Millions of people around the world were surprised when President-elect Donald Trump won the national election. Up until election night, the New York Times projected that there was an 84 percent chance Hillary Clinton would walk away with the presidency.
Since Trump’s victory, people from all demographics have been weighing in with their opinions, but there is one community that had a unique perspective from which to watch this election: international students.
According to the USF System Facts 2016-2017 fact book, international students make up 11 percent of the student population and, like most Americans, a large portion of them do not feel as if they understood the long race to the presidency.
“It was definitely an interesting one,” said Huw Morgan-Baveystock, a senior double majoring in mass communications & sociology. “I was out here on vacation in Naples when Obama was running against Romney so I distinctly remember that, but this is a bit different from that one.”
“I think it was funny to see Trump go up against people like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. That was all very interesting, and to see the millennial following of Bernie Sanders. I had to even ask around and ask people ‘Hey is this how it usually goes?’ and they’re like ‘No, this isn’t anything that we’ve ever seen before.’”
Morgan-Baveystock, a student from England, also said he didn’t understand the technicalities of an election. He had to do research before he knew that both parties nominated a candidate before they ran for the presidency.
Maria Mohammed, a senior from Trinidad and Tobago majoring in industrial engineering, said that she found the whole process “really disappointing.”
Other international students share the opinion given by Nanda Bose, a junior double majoring in accounting and economics, who mentioned that he was “just anxious about what’s going to happen.”
One factor causing international students to become nervous is Trump’s outspoken views on immigration. While they aren’t immigrants, they are allowed to pursue an education in the U.S. because of students visas, and on Trump’s website under ‘Immigration Reform’ is a section that talks about his plan to abolish the J-1 visa program.
This isn’t the only visa given to foreigners who want to study in the U.S., but it could be seen as the first step.
“It’s a little bit scary too, because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Anabelle Castagne a senior majoring in architecture. “Things could change. It can affect my visa, it can affect my schooling, it can affect how long I’ll be here.”
While they also aren’t citizens, which means they couldn’t vote, international students have certainly witnessed enough this election season to form their own opinions. However, despite being in a country that lauds its right to free speech, some feel as if the First Amendment did not extend to them.
“I feel like I can’t really express my political views to a lot of students just because everyone seems to be very sensitive about it in most of my classes,” Maria said. “I feel like it’s a very sensitive topic to everyone so I have to be very careful what I say and I can’t really express my opinion as an outsider.”
Others made more mixed feelings on not being able to take part in the election.
“It was kind of nice to be able to sit back and watch it all unfold, but at the same time you kind of want to have a say in it,” Morgan-Baveystock said.
This election season, many international students found themselves playing messenger between the U.S. and inquisitive friends and family in their native countries. These people wanted a first-hand account of the election, and there was no better source to turn to.
A majority of the questions about who was running, what were their platforms and, especially, what a Trump presidency would be like.
“You just have to say that the U.S. still has two other branches of the government and Trump probably won’t do a lot of the things he’s talking about right now if he becomes president,” said Bose, who hails from Bangladesh. “Yeah, those questions do come up a lot, but often times we don’t have the answer for it.”
According to a Pew poll published in June, 85 percent of Europeans did not have confidence in Donald Trump when it came to foreign affairs, as compared to 27 percent who said the same for Clinton. The #TrumpTrain phenomenon appears to be confusing Europeans more than Americans.
“I feel like a lot of people are mainly interested in why are people voting for Trump because I feel like a candidate like him wouldn’t gain the popularity (in England) that obviously he has got (in the U.S.),” Morgan-Baveystock said. “They’re not necessarily judgmental, they just kind of want to gain insight and learn more about why an American voter would vote for somebody like that because I feel like it’s definitely a foreign concept for some people back home.”
However, the general feelings that non-Americans have about this election were expressed by Mohammed, when who believes that “the choices are forcing most Americans to choose between the lesser of two evils,” which is a sentiment that many Americans have voiced ever since Trump and Clinton were nominated.
While an overwhelming amount of foreigners tended to lean towards Clinton, it wasn’t because of an immense love for her.
“I wouldn’t say I have a favorite out of either of them, but there’s definitely one who I dislike more than the other, and I feel like that’s the same for a lot of the voters this election. They’re not necessarily voting for a candidate, you’re more or less voting against a candidate,” Morgan-Baveystock said. “I’d obviously be voting against Donald Trump, but that by no means means I’m endorsing Hillary.”