Times: “Brexit – What’s next?” – the title of your event is a question. What is the answer?
Oksana Prokopchenko: I guess it will not be very surprising that we do not know the answer ourselves. By organising the event with this title, we raise the question, which worries many, and us in particular. I am not too sure either that we can give a clear answer after the event, but that is not the primary aim of the event anyway. We want to raise awareness, to attract AEGEEans to the issue, to exchange ideas on the topic, but also to show to British society that we care and that we want to do something about it.

GT: Why do AEGEE-Sheffield, AEGEE-London and AEGEE-Manchester organise this event?
Oksana: I believe that it is the right moment and the right place for such event. We all know that vast majority of young Brits have supported the Remain campaign, and many of them feel extremely uncertain about the future now, after the referendum. On the other hand, many of them also feel much more attached to Europe, which is not just an abstract idea any more. I believe that AEGEE can become the right platform for these people. AEGEE can be a platform, which can keep them connected them to Europe, even when the country ceases to be a member of the EU – after all, our association is not at all limited to the EU countries, as we know it full well in Ukraine, for example. And who knows, maybe through our conference new enthusiastic members from the UK can bring to AEGEE the new meaning and the new perspective, which seem to be so necessary nowadays.

Also AEGEE-London is involved in the event.

GT: The Brexit has many aspects. Which ones are in the focus of your event?
Oksana: As Brexit is a huge issue, which can’t possibly be tackled in depth during the six days of the event, we decided to focus on more specific topics – the Freedom of Movement and Youth Mobility. They are in the core of AEGEE identity, but also important for British young people. Freedom of Movement is often taken for granted, but now that its future is in question, now that we do not know what will happen to Erasmus+ and other mobility programmes in Britain, we should definitely raise these questions and talk about them, as loudly as we possibly can.

GT: You focus on the youth aspect and will also have several sessions where the participants will meet local students. What do you expects from these sessions, what will happen there?
Oksana: The idea was to bring two sides together – European youth and British youth. I have a feeling that there might be certain misunderstandings and tensions between them, which can only be resolved by tackling them. Thus, we plan to involve British students in some of the event sessions, so that they could participate in discussions, voice their concerns and exchange ideas with European participants. Moreover, we also plan to create some interactive activities so that participants could meet local people right on the street and hear their opinions.

A large part of the conference takes place in Manchester.

GT: Three antennae are involved – who is doing what? What will take place in what city?
Oksana: I am happy to say that in the last months we could build quite strong connections between all three locals in the UK, and the idea to organise something together was in the air. The event itself will take place in Sheffield (2 days) and in Manchester (3 days). We plan to have more cultural and fun activities in Sheffield and to switch to thematic discussions and workshops in Manchester. As our cities are very close, we wanted to use the opportunity to involve them both. Members of AEGEE-London are helping remotely for now, but will join us during the event.

GT: How much will the participants experience to see the UK?
Oksana: We want to use time in Sheffield to show people some typical English things and places, – after all, Yorkshire is a perfect place for that! We have the beautiful Peak District right next to the city, and are also preparing some workshops on British cultural specificities, as well as pubs and other local attractions.

Don’t miss your chance to meet the Bristish AEGEE members!

GT: What kind of consequences do you expect of the Brexit on the British society in general and young people in general? Will the effect by damaging?
Oksana: I am afraid the consequences can be very damaging indeed, mostly in terms of opportunities for young people, but also for the life in the country itself. It seems that foreigners are largely present in most fields of UK life, especially in big cities. Losing those people may have a major effect on the country, but also on the general atmosphere – I can hardly imagine cities like London or Manchester without the dynamics and the vibrancy that are brought here by foreigners.

GT: How do you as Ukrainian living in the UK observe and experience the general atmosphere in the country?
Oksana: As I am studying in the University of Sheffield, I think I might live in a sort of a bubble here – all academic staff is extremely helpful and kind, all local students are friendly and welcoming too. So I can say I never feel uncomfortable or discriminated as a foreigner living in the UK. I really enjoy being here, and I hope our participants will feel the same!

GT: How many people can take part in the conference?
Oksana: We are expecting 25 participants from other countries – AEGEEans and non-AEGEEans, as we opened the applications for a wider audience. In addition, there will also be British students taking part in the conference slots.

GT: How much is the fee and what does it cover?
Oksana: The fee of the event is 120€ – unfortunately, the UK is quite an expensive country. It covers accommodation, three meals per day, transport during the whole event, as well as the thematic and social programme.