Story by Max Read
A couple weeks into my first co-op at an intergovernmental organization in Greece, I decided to apply to the London School of Economics and Political Science’s summer program. When I was accepted, the “Brexit” vote was still half a year away, and campaigning hadn’t started in earnest yet. By the first day of classes, the vote had come in, Prime Minister David Cameron had resigned, and my uncle and cousin, who were hosting me, had submitted applications for German citizenship. I went from living in Greece, a country crippled by refugee and economic crises, to the UK, which had thrown itself headlong into a political crisis. As a political science and international affairs student, I guess I ended up in the right places at the right time.
At LSE, I took two classes destined to attract a diverse group of students: Comparative Human Rights and International Politics: Building Democracies from Conflict with students from six continents and over twenty countries. LSE’s summer program is structured so that you take one class full time (4.5 hours per day) for three weeks, so I got to know my classmates pretty well, and we ended up spending lots of time together on weekends and after class.
London is a global city, and exploring it with a diverse group of friends seemed to enhance its captivating atmosphere. It’s a bit of a cliché to say that the political upheaval was palpable, but being surrounded by Europeans and Brits whose lives would be directly affected by Brexit, it was a topic of conversation that inevitably came up a lot. I sympathized with my British family members who struggled to comprehend how their compatriots could have voted to leave and commiserated with my European friends who described the nationalistic politics sweeping their countries.
Having been in Europe for six months, I had often been asked to explain Donald Trump and his surprising political success. I found it difficult to accurately describe the extreme polarity of American politics and avoid getting defensive, but as I learned in London, I’m not alone. Liberals and internationalists across the western world were feeling lost in their homelands, confused and alarmed by recent political developments. After spending six weeks in the UK, I left with a feeling of reassurance that plenty of people all over the world share my ideals and aspirations, despite what news headlines might indicate.