Science is an international activity. Starting in about a month I will be teaching partial differential equations to our second years, and many of the equations I will be teaching are named after their discoverers, mostly French guys from the early nineteenth century. Needless to say the equations that govern electromagnetism in France in the nineteenth century work just as well in the UK in the twenty-first century. Scientific research also crosses borders. Over the next month our MPhys students will be heading off on their research year placements, which include placements in the USA, Canada and Austria, as well as in the UK. See here for a guest post by one of our graduates who is now in the USA and who also worked in Switzerland. I have worked in both The Netherlands and in the USA. So I am a bit horrified when I come across articles like this in the Daily Mail on Bulgarians and Romanians apparently planning to come to the UK.
It is so unbalanced. The article talks about 800 people coming by coach from Sofia to London in January as if this is alarming. To put this in context the population of Sofia is 1.2 million and that of London is 8.3 million. To the extent that I can check them, the claims also seem misleading. They claim an eye popping £3,000 for a Wizz (budget) airline ticket from Romania to London. When I checked the website I got fares from around £160 to £200 for Bucharest in Romania to London, which given that this is a busy time of year and Romania is the other side of Europe seems pretty reasonable to me.
Speaking personally, when I visited Thailand and Malaysia recently, I was made so welcome it was a bit embarrassing. I had to be almost rude to stop them paying for all my dinners. I had to insist that I should pay for dinner sometimes. When some British people are much much less friendly I feel a bit let down.
My employer, the University of Surrey has students from 143 countries, and staff from many countries too, including Romania and Bulgaria. Newspaper articles that try and make us afraid of foreigners are unhelpful. This is the wrong attitude, I think. As I hope to convince our second years, there is much we can learn from some smart foreigners.