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What to Know About Studying Abroad in an Election Year

by Katie Mullins
AIFS Abroad students in Ireland during US election year

Happy Election Day! Here are five things you should know when you study abroad during an election year:

1. Don’t be shocked by the thousands of questions coming your way!

The hype of the election does not just take place in the United States! The Presidential election takes the stage in America, but also attracts many viewers from across the world. Do not be surprised when people ask you questions about the candidates or the election itself. Once they find out you’re an American, the questions will begin to flow. For some it is an easy ice-breaker; for others it is curiosity and a desire to hear about the election from a United States citizen.

2. Be informed.

Just like any other topic, if you are going to give your opinion on a subject it is important to be informed! Just because you are out of the country does not give you the excuse to be out of the loop on current events. The Internet and social media make keeping up with the election easier than ever. Utilize your resources and stay informed!

3. Don’t get frustrated, try to be understanding.

Like any other discussion about politics, sometimes it can become heated. Some of my American peers have questioned why people even care about the election if they are not from the United States. These questions usually pop up after we have been asked about the election and “why Americans would want him over her” or “why Americans would want her over him.” A couple of questions like this are easy enough to deal with but sometimes it can become frustrating when all of your foreign peers only want to discuss the election with you. Although this can be frustrating, try to understand where the other person is coming from. The election affects American citizens, but we need to remember that America is seen as a global superpower which ultimately affects other countries in the world.

4. Your vote matters!

Do not think just because you are abroad you cannot vote! You can apply for an absentee ballot and either have it mailed or emailed to you. It is not a hard process and takes maybe 10 minutes out of your day. If you have trouble applying for an absentee ballot, contact your local board of elections they can help you figure out the details. Every vote counts and even if you think yours does not matter, it does!

5. Hope for the best and enjoy the experience.

Students studying abroad usually only get this experience once in their four years of college. Be open to what people have to say and listen to their opinions. Who knows, it might be really interesting and open your mind to new way to view things. Enjoy your time abroad and think of the election as a rare learning experience while you are in a brand new culture.

This post about doing a study abroad program during an election year was contributed by Kathryn Mullins, who is spending her semester studying abroad with AIFS in Limerick, Ireland.

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