Imagine the excitement of receiving an acceptance letter from your dream college. Now imagine the joy and fulfillment of attending that college after years of perseverance and hard work. Finally, picture that moment of hearing a presidential candidate in that country you’re now studying in declaring that he will build a wall to keep immigrants out—to keep you out.
As a land of liberty and justice for all, the United States of America currently holds over 800,000 students choosing to broaden their education and worldliness in the U.S., according to International Student’s website.
Since the mid-1950s, with numbers as low as 35,000, the international student population in the U.S.A. has skyrocketed to become the largest international student population in the world. As the U.S. presidential election reaches its climax in a couple of months, will we see a drastic change in this number?
Sophomore English and politics double major, Leah Robinson, grew up in England but spent most of her teen years as a missionary kid in Thailand. As an international student, Robinson shares her thoughts and worries over the presidential election.
“It’s worrying,” she says. “Because after the dropping out of several candidates in the run, what are left does not seem like good choices either way.”
It is undeniable that the views of the 2016 presidential candidates carry a heavy toll on student immigrants here in the United States. It may not be a physical one, but it is certainly an emotional and psychological one.
“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me —and I’ll build them very inexpensively,” Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declared at the Maryland Republican Party’s 25th Annual Red, White and Blue Dinner on June 23, 2015. Trump acknowledged that his claim was about the border dividing the United States and Mexico, but many international students heard it as a warning.
As a second-year international business major from Rwanda, Irebe Nyaruhirira describes her fear of staying in the U.S. as a result of the many wildcards in this year’s election.
“Being in the U.S. now, as an international student, I’m not too worried about it, however, how will the visa application process be for my parents if and when they want to attend my graduation in the future?” Nyaruhirira asks.
Although international students do not have the right to vote, many have shared their concerns over the disregard their fellow peers who can vote have expressed during this election season.
“There are college students who were home-schooled their whole life whose opinions depend solely on the opinions of their parents,” Nyaruhirira claims. “Due to the lack of open discussions and invitational rhetoric on the matter, they seem to not build their own opinions.”
Often, an open discussion concerning politics turns sour, and the opportunity for cognitive growth dissipates. “It is hard for an international student to give a comment on U.S. politics to American students because it will look like you are criticizing their country,” says Robinson.
“It is hard for an international student to give a comment on U.S. politics to American students because it will look like you are criticizing their country,” Robinson says.
Acknowledging the elephant in the room, the conservative nature of the environment on Messiah’s campus does not always allow for the introduction of the topic in daily, “over-coffee” conversation.
“Our community is always trying to be nice,” Nyaruhirira says. “It’s a good thing, but at the same time, everyone is trying so hard to be politically correct. Specifically concerning issues that might and will offend other people.”
One such topic is the varying perspectives on foreigners, immigrants and refugees from countries around the world.
“There are certain candidates whose views are rather radical,” Robinson says. “It’s something that can come across as xenophobic.”
Rwandan native and politics major Keza Nzisabira echoes this sentiment. Nzisabira desires a future president with more leniencies towards immigrants.
“Somehow, some have even linked and think that immigration equals terrorism. Especially with the rise of ISIS and Al-Qaeda over recent years,” Nzisabira says.
The reality is that the U.S. presidential election affects not only its citizens but the lives of many others. “Our parents and other parents who have children in the U.S. are concerned,” Nyaruhirira says.
Despite all the concerns, there are some internationals that have seen the silver lining of experiencing the U.S. election season first-hand.
Sophomore journalism major, Sharlene Oong, affirms that the structure of politics here in the U.S. is undoubtedly organized.
“It is something that can potentially be used and sampled by my own country,” Oong, who is from Malaysia, says.
Additionally, international students have seen the benefit of student organized clubs that have been structured to discuss politics specifically.
“There are clubs here, such as MC Republicans, MC Democrats, and there are tons of politics majors here on campus, and the numbers are growing,” Oong says.
It is undeniable that the result from the 2016 presidential election will carry a heavy toll on student immigrants here in the U.S. Though people’s opinions may differ, and people’s needs are subjective, an ultimate goal of happiness is not unrealistic. As a land of liberty and justice for all, every able American should vote for a better and brighter future, both for the United States and the world.