Now, before you get too excited, I’m not about to get all political – because, quite frankly, I have no patience for agenda pushing. But I will say this: gosh, what a time to be in the UK!
In case you haven’t heard, today the UK voted in a referendum to answer the deceptively simple question: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
I know, right – it’s big stuff.
I made the decision to vote only a couple of weeks ago. At first, I didn’t even consider that I would be able to as an expat. It wasn’t until a friend pointed out that Commonwealth citizens living in the UK were eligible to vote that I really felt permission to have an opinion on the Brexit debate.
Also, in Australia, it’s compulsory to vote – so never before in my life have I had the been faced with the choice of ‘to vote or not to vote’. I’m really surprised at how, when given the option, I’ve felt more compelled than ever to be fully informed about my position in the debate before casting my vote. I’ve never felt more ownership over my vote and its importance.
It’s worth digressing slightly at this point to mention how over the past few months, I’ve really felt increasingly out of touch with the goings-on back home. Considering there’s a federal election looming in early July, this has made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I simply hadn’t realised just how much information you absorb merely by being in a place. So, I’ve found myself having to make a conscious effort to stay informed about my home – something I have definitely been taking for granted.
I find this particularly disheartening because I studied media and communications for years; my peers and I would often throw around phrases like hegemony and ‘the public sphere’, name dropping Habermas as though we were experts in democracy. I know how important it is to be an active and informed member of the public sphere and yet I’ve been so lazy since leaving home.
Now, I don’t know if it’s the freshness of the topic or the weight of the issue here itself, but I’ve felt reinvigorated over the past couple of weeks. Maybe it’s the openness of the debate, the compulsion to be informed or the passionate arguments for and against, but it’s truly been such an eye-opening experience.
Aside from anything else, I really feel like I’ve gotten to know this country so much more: its culture, priorities and its people.
As I write this, the polls will be about to close and I’m honestly not sure where the vote is going to land. But I do know that I’ve felt really privileged to be part of such a dynamic conversation during my time here.