Generation Emigration

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

‘Is my only real option to go to the UAE, NZ or Oz?’

As her contract in Spain comes to an end, Eimear Scott can no longer ignore the reality of the recession at home

Wed, Jun 19, 2013, 00:01

   

Eimear Scott

As my ten months in Spain come to an end, and I begin to say my goodbyes to the children I have been teaching and bars I have been frequenting, I am only now becoming fully aware of the recession, and the reality of the situation at home, as incomprehensible as that may seem. Up to this, I still had that invincible feeling that almost always accompanies youthful idealism. Of course, recession was a common topic in college, but all it meant to us back then was supersaver deals like four cans of cider for a fiver, or half-price dinners on a Wednesday.

When I graduated in October 2011, I had no real clue of what I wanted to do in life, and no intentions of joining the “real world” just yet. I was lucky in that I found a small number of things to keep me going until I started working in an amazing children’s charity in Kildare in March last year, before moving to Menorca, Spain, in September.

Throughout the year, when people here talked about la crisis, I empathised but didn’t feel affected. Menorca, a beautiful small island in the Mediterranean, has traditionally lived off tourism during the high season from May until early October. Business would slow substantially during the winter, with many places closing and people living off their summer income, waiting for the high season to come around again. But as the economic crisis took a global turn, the tourist season has become much shorter, with some people only finding jobs for July and August.

Despite its small size (41km long and 19km wide), Menorca offers striking contrasts in the landscape, history, accent, and in the people themselves from east to west. My ten months here have been well spent, improving my Spanish and learning Menorquín, and experiencing the pure novelty of life on a small island.

As I begin to pack up and friends ask what I will be doing at home, the panic is setting in. Before this, I was happy to bounce around, travel and try different things. Now I feel ready to come home and start a job I feel passionate about in a long-term way, hopefully in the arts or education, but the jobs scene is barren in Ireland.

Here in Spain youth unemployment is at a record 57 per cent, and where once it would have been possible to live off an income from private English lessons, the market has now completely dried up. Families can barely make ends meet, and desahucios (evictions) are a far too common occurrence.

When began to trawl through jobs.ie, GradIreland, and other career sites, my optimism was quickly quashed. I searched, in vain, under the headings “languages and culture” “Arts, tourism etc.” and was only presented with invitations like Au pair in Spain, Teach in Japan, and Become a Nanny in Russia - essentially telling me to stay put. There seemed to be an abundance of opportunities, just in the wrong place. Looking to teach in Asia? Well get to Dave’s ESL Café.

Speaking with friends who are still at home recently, I listened to their inability to find any work they wanted, or indeed any work at all. Since then, I have begun to share their gloom, and the hopelessness you feel after filling out numerous forms, and not hearing any response, time and time again. That hopelessness can become something deeper, something darker, changing to anger, which in turn can lead to bitterness and depression.

At 24, I have had great experiences and achieved substantial success – I have a great degree, speak a foreign language fluently, have strong references from previous jobs, and  a passion for writing and the Arts. And yet, with each email I send, or each reply I never receive, those positive feelings about what I have to offer are worn away. Instead, I feel I’m not in with a chance, not worthy, and thus, the motivation to keep applying waivers.

Is the only real option to go to the UAE, New Zealand or Australia, where there are both opportunities and money? And if we go, with so many of our friends and family already living away, what reason would we have to come home? This makes me question the whole concept of “home”, something I always thought of as synonymous with “Ireland”.

We have to keep reminding ourselves that we are not alone in what we’re going through. It is not a personal flaw to be unemployed, to be lost, and although that seems obvious and wildly-accepted, it’s hard to understand thisIs while you are going through it yourself. It’s hard to realise that this is not a self-constructed hopelessness, but is essentially out of our control. Perhaps this enlightenment can help keep our optimism alive a little bit longer.

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