So this is when direct democracy can really come round and bite you in the arse. If you’re reading this presumably you have an interest in Switzerland and/or ERASMUS, so you’ll know that the recent referendum on limiting immigration into Switzerland has resulted in Switzerland being excluded from participating in the ERASMUS program. Sad news for future possible Lausanne exchangers, and also more selfishly, sad news for me. What about my plans to retire over there???
The really tragic thing is that
turnout was only 55.8% and the referendum passed with just 50.3% of those votes… I mean, you can’t get a much more narrow margin than that. Switzerland in my experience has always had an oddly bipolar attitude to foreigners. The country needs immigrants, to staff its hospitals and schools and many other sectors, not to mention national football team. At the same time, there is a real suspicion and mistrust of foreigners, and this increases the further from big cities you go.
As for ERASMUS, students are staging protests against this ERASMUS exclusion; I recently saw a video of a flashmob freeze at Ouchy organised by the ERASMUS student network. It was heartening to see students banding together in support of the cause, and I know if I were there now I would have frozen by the lakeside with them in solidarity, but I sadly don’t see things changing in the near future… the Swiss people have spoken and it breaks my sad, Switzerland-lovin’ heart. This last batch of Lausanne exchange students should make the absolute most of it; they are the lucky last.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have done my ERASMUS in Switzerland, and in the exact year that Switzerland officially joined the ERASMUS program, so all tuition fees were waived just that year. I was completely ready and willing to cough up the dough, but finally I didn’t even need to. Just two years later things have completely reversed. It just adds, if possible, an even shinier and rarer glow to those most rambunctious and illuminating 10 months I spent on exchange, and I am even more grateful than ever.
In an odd way it feels fair that there should be an ERASMUS freeze while Switzerland is implementing immigration quotas. So many students return to work and settle down in the countries where they did their ERASMUS years, and why not? It makes sense. But to allow students to go on ERASMUS in Switzerland, do the inevitable falling in love with the place, and then tear away or reduce dramatically their chance of being able to move there later… now that’s just cruel. I’m feeling that pain right now. Best to never be exposed to that crashing disappointment in the first place, perhaps?
So tell me, fellow Helvetiphiles, where do I take my love affair with Switzerland from here? It looks like we have no future – but surely true love can conquer all…?