With Northwestern’s political activism surging in recent weeks, I’m having a really tough time explaining to people that I can’t vote. “Wait, you’re not 18?” asked a well-intentioned person at the Rock, while those handing out “I Voted” badges at Norris tried to tell me it wasn’t too late to register. Neither of those reasons prevented me from voting, though — I’m just not an American citizen.
As an international student in the United States at this time, it’s hard not to get caught up in the election mania. From political discussions in my Economics classes to simple dinnertime conversations, I often find myself adding my own opinion. Amused by my enthusiasm, my friends often tease me about the fact that this election doesn’t really mean anything to me. But in truth, it does.
International students may be only temporary residents of the United States, yet as we’ve heard so many times, this is the world’s election. The U.S. economy’s plunge deeply affected the world economy, and fluctuating currency exchange rates are making tuition more expensive. The economic policies of both candidates affect the amount of tuition I pay now, and the kind of taxes I’ll have to pay once I find a job.
Not all international students are as excited as I am about the election, though. Communication sophomore Sherry Lin says she “doesn’t think the elections will affect me much”. As a Taiwanese national, Lin feels little interest towards the election. “I’m sort of interested to see who wins, but decisions made about domestic issues aren’t relevant to me.”
Weinberg freshman Miriam Troostwijk is more concerned by the outcome of the election. “I’m really excited; I mean I’m going to spend the next four years of my life here, I’m definitely going to want a president who I support.” A Dutch citizen, Miriam says, “Foreign policy is important to me. I want people back home to have a good impression of the country I study in.”
Most international studentss interest in politics, then, is similar to the interest generated by American students: Some are very interested and some aren’t. Yet there are a few things that are different for international students. Different issues take on added importance for international students (economic and foreign policy), while others (health care) are more pertinent to American citizens. Plus, there’s always the added issue of what’s best for your home country; while I am more liberal and support Barack Obama, Obama’s reluctance to outsource would mean that McCain may be a better candidate for the Indian economy.
Tuesday’s election has been dubbed as the “biggest election of our lives” by the American media, and for some of Northwestern’s international students, the moniker is true. Come Tuesday, I’ll be waiting on the results with as much anticipation as my American friends, waiting for the most hyped event of 2008 to finally pan out.