While scores of students headed to the polls on Tuesday, Shazan Jiwa ’09 did not cast his vote.
But this year, Jiwa has actively campaigning with Yale for McCain, volunteering his spare time to talk with undecided students and share his views on the election. Sen. John McCain, Jiwa would argue, should be the next president, by virtue of his experience and proven track record.
Jiwa is a student from Vancouver, Canada. Just three weeks ago, he voted for the Conservative Party in the federal Canadian election.
While not all international students — who constitute 8 percent of Yale’s undergraduate population — are as politically involved as Jiwa, many said they have become personally invested, just as their home countries have, in the U.S. presidential election. Although their support did not end up on a ballot Tuesday, international students said they still had good 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 new president, he added, will undoubtedly have a significant impact on Canada’s 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.
Ian Convey ’11, a co-chair of PAC and a native of the United Kingdom, said the conversation, which centered around foreign policy, was productive for both Americans and international students like himself. 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.
“It’s important to zoom out and look at the candidates without being distracted by the Joe Six-Packs, Joe the Plumbers and hockey moms,” she said.
But international Yalies offer more than just their disaffected opinions. Six international students interviewed said that while they may not directly experience the new president’s proposals, they will be affected by American policies abroad.
International student Luis Granera Vega ’12, said 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,” as he put it, they are getting ready for a new administration in the White House.
And, he said, most were crossing their fingers for the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama.
This sentiment is echoed around the world, Ershova said. She noted that at another ISO Votes event, one 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 an Obama presidency 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 an event last winter on campus for Hillary Clinton LAW ’73, 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 we can’t 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 before Election Day.
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 next administration.