Saturday, November 28, 2020

International students hopeful for future after Biden's election win

November 18, 2020
<p>The International Center photographed on July 7, 2020.</p>

The International Center photographed on July 7, 2020.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News
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Social work senior Caroline Khombe tossed and turned in her room on Election Day, that soon became a late election night, constantly refreshing her feed. With her eyes glued to her phone, she couldn’t bring herself to relax and get some sleep.

As an international student from Malawi in Africa, Khombe had never experienced an American presidential election before. She would have preferred hearing the winner announced after the votes were counted, rather than viewing the changing live results.

“I’m seeing it red, then I see blue then back to red and I’m like ‘Okay, this is not happening,’” Khombe said. “I guess seeing it live really affected me. I couldn’t sleep the first day of the election.”

Khombe said she is looking forward to President-elect Joe Biden’s term. She hopes he handles COVID-19 better, providing a new perspective than President Trump.

“I was hopeful things will and might get better,” Khombe said. “I don’t have family (in the United States) ... if something happens to me how long will it take for people to find out that something happened to me?”

Khombe said she feels more comfortable with the representation of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as a Black woman in power.

“Especially having Kamala as a Vice President ... I feel like for me, maybe things would be safer,” Khombe said.

Ishitta Vasudevan, a cognitive neuroscience junior, also said Biden’s election makes her feel more welcome and safe. She is from India and said her friends who live there currently were following it as much, if not more than she was.

“If there’s an Indian election happening, I wouldn’t expect people in the U.S. to be posting about it and following it, but if it’s happening in the U.S. everyone back home is also really into it,” Vasudevan said. “My friends would text me constantly, (asking) ‘What is the electoral college? How does this work?’ ... For most of the people my age it was like the first time they were experiencing it so closely.” 

Vasudevan said the Trump administration influenced her experience because there were many bans on international students, immigration and visas. When the COVID-19 pandemic first came, some students didn’t think they would be allowed to study in the U.S. 

“This was a blow for most international students because it’s almost like we are paying almost double of in-state tuition and we are getting thrown out of the country almost, through no fault of ours which was very disturbing to a lot of students,” Vasudevan said. 

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Finance sophomore Raymond Lawi said his, and many other international students’, lives were also impacted.

“We’re just not really living the experience,” Lawi said. “We came to the States to experience American culture, meet new friends, walk around. Now we’re sort of in confinement, just looking out from our rooms.”

Lawi said he hopes Biden’s morals might guide students through the pandemic.

“I think, personally, we need a leader that obviously listens to science and not downplay any form of pandemic because that way people will actually take it seriously,” Lawi said. “While I’m not that fond of Joe Biden ... at least he listens to science. I think that plays a major role in the outcome.”

Lawi also appreciates Biden’s ideas about unity through diversity and he hopes he might help repair the political divide that he saw from an outsider's perspective living in Indonesia.

“It seemed like the States was spiraling out of control,” Lawi said. “People fighting amongst each other, it was just hard to watch, really.It’s a lot of infighting despite being under the same flag. Everyone’s still American, but the way they talk about each other is sort of dehumanizing, so to speak. It just seemed like absolute pandemonium.” 

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Accounting and business senior Shawn Luo is excited for the new President for similar reasons. He is an international student from China and said the surge of xenophobia worried his family. 

“I feel like the behavior from the President can influence the whole dynamic of the country, because (Trump is) saying like ‘it's all China’s fault, it’s a Chinese virus,’” Luo said. "I know my parents, they were really worrying about my personal safety and my future plans.”

Luo doesn’t expect that dynamic to switch immediately, but he sees the country moving in a better direction in terms of equality and the pandemic because of the new President-elect.

“My community, the international students, the LGBTQ community, the Asian community, and so many more will get an environment they need to survive ... and be treated equally,” Luo said. “It gave me the hope that there will be changes and some of them will be really beneficial for my communities and my personal development in the future.”

This article is part of our Election Aftermath print issue. Read the full issue here.

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