Sara and Kiko have just landed in Glasgow. She is 27, he is 29 and has just lost his job. 'My boyfriend was unemployed and I didn’t have my dream job, we wanted to learn English and as we don’t have a mortgage or any other ties, we came to Glasgow.' Waiting for them there were Leire and Mario, two other Spaniards who settled in the city a year ago to work, learn English and continue studying.
'When you are young and aren’t tied down, you should travel, meet other people and discover other ways of doing things'
The younger generations of Europeans have taken advantage of the Leonardo programme and other similar grants to enjoy first-time jobs abroad. Luzia admits that she ended up in Milan because of love, but with a Faro scholarship, which depends on the Leonardo programme, to work on a tourist guide project for the city. 'Having finished my studies, I didn’t fancy settling for good in my home town, even though I would like to in the future. I didn't want to start looking for a permanent job, nor did I expect I would find one that would excite me. On top of that I think that when you are young and aren’t tied down, you should travel, meet other people and discover other ways of doing things. Enriching yourself like this, I believe, is an important part of personal growth.'
Leaving to stay
Maria got Paris. Originally from Cordoba, Maria had a scholarship in Madrid and earned 300 euros (£257) a month. As she couldn’t find a job with better pay, she requested an Argo scholarship, promoted by the Spanish department for science & innovation as part of the Leonardo programme. She worked for six months in the French capital and decided to stay there. She has been relentlessly sending out her CV to companies since January, so she can eventually settle in France for good. 'The situation is a bit better here than in Spain; the crisis isn’t as marked. Nonetheless it is still difficult to find work.' Maria uses her mother tongue, Spanish, as her selling point, and tries to contact companies that are looking for people with a similar type of experience as her, and who speak Spanish fluently. This is the generation that makes the most of European citizenship and tries its luck in other countries, under the protection of the EU. Nowadays it’s so easy to cross borders; to travel, shop, study and, why not, work.
Like Sara, Kiko, Luzia, Leire or Mario, there are thousands of young people who have tried their luck in Europe in order to keep learning and growing, but they don’t forget their country, to which they would like to return after a while. 'If everything goes well and we find work soon, we intend to stick it out here for a bit. We haven’t set a return date, but we hope it will be a long way away; that means we are well and happy,' say Sara and Kiko.
'Employment in Spain is awful'
'Employment in Spain is in a bad way,' says Sara. 'There are no offers. I know lots of unemployed people, and those that are working are not doing so in the same conditions they were a few years ago; unemployment is the norm. I think that the crisis in Spain appeared very suddenly and its solution will arrive very slowly; it will happen almost without anyone noticing it.' Luzia is not much more optimistic: 'The work situation in Spain now is bad, especially for the young people that can’t find decent contracts or temporary guarantees. But it’s older people that have it the worst; you see them jobless and out in the street without the same capacity to retrain as we do at our age. In any case, I don’t see that things are much better in Italy.'
'The crisis in Spain appeared very suddenly and its solution will arrive very slowly'
In face of the difficult economic situation experienced in Spain, in Italy, France and the UK they see an opportunity to keep growing personally, developing professionally and to learn new languages. They have the good fortune of being able to live this type of experience in a difficult global economic situation. Nonetheless, rather than playing it safe, they prefer to take a risk for themselves, even if it’s far from home. There will always be time to come back...