Last year’s presidential election brought the population to a national showdown. Political views have never been more polarized between citizens. As Americans continue to stand for their civil liberties, one perspective has gone unbeknownst to the public — international students studying in the USA.
From Azerbaijan to Zambia, students come to Webster University from over 140 countries to pursue higher education. But with the tremendous chaos seemingly spewing across the country, many international students find themselves confronting their own futures in the face of American politics. Initially during the 2016 presidential campaign, many international students, like Americans, did not take the campaign too seriously. They found Trump’s antics astounding but did not actually consider it a valid reason to be worried just yet. Many didn’t believe President Donald Trump would win either.
“I could not believe it, I thought it was a joke, but the night he [Trump] was elected I woke up stressed,” Palestinian-Syrian student Wafaa Abu Elula says.
Abu Elula has been in the United States since July 2016. Being Palestinian-Syrian, she is a stateless individual whose life can be dramatically changed by the U.S. President’s decisions.
“I was not only scared for myself, I was scared for my people in Syria, in Palestine, and I worried what if he deports me,” Abu Elula says.
Safal Thapa, a computer science student from Nepal, had a different perspective on the elections.
“I’m not really too interested in politics,” Thapa says. “But I would hear from friends Trump is saying this or that, especially about Muslims.”
Although Thapa is from a Hindu- majority country, he wonders how such negative rhetoric could accumulate such media attention.
“If I see the broader picture, [Trump as President] is not a problem, it is the overall American view that matters, the views of normal people,” Thapa says.
As the Trump administration develops, students consider not only their own future in the country they are studying in, but also the future of their lives outside of America.
For Thapa, the outcome of this election has allowed him to make the decision to leave the United States after graduation. He wants to return to Nepal and apply his knowledge and expertise to his home country.
“From this, there are certain things that [would] be good for countries like Nepal,” Thapa says. “Because a lot of smart people come [to the United States] from all over the world, if they start preventing people from coming here, such people will not leave Nepal — they will study there and help develop their own countries.”
Across the Atlantic at Webster University Geneva, different sentiments arose from students. Etsehiwot Negash, an Ethiopian student studying International Relations and Computer Science, worries about the United States’ role in international organizations.
“[The Trump Administration] will definitely disturb and affect relationships with U.S. foreign policy, organizations, and countries,” Negash says.
As a student living in Geneva, the hub of international organizations, Negash knows that the actions of the Trump presidency may not affect her directly, but will affect foreign policy, organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union and treaties like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
There are also students who find themselves undisturbed by the American political climate. Bassant Sherif is an Egyptian student at Webster Thailand currently studying abroad in St. Louis. As of now, she feels her own country, Egypt, is not affected by the Trump Administration because of his particularness to focus on other Arab states, such as those listed in his executive order immigration ban. She finds little to worry about before her semester in St. Louis comes to an end.
Many international students cannot predict what will happen next or where the administration will navigate the country. As for now, Webster encourages them to keep close relations with their international advisers, and just continue to live their regular day- to-day lives.
With the polarization of American society today, Negash encourages openness and unity.
“Spread love, keep fighting for what you believe in and stay true to yourself,” Negash says.
Story by Ayesha Ather
Photos by Katie Dineen