Brexit Sparks Sophomore’s Research Project in the U.K.

Created: September 2, 2016
Last Updated: July 9, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Sept. 2, 2016) – “Brexit” wasn’t a familiar term when Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) sophomore Jonathan Weese began planning his Magellan Project, but it soon became a major factor in his study.

Weese planned to study the Syrian refugee crisis and its effect on the United Kingdom. He heard news reports about how Greece, Turkey, Germany, and Sweden were handling an influx of Syrian immigrants fleeing war in their country, but realized he hadn’t heard many reports from the U.K. That was about to change.

The referendum vote popularly known as “Brexit” was June 23, and British citizens elected for the United Kingdon to leave the European Union. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron soon resigned, and Theresa May took the seat. Differing opinions on whether the United Kingdom should open its doors to Syrian refugees sparked the vote.

“The Brexit situation definitely played into my study. I arrived in Britain three days after the referendum,” Weese said. “Passions were running high among each citizen because of the uncertainty of what Britain faced with a change in national leadership, and the decision the British people made on June 23.”

Weese spent three weeks traveling through England and Scotland learning about the refugee situation in Great Britain and why British citizens support their government’s actions toward refugees – or why they don’t.

During his travels, Weese conducted “man-on-the-street” interviews with U.K. citizens wherever possible. He also connected with W&J alumni living in London to discuss their opinions about how the government is handling the situation.

The interactions helped him understand both sides of the issue. Weese said he gained a variety of urban, suburban, and rural viewpoints, as well as a clearer picture of world politics.

Several people he interviewed supported the referendum vote and did not agree with how the U.K. was handling the issue. One woman told him the cost of living in London is so high that her family can’t afford to live in the city where they work. She said it was unfair for the British government to use citizens’ tax dollars to support refugees, many of whom aren’t able to work because of visa restrictions, when it’s difficult for British citizens to afford living in their own cities.

Others told him they are confident their government will handle the situation well. Three British citizens, who Weese met because they are friends of a W&J alum, told him they like that Theresa May’s cabinet includes people on both sides of the issue.

Weese plans to share what he learned with other students embarking on Magellan journeys. He wants to be an attorney, and said his Magellan Project helped spark an interest that will stick with him.

“I would like to go to law school, after W&J, to become an attorney. I have two great advisors, Dr. Benze in political science and Dr. Frenchik in french, to help me in finishing both majors and in planning for a worthwhile career. The project helped express an interest in a real world problem and broadened my perspective immensely.”

About the Magellan Project

Established in 2008, Washington & Jefferson College’s unique Magellan Project extends liberal arts learning outside the classroom by providing scholarship funding for students to spend the summer pursuing independent projects and internships in the United States and abroad. Learn more about the Magellan Project on the W&J website.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work.

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