Election Has Global Scope, Boston College Students Say

This story was written by David Kete, The Heights


"As the world's superpower, what happens in the United States has an impact on many people throughout the world," said Kay Schlozman, a professor in the Boston College political science department. From 1997 to 2002, the number of students who chose to study abroad increased dramatically. Students studying abroad in the fall increased by 79 percent, and students studying abroad in the spring jumped by 36 percent. The increase of international students at Boston College is also on the rise, from a total of 375 international students in 1983 to 1,130 in 2008. These facts are evidence of an increasingly global atmosphere around campus. And as talk of the 2008 U.S. presidential election has built around campus, such discussion has also increased dramatically in the rest of the world. Both candidates have communicated their stances on international relations to the world with mixed results. According to the BBC, in his visit to Germany earlier this year, Barack Obama emphasized certain global issues. "His rhetorical flights and unusual background have captured the imagination of a country [Germany] which views its own politicians as rather dour and gray," said a BBC correspondent. John McCain has emphasized domestic issues. "I'd love to give a speech in Germany, but I'd much prefer to do it as president of the United States, rather than as a candidate for president," McCain told reporters.The Economist created a worldwide online survey in which anyone could place a vote for either candidate to generate an international perspective on the election. As of Friday, every single country except for Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Iraq was either for Obama or neutral. While this poll is nonscientific and assumes certain requirements so that one can vote, such as Internet access, it provides insight into the international perspective on the presidential election.Regarding the opinion of international students at BC, Schlozman said, "What is so clear is that although the American students are mixed, the foreign students are all Obama supporters." She cited two main reasons for this fact. "There is resentment elsewhere at the extent to which George Bush's foreign policy has emphasized American autonomy and not Americans working together with allies," she said. "The notion of America being governed by someone who is biracial is inspiring [to foreign countries especially]."

Reed Shea, A&S '10, is currently studying abroad in Paris and said in an e-mail, "Politically, the French generally lean to the left, and are much more supportive of Obama than of McCain." He also has observed important issues that the French pay particular attention to. "American foreign policy is a very important issue - most of France isn't particularly happy with the way the Bush administration has acted over the past six years in particular. The other important issue is the current economic crisis, which extends well beyond American politics and is an important issue across the EU," he said. France's interest stems from the fact that the French do believe that the outcome of the election will affect them. Shea said, "Yes, they certainly don't write off the effect American policies [foreign and economic, among others] will have abroad."Nicole DellaRocco, LSOE '10, is currently studying abroad at an international university in Venice, Italy, with students from all over Europe, Asia, and America. "I think that overall, I have been surprised by the high level of knowledge of the election that the European students possess. Coverage of the election is pretty extensive here," she said in an e-mail. While she said she could not gauge which way the country leaned in the American political spectrum, she did make an observation about the media. "Holland, a liberal country, airs the Democratic Convention, live, in its entirety, while the Republican Conventiongets only a blurb in the daily news," she said. She also pointed out that she saw Obama's The Audacity of Hope translated into Swedish in a bookstore in Sweden. In addition to these American BC students abroad, there are several foreign students studying at BC for time periods ranging from a semester to a full four years. Sofia Barbieri, A&S '12, hails from Italy and is at BC for her entire undergraduate education. "Obama is seen [in Italy] as the candidate of change. He symbolizes a positive improvement," she said. Because Italy is an American ally in the Iraq war, she sees the American policy on the war as the most important issue for Italians in the election. "If before we didn't care, [now we do because] we are part of the Iraq war," Barbieri said. "If the Americans leave Iraq, the Italians will leave too." Despite this perceived international appeal for Obama, many wonder what effect the international perception of a candidate can have on the United States. "It cuts two ways. Electing Obama might mend some fences with some of our allies who have been unhappy over the last eight years, but it's not going to solve the more difficult problems," Schlozman said. On the other hand, "International matters are extremely complicated, and McCain has a depth of experience when it comes to international matters that Obama does not," she said. The interconnectedness of the campus and the rest of the world, though, is evident in the BC students abroad as well as the foreign students studying at BC. "While the 20th century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history," Obama told reporters in Germany.
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