Thoughts from Peer Advisor, Alie Waller
Studying abroad is notorious for fostering cross-cultural experiences and forcing students out of their comfort zones. Spending time in a foreign country, whether it be for 2 weeks or 2 years, bestows invaluable life lessons upon the traveler that may not be experienced had they never taken that first step out their front door.
Whether you realize it or not, as soon as you step foot into your host country, you’ve become an unofficial ambassador for the United States and will frequently be questioned as such. The people you meet on a day to day basis will want to know your thoughts on all kinds of things, some as seemingly silly as whether or not all Americans eat McDonald’s every day, and others as loaded as who do you plan on voting for in the 2016 national elections.
Can you really blame them? This election has become a topic of everyday life. What new tweet has Donald Trump posted? What new update has come out on Hillary Clinton’s emails? The whole world has tuned into American politics at a time of tension and change, and navigating these conversations can be difficult.
Above all, it’s important to stay true to your beliefs, but be patient. The person talking to you may have multiple questions (often blunt ones), because you might be the first American they have ever had the chance to ask these questions.
You may encounter people that have strong criticisms of the United States. In these instances, it helps to remain neutral and respectful of each individual’s opinions. These moments can be critical in the cross-cultural experiences that will shape your time abroad. Hearing about the United States from the perspective of someone in your host country can change the way you think of your home country, in good ways and bad, but this is an important part of the study abroad process!
Studying abroad during an election year is truly a unique experience, and this year is no exception! Whether you’re “With Her” or trying to “Make America Great Again” (or neither!), make the most of political dialogue with the people you talk to during your time abroad.
And just because you’re abroad, don’t forget to cast your vote! If you’re 18+ and registered, your vote really counts and shouldn’t be lost just because you’re out of the country. For more information on voting while abroad, click here.