Obama Win Spans Globe

This story was written by Gemma Leghorn, Bowdoin Orient


Rather than spilling out onto the Quad as the returns from the election rolled in, some Bowdoin students watched the events among strangers thousands of miles from home.

Juniors studying abroad this semester, however, said that celebrations up to and following the announcement of Obama's presidential win rivaled those in the United States.

In an e-mail to the Orient, Matt Yantakosol '10 described the scene in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he is studying abroad this semester.

"There were events at bars, hotels, and privately organized gatherings," he wrote. "People were celebrating all over the city until we received the results at around 5 a.m."

Americans were not the only ones to become emotional as the news broke.

"One girl said that the Danish people she was with started crying when Obama won," said Yantakosol. "There were also stories of Danish people congratulating the American students after Obama's victory."

According to Matt Bowers '10, who is studying in Tanzania, finding a place to watch returns come in was no trouble at all.

"We all watched on a communal TV near our hotel," Bowers wrote in an e-mail. "Other Americans watched at the embassy, but most TVs in shops and squares had it on."

Though Maxime Billick '10, who is studying in Vietnam, said that she was traveling at the time of the election, her friends watched the returns with other American Obama supporters. She said that the reaction to Obama's remark alluding to McCain's service in Vietnam was particularly interesting.

"A bunch of my friends were at an Irish pub in Ho Chi Minh City, and when Obama gave his acceptance speech and mentioned...McCain having done 'all the great things for his country, the whole room became silent," she wrote. "I guess it was eerie hearing Obama say that about McCain, and being in the country where it all went down."

Though the majority of students studying abroad found support for Obama, Eric Reid '10 said that China did not react to the outcome as much as other countries did.

"I don't think the reactions over here have been that extraordinary," he wrote in an e-mail. "Overall, the reaction in the media has been very bland."

Though coverage was neutral, Reid noted that the media was interested in Obama's race.

"One interesting thing is how all the media here is very conscious of Obama being a black man," he added. "I think it's especially intriguing...because China is an incredibly ethnically homogeneous country, and the idea that someone of a different race could become president wouldn't happen over here."

Global Support

Miguel A. Reyes-Zaragoza '12 of Mexico said his country's reaction to Obama's win "is very positive."

"There is a saying in Mexico that goes 'When the U.S. sneezes, Mexico gets a cold,'" he said. "That refers to the economy. When the U.S. economy goes down, the effects are felt so much more steeply in Mexico because so much of it depends on you guys."

According to Reyes-Zaragoza, Mexicans hope that Obama will be able to revive the U.S. economy, and consequently, help Mexico's economy as well.

"I don't really know why there's this perception that Obama will be the one to fix the economy, but people think Obama will be better at it than McCain," he said.

In addition, Reyes-Zaragoza said that Mexicans view Obama's character and way of conducting his politics as a departure from Senator McCain. Mexico's overwhelming support for Obama stems from the fact that Obama does not fit the typical mold of a U.S. president.

"I think it has a lot to do with that reactionto that old, Anglo-Saxon, really 'tough guy' President that just bullies the world around. It's really an attitude that nobody in the world likes," said Reyes-Zaragoza. "At least for Obama, we don't think he'll do that. We hope for the best."

Students studying abroad observed that the foreign countries' natives were often equally as invested in the election as they were.

Yantakosol said that when Europeans learned that he was from the U.S., they were interested in which candidate he supported.

"When I was on a train from Paris to Vienna, the British couple that I was sitting next to questioned me about the election," wrote Yantakosol. "I said that I supported Obama and they got all excited. Overall, Europe is very happy with the outcome."

Bowers also found that many people in Tanzania asked him about his candidate of choice.

"Before the election, the question I could always count on getting after saying I was from America was whether I liked Obama or McCain," said Bowers.

According to Bowers, Tanzania kept with the global trend of having many more Obama supporters than McCain supporters.

"Almost everyone here supports Obama," Bowers wrote. "There is a tree in one of the gardens in Stone Town called Obama corner. The concrete path and tree are painted red, white, and blue with huge paintings of Obama and his name on the tree."

"Now, whenever I walk around, most people just shout 'Obama!' because they know I'm an American student," he added.

Holland resident Abriel Ferreira '10 said that her family was also happy about the election's outcome.

"My sister, who just moved to the United States this year to attend Simmons College in Boston, called my parents as soon as she heard Obama won at 4 a.m. their time!"

Parents Eileen and Victor Ferreira said that Obama's presidency is a step towards reestablishing the Dutch relationship with the United States.

"The Dutch are America's oldest allies dating back even before John Adams, who was the first ambassador here. We pride ourselves on this special relationship, but the Bush administration has not always treated us with as much respect as we feel we deserve, given our loyalty and contributions to NATO and other organizations in which we share responsibilities with America," they said in an e-mail to the Orient.

The Ferreiras said that Obama's political personality is much more agreeable to the Dutch than Bush's was.

"People here do not like confrontational politics, so Bush's style never has gone down well," they wrote. "'With us or against us'" is not the Dutch way. Obama seems much more of the type that we Dutch can work with. He seems to think before speaking or acting and also seems to look for consensus and compromise."

Though the Ferreiras said that they do not expect him to solve every problem the United States faces, they believe that he will reaching out to other countries for help.

"We do know that he is more apt to seek council from his friends that's us and has the practical wisdom to know that he or the U.S. can't solve the problems we all face in this financial crisis alone...Of course, being typically Dutch, we are still not sure he can come through with the goods, but at least now we are hopeful and have a renewed faith in America," they wrote.

International Concerns

Despite widespread support for Obama around the globe, Bowdoin students from several countries are concerned that his foreign and economic policies may affect their countries for the worse.

South Korea resident Jessica Song '10 said that her parents expressed concerns about the their country's future in global trade.

"From an economic erspective, they were really worried about the FTA trade because Obama is against outsourcing," she said. "I don't know if it was rumor or something that was announced that he wanted to rework a lot of FTA stuff, especially importing Korean car companies to the states, so people were kind of worried."

First year Octavian Neamtu from Romania said that while he supported Obama, his home country did benefit from Bush's policies.

"Romania benefited from the Bush administration just because of the military incursion in Iraq, and that funded some of the American military bases in Romania," he said.

Reyes-Zaragoza said that Mexicans are concerned with the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"Obama really wants to change NAFTA and a lot of people in Mexico believe that would be positive," he said.

Current NAFTA regulations allow easy trade between the U.S. and Mexico.

"NAFTA makes it so certain United States products can go into Mexico without any challenges from local businesses," said Reyes-Zaragoza.

While some people in Mexico support the NAFTA as it stands, others, especially farmers who lost money when U.S. equivalents began to flood Mexico, would like to see changes to the act.

"They want it either to disappear entirely, or provide them with more leverage in the form of union protection," said Reyes-Zaragoza

"Unions in Mexico have a lot more clout in Mexico than they do in the U.S.," he added.

Reyes-Zaragoza expressed skepticism, however, as to whether or not Obama's green agenda associated with NAFTA regulations would help Mexico in the long term.

"He wants to enforce the NAFTA in such a way that makes Mexican economies greener," he said. "That would adversely affect Mexico and poorer countries."

Another Country's President

Though Obama's historic election was known around the globe, some international students said that their families are more concerned with their own government, rather than with U.S. politics.

Song said that liberals supporting Obama in South Korea were criticized for their enthusiasm.

"There were kind of a lot of criticisms about how liberals in Korea were going crazy about it," she said. "I think the general opinion toward liberals in Korea was they were overreacting and it wouldn't affect us in any significant way."

"That's some other country's president, and we don't really know how that's going to affect our economy," she added. "It wasn't as relevant, and it's not like because Obama won that the Korean policy is going to change any one way. We have our own government."

Although Neamtu said he rooted for Obama, a more pressing concern for him is the government of his home country.

"It doesn't really matter for people back home who gets elected," said Neamtu. "Romania has enough internal problems of his own."

"Some of my friends were saying the whole world must be celebrating, but in fact people outside the U.S. don't care as much as people in the U.S. might," added Song.

Mexico, however, given its close proximity to the United States and the strength of the relationship between the two countries, does care about the Obama win.

Reyes-Zaragoza said that though Mexico is sometimes criticized by Latin Americans for being America's "lap dog," the weight of the United States's influence, coupled with its close proximity, make this unavoidable.

"My answer has always been that [they're] not the ones living with [the United States] right next to them," he said. "Because of that, we care. Whether it's a positive or negative caring, it's really important to Mexico how the U.S. is ding."

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