Abroad students take in ’08 election
Robert Singer | Thursday, November 6, 2008
Students abroad noticed two interesting trends: Foreigners took a strong interest in the election, and they overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama.
Junior Becky Kant, who is studying in China, watched the coverage in a hotel. The event was hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“We were surrounded by members of the Chinese press who began snapping picture after picture of our reactions to the results,” she said. “With all those cameras flashing around us, we felt like celebrities although all we were doing was showing support for our country.”
She also noticed some things about the American government’s presence in China.
“There were tables set up explaining the American method of democracy in an attempt to spread these ideas to the Chinese,” Kant said. “I feel that is was a large form of propaganda for the American system of government.”
Junior Tiffany Olier went to a bar in Angers, France to see who would be her next president. She was surprised about the level of interest around her.
“I was astonished to learn that even the nine-year-old granddaughter of our host parents knew who Obama was and wanted him to be successful,” she said. “The surprising part of the French opinions towards our elections was the strong, unified support of Obama over McCain.”
Junior Michelle Nguyen, now in the London Program, had some festive discussions with fellow students before heading out for the night.
“Before heading to the pub, many of the flats in our building hosted ‘political parties’ where drinks, snacks and hotly debated issues and party positions were shared,” she said. “With an almost even distribution of Republicans versus Democrats present, debates became friendly shouting matches of economic policies and free trade agreements.”
Junior Keriann Hopkins watched the results come in while studying in Dublin, Ireland.
“No one here is surprised at the outcome. Obama is so heavily favored in Dublin that some of the Irish students I’ve talked to cannot even fathom that people exist in America that would vote for McCain,” she said. “Or for that matter, that anyone in America is conservative.”
Hopkins said the close economic ties between Ireland and the United States sparked interest in the election.
“There’s a saying here: ‘When America sneezes, Ireland gets pneumonia,'” she said. “Our economies are so closely tied that one of my Irish professors said half-seriously he feels that he should have the right to vote in our elections.”
Junior Michael Dean said his host family in Puebla, Mexico treated his absentee ballot as though “it was the most important document they had ever seen.”
Junior Kelley Kanavy, who is studying at Oxford for the year, noticed a major contrast with the American political environment.
“One perspective that I have enjoyed is the freedom from the combination of religion and politics,” she said. “They don’t put religion and politics together at all and the concept of the ‘religious right’ is very foreign to them.”
Like the other students who shared their experiences, Kanavy observed keen interest in the election and a strong preference for Obama.
“It was weird to see someone else care so much about our election because we barely watch theirs. I asked my friend how their elections were and he said not as exciting as this,” she said. “I feel that the foreign perspective is highly biased towards Obama.”
From Kampala, Uganda, junior Eleanor Huntington experienced the excitement Obama has elicited from the African continent.
“Ugandans – and Africans in general – are obsessed with Obama, so there is wild excitement throughout the city,” she said.