On the surface, Karolina Komarnicka would appear to have it all. A straight A* student at college, she achieved a first-class honours degree at Queen Mary, University of London and was awarded the rare Helen Maurice prize for outstanding achievement for results consistently passing 90%.
Now, at 23 years old, and in her first full-time job working as the chief marketing officer for PremFina, which offers an in-house premium finance facility aimed at generating increased returns for brokers, she finds a bright future is shrouded with doubt thanks to the unexpected Brexit decision.
“I very much neglected it – I thought ‘no way is this going to go through’,” she said. “And then when I heard about the result – it was a shock. It is crazy.”
Karolina, a Poland native, has been living in the UK since she was 16 years old and sees massive differences between the lifestyle here and that of her city of origin – her home nation’s capital, Warsaw.
“It’s a drastic difference,” she said. “Every time I go back I feel like time has just slowed down. It’s so different being here. Every night I get home at about 10pm whereas back home you would finish work at about 4:30pm or 5pm. It’s a much slower way of life and the ambition is not as high. People are maybe not as aggressive in pursuing their ambitions. It’s more a generic route of: get a job, have your family and that’s it. But here everyone is so open to whatever comes your way.
“Here there is freedom. When you study, for example, you select four subjects – there you have to do nine compulsory subjects. In Poland there are very high expectations and you expect the rewards – but it doesn’t mean you get them. So many of my friends really struggle to even get a job after studying - even though they are really well qualified.
“People come here because they see the rewards people get here for high worth and for fulfilling their potential. They see there is a chance to grow in their career. In Poland it’s very hard to progress in your career at all – or certainly not as quickly as here. It’s very institutional and very traditional and the start-up area is not really alive there. If someone has a start-up idea they’re much more likely to take it here because they know they can stand out with what they’re doing.”
Karolina is hopeful that she won’t be directly impacted by the result. She sees there are opportunities for her to apply for permanent residence in the UK and believes her company would offer sponsorship if she needed it. However, she feels a sense of disappointment that things have come so far and that the future for others is less than stable.
“I always had the view that immigrants benefit the economy,” she said. “Even though people voted against us staying here, it doesn’t mean everyone is going to disappear. It just makes it more difficult for us.
“If you feel so strongly about immigrants working here, well it shouldn’t affect you if you feel like you can do just as much. If you are just as capable you will have the same opportunities - it shouldn’t matter where someone is from.
“I don’t think immigrants should be portrayed as such bad people. It’s mainly media hype. Not many people have actually had bad experiences with immigrants.”
As for the business side of things, Karolina believes it’s a case of “wait and see” – but that in the long term it is highly unlikely that anything positive emerges from the decision.
“I don’t think it will have an impact on clients but maybe on the business side of things with banking licences and passporting rights,” she said. “You have to be very conscious of how it’s going to affect your business. I just can’t understand the whole idea – I don’t see how anyone thinks this can in any way be beneficial.
“Businesses benefit so much from having international relations, cheaper labour – everything is going to get so much more difficult now and also so much more expensive. We have German and Austrian partners so we’ll have to see how things go.”
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