“Those [who live] outside of America want to believe in the freedom that America promises. It’s freedom, or the idea of it, that makes America great … not the ideas Trump promotes,” says Neha Rashid, Medill sophomore of NU-Q, in an email. It’s this freedom that Rashid, who grew up in Qatar, fears she might lose if Donald Trump wins the presidential election in November.
Rashid is one of many Northwestern students who, though they aren’t U.S. citizens, have begun to pay an increasing amount of attention to the 2016 election cycle.
“I always joke that we should be able to vote, because we pay the price for the U.S. electing the wrong president as much as, if not more than, U.S. citizens do,” says Michal Massoud, a Lebanese graduate student in Bienen. He adds that the U.S. election makes him concerned for his family members, who still live in Lebanon.
“It’s been really hard there, even though Obama’s been trying to clean up the acts of the people who came before him,” he says. “It takes one U.S. president, and the next thing you know you have a war [in Iraq] that lasts almost 20 years, and hundreds and thousands of people [are] dead.”
NU-Q Medill junior Faizan Shakir follows politics for a similar reason: After living in the U.S. for a scant three months, he’s realized the vast extent of the United States’ political impact overseas.
“[My] newfound enthusiasm for American politics was the realization that we live in a global landscape where America is deeply entrenched in most political decisions,” Shakir says in an email. “As an overseas Pakistani, I feel that my life will probably be affected more by the type of regime in America than Pakistan.”
Other students, however, don’t feel as closely connected to America’s current election cycle. Some students from Europe and Canada only follow American politics to the extent that it’s become a major focus of foreign media.
“In Canada, we pay close attention to American politics … in a pop-culture sense,” says Bienen junior Chris Fenje. “Trump gets more airtime than Trudeau… It’s entertaining.”
Others feel alienated by U.S. political ideology, claiming U.S. policies operate on a conservative value system and that the electoral process seems flawed by design.
“For me, it feels like the whole spectrum of American politics is lifted up and shifted further over to the right,” says Christopher Bennett, an Australian graduate student in Bienen. “Your left wing is significantly more right than ours.”
Another reason for Bennett’s lack of interest in the election cycle is that he’s only lived in Evanston for a year, and he doesn’t intend to live or work in the U.S. after he finishes his degree.
“I came here for an education; I came here so that I could further myself,” Bennett says. “Really, it’s a bit selfish, but I kind of don’t care.”
Shakir, on the other hand, argues that regardless of his personal ineligibility to vote, he feels obliged to follow U.S. politics because the impact of the country’s policies reach far beyond its borders.
“An American president is powerful not just because of their executive powers,” he says, “but because of their ability to set the agenda for the world to discuss.”