As Nov. 8 approaches, it can be hard for the world to ignore the drama of this election season. Though they are not able to vote in the U.S. election, international students at Lehigh have been paying close attention, specifically, to the major parties’ two candidates — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Lia Sagiv, ’18, a citizen of the Dominican Republic and Germany who is half-Dominican and half-Israeli, said she is concerned with this election.
“It’s becoming a TV show,” Sagiv said. “I will sit in my living room and watch the debate with my friends. I’m really into it.”
Maxim Beard, ’18, who has residency in Spain and citizenship in the United Kingdom, expressed feelings similar to Sagiv’s.
“It’s pretty comical, so I’m not following it seriously, I guess,” he said.
However, when thinking about the candidates, Sagiv was serious.
“As an international student, it is clear that I am not all about (Trump’s) international or foreign regulations,” she said. “He is making international people, students and immigrants, look as if they were enemies and terrorists. That is increasing the rate of xenophobia in this country — something that the U.S. doesn’t really need.
“I thought we were moving further and this country was improving, and now we are just taking a step back. As an international student, I would not want to study in a place where its own president hates the kind of person I am and where I come from, just because I’m not American,” she said.
Cristina Baquerizo, ’18, an international student from Bogota, Colombia, is also concerned about the Republican nominee.
“I hate Trump,” Baquerizo said. “He is not a good person and he discriminates a lot, especially toward Latin people. He thinks we’re just criminals and immigrants. But no, I’m here legally, I’m not here illegally. I don’t hate (Clinton), but I also don’t love her.”
The U.S. political system differs from that of most international students’ home countries.
Beard said, for example, in the UK there is a cap on the amount of money each party can spend and slander, to the extent it occurs in the U.S., is not allowed.
“(Politicians) are not allowed to have stupid radio ads and TV ads and website ads,” Beard said. “I mean the amount of crap I’ve seen from both parties posting negative things about each other is ridiculous. The elections back home happen in a month — campaigning and everything. We vote and then it’s done — you know who’s going to be the prime minister.”
Baquerizo said in Colombia, there are more than two major parties, which gives voters more options.
“I think the campaigns are really different (in the U.S.), because here (politicians) attack each other, but at home, that’s not common,” she said. “They promote themselves, instead of making the other person look bad.”
Sagiv said though the government in her country is corrupt, she thinks the U.S. election can be “kind of shady.”
“I can feel a sense of corruption here, but not as much as the ones in third world countries,” she said.
When asked if they feel left out for not being able to vote in the 2016 U.S. election, the international students’ general consensus was no.
Vera Fennell, a political science professor at Lehigh, teaches comparative politics with a specialty in Asia, specifically China, and has been in contact with colleagues and friends who are professors in Asian countries.
“Just from talking to them, and looking around on websites and blogs, it seems as if there’s a real kind of split, in China at least, between the Chinese government — which has a slight preference for (Clinton) — and the Chinese people — who seem to really like (Trump),” Fennell said. “They believe that he is a successful businessman, and given their economic boom in the last couple of decades, that’s very important for them.”
Fennell said looking at the government’s perspective as a whole, Chinese politicians are much more concerned with their ability to negotiate in the global arena with the president. They think Trump is too unreliable, but also remember Clinton’s criticisms of their human rights record.
Fennell emphasized the point that people around the world are paying close attention to the upcoming U.S. election.
“I just want to remind everybody — American voters, millennials particularly,” Fennell said, “that the world is watching this election very carefully.”