Election Matters To Yale's International Students

This story was written by Eileen Shim, Yale Daily News

Despite actively campaigning with Yale for McCain, student Shazan Jiwa won't be voting Tuesday in the U.S. Presidential election.

Jiwa is a student from Vancouver, Canada. Just three weeks ago, Jiwa voted for the Conservative Party in the federal Canadian election.

While not all international students who constitute 8 percent of Yales undergraduate population are as politically involved as Jiwa, many said they became personally invested, just as their home countries are invested, in the U.S.election. Although their support for either Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain will not end up on a ballot Tuesday, international students said they still have their reasons for making their voices heard.

I am strongly affected by this election because I have aspirations to live and work in the U.S. following college, Jiwa explained.

The next president, he added, will undoubtedly have a significant influence on Canadas free trade, immigration policies and global economy.

Last Thursday night, 20 students sat down for a round-table discussion about the upcoming election. The ISO Votes event, sponsored by the Political Action Council of the International Student Organization, invited both American and international students to offer their views on the candidates and their policies.

International student Ian Convey 11, a co-chair of the council, said the conversation, which centered around foreign policy, was productive for both Americans and international students. The international perspective is often different from the American one and can add to the discussion, he said.

Anna Ershova 11, an ISO member from Hong Kong, agreed.

Its important to zoom out and look at the candidates without being distracted by the Joe Six-Packs, Joe the Plumbers and hockey moms.

But international Yalies offer more than just their disaffected opinions. Six international students interviewed said that while they may not directly experience the new presidents proposals, they will be affected by American policies abroad.

Luis Granera Vega 12 admitted that he used to be politically indifferent. He thought his opinion did not matter without a ballot. But when he realized that the Central American Free Trade Agreement an important foreign trade issue on which the candidates are divided affects his home country of Costa Rica, it motivated him to stay informed, he said.

International students and foreigners in general will be affected due to possible shifts in foreign policy, Vega said.

Ioannis Legmpelos 12 said while he and many others from Greece disagree with the United States outdated hegemonic aspirations, they are getting ready for a new American administration.

And, he said, most are crossing their fingers for Obama.

This sentiment is echoed around the world, Ershova said. She noted that at another ISO Votes event, an international student suggested that many foreigners believe a young and dynamic president would help the United States become more globally accepted.

Alex Beltes 12 said the possibility of Obama as president affects universal perceptions about race and meritocracy.

But regardless of party lines, Convey said international students are bound to be interested in the elections at least during their time living in the United States, even if it is short-term.

At a Hillary Clinton event last spring at the Medical School, Convey said he and three other international students were among the loudest enthusiasts.

I got up at 6:30 a.m. to see Hillary, he said. I think that demonstrates how the elections are important to us, even if wecant vote.

Some international students can vote, too. These dual or multi-citizens, like Beltes whose home is in Greece claimed they will be immediately affected by Election Day results. A citizen of both the United States and Greece, Beltes said he wants to be an informed American citizen, though he affiliates himself more with Greece, having lived there his entire life.

This will be the first time I vote in either country, Beltes said.

The next president could alter negative stereotypes of Americans in his hometown, Beltes added, especially after an unpopular presidency.

And whether these negative perceptions change, Beltes said, will hinge on the vote on Election Day.