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With only a few days left for the election, American students abroad are feeling exhausted

With only a few days left for the final results of this year's election, many American students studying around the world are left exhausted. During these crucial past months for America’s future, many found themselves facing obstacles which they normally wouldn’t face back at home.

There are about 2.2 million U.S. citizens overseas eligible to vote in this election. Most of them live in Australia, Germany, the UK, Canada, South Korea, Israel, Mexico, France, Switzerland and Costa Rica. According to the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), 6% of them are between the ages of 18-24, and 17% are between the ages of 25-34. 

With recent encouragements to study abroad in the form of grants and scholarships, many of these millennials are students who are taking part in exchange programs, or completing their Bachelor’s degree, MBA, PhD or MA. Many of their fellow peers back home had a chance to get involved in the Republican or Democratic campaigns on their campuses, but because they live in a foreign country, their experiences have been very different for a number of reasons.

Keeping up with the elections

Getting updates on the elections wasn’t at all hard for most American students living abroad, as long as they had constant access to internet. With YouTube videos from the first, second and third debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump on their Facebook feed, many testified that they would constantly hear about the news through their social media accounts (mainly Twitter, Instagram and Facebook).

According to a study done by Pew Research Center, most Americans find that cable TV news is the most useful source for learning about the elections, but most millennials said that social media is their main go-to source. 35% of Americans between ages 18-29 found social media platforms to be most helpful to learn about Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.

Many American students living abroad have also mentioned that they would prefer watching funny shows rather than watching the conservative TV news channels like CNN, BBC, Fox News, etc. Shows like The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, are all examples of sources that students are getting their updates from as well as entertainment. 

Defending the United States

US citizens who are studying abroad have said that part of the challenge of studying abroad this year has been the responsibility they felt to defend and explain the political situation in the United States. Students say that they get asked about who they are voting for almost everywhere they go, and without meaning to, they have transformed into ambassadors. This pushed many students to make a firm personal choice between the two main candidates, even if they are normally not very personally involved in politics.

Students have also mentioned that with so many controversies and conspiracies about the candidates, it was almost impossible to give satisfying explanations about what’s going on to anyone who isn't familiar with the current political situation in the United States. 

Defending the statements and ideologies of the candidates was a difficult task, especially for those students who are studying in a country that has very different political views on similar matters. Students confess that they felt like they had to either make excuses for the different statements that were made, defend the American political system or condemn either candidates.

Adopting new perspectives

Studying abroad is an eye-opening experience. By getting exposed to different cultures, students were able to form new opinions on foreign affairs as well as adopt local attitudes and opinions of the country they live in. The values which were represented by the candidates this year didn’t always align with values in the countries that the students were living in. 

In the foreign policy debate, the world witnessed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump show their opinions on different global issues. Along with other topics discussed, they also talked about their perspective on foreign trade (on topics like NAFTA and TPP), countering terrorism, nuclear weapons, relationships with Russia and relations with China. Students who live in countries which are greatly effected by these policies, felt like they were forced to chose sides, and defend either their host country or the US.  

It was greatly felt on their end, that the elections reflect the American society and their personal identities. This caused a strong need to defend their chosen candidates or otherwise condemn the other one.
Elliott Stallion



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