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Wilkommen to my blog - my name is Karin Purshouse, and I'm a doctor in the UK. If you're looking for ramblings on life as a junior doctor, my attempts to dual-moonlight as a scientist and balancing all that madness with a life, you've come to the right place. I'm currently a doctor/research trainee in oncology after spending a year doing research in the USA. All original content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Proud to put the 'I' in Immigrant

Like the lifting of some kind of dark mist, the optimism and fresh joy that has come with the arrival of Spring is almost tangible.  The buds on the trees are swollen to bursting, and there is a certain positive energy in the air - it is time for a fresh start.
And that's how you do Spring.  

Clearly the political calendar agrees, and I have been observing with interest the debates and discussions happening in the UK as the general election approaches.  It seems likely that any fresh starts are going to be a bit of a mish-mash of different parties rather than an outright winner.  But to me one of the stand-out issues is that 'I' word - Immigration.

Food exploration - post-half
marathon.  Surely food = one
of the best parts of migration.
Thanks also to these brunch
guys for the copious ice packs
for my knee!  
I am SO fed up of hearing the political rhetoric around 'these bloody immigrants' and 'what it means to be British'.  Ok, so what does it mean to be British?  Sitting around drinking cups of tea?  Whinging about the weather?  Being white? Never wanting to leave our little island because nowhere else could possibly be better?

As an immigrant myself at the moment, the product of a Euro/UK union, and as a doctor and scientist(-in-training), I find the obsession with immigration frankly embarrassing.  At the same time that everyone is complaining about immigrants stealing 'our' jobs, hundreds of migrants are dying in the Mediterranean fleeing from conflicts we have decided are not our business.   The NHS would fall apart without doctors and nurses migrating into the UK.  Science is full of people willing to move across oceans to spend a few years working abroad - every lab I have ever worked in has been populated mostly by immigrants, contributing to science in a way that will ultimately benefit the UK population.  

These immigrant knees are
good enough for her. 
Of course, I've heard the argument that these are the migrants we want or need, but this suggests that immigrants are like computers without lives and families, dreams and aspirations.  How arrogant of us to want to 'import' what we need for as long as we need it, only to be ready to discard them the second their purpose has been served, despite allowing them to create an entire life and career in our country.  As Frankie Boyle (not someone I admittedly always agree with) puts it in this article, we have no right at all to be so snobby about the rest of the world given our own role in its history.  

You know what?  We could emigrate too!  Perhaps we can apologise for the fact treating Brits in Europe costs 5x more than treating European tourists in the UK in the process.  Most Europeans I've met over here, or indeed when I was in the UK, spend their 20s comfortably and enthusiastically moving all over Europe studying and working.  And if learning another language is really so awful (I realise I'm massively biased, but really, it's not), there are other places in the world worth exploring.  With a significantly better climate.  

As an immigrant myself at the moment, I find myself increasingly embarrassed of my British passport, and the sighs of envy that sometimes come from other immigrants when they hear my British accent.  I've heard stories of Eastern European researchers leaving the UK because they got so tired of being looked down upon because of their nationality.  What a loss not only to that research field, but also our conscience as a country.  

Manhattan as seen from Queens.
Last weekend I was sat gazing over the New York skyline with three other immigrant chums ahead of my half marathon, musing about, despite any personal and professional traumas, how ridiculously sweet our lives were at that exact moment and feeling that we had no right at all to complain or worry about anything.  I had no control over where I was born, and so far, I suspect largely thanks to my passport, have had little restriction on where I go in the world by virtue of said passport.  How can we judge others in such snobbish fashion for wanting the same opportunity to build a life and career abroad, and why on earth are we so reluctant to do so?  As this African proverb tells us:
If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.
 - And I'm all about the team game.  

I've just booked my flight back to the UK, and I only hope that my fellow voters will vote with sense rather than misplaced emotions in the interim so that I still like the country I'm going back to.  Immigrants of Britain, I am with you.  

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