Foreign students lend international notice to presidential primaries

Nathalie Tadena

When the results from today’s Super Tuesday presidential primaries roll in, many Northwestern students will experience the media circus for the first time.

NU’s 2,318 international students are just as interested in the results of the 2008 presidential election as students who grew up in the U.S.

“You see so much of it in the media just by watching the news or reading newspapers,” said Godhuli Chatterjee, a Medill sophomore from India. “Especially these presidential elections are so hyped.”

Though international students come from different countries and experiences, many agree that the U.S. president is an important figure on the global stage.

“The whole world knows about American politics,” said Karthik Murali, a McCormick sophomore from Singapore. “Whoever controls the U.S. affects a lot of international policies.”

While studying in the U.S. can help students learn more about American politics, understanding the election process can be difficult for many reasons.

“I never lived in the U.S. so I don’t really know what it means to be a Democrat or a Republican or what it means to be a liberal,” Communication freshman Rachel Gou said.

McCormick senior Kevin Lee said he has been following the election coverage, but because he attended an Australian high school, he never extensively studied U.S. history.

“I can evaluate U.S. policies based on today, but I don’t know much about the background or history of the issues,” Lee said.

The selection of party candidates through state primaries and the electoral college are unique to elections in the U.S.

“The idea of primaries, how delegates and super-delegates work, who gets what (votes) is overwhelming,” said Prof. Andrew Roberts, who teaches comparative politics.

Foreign students might also be surprised by the timing and duration of presidential campaigns, since political campaigns last for only one or two months prior to Election Day in many countries, Roberts said.

Some international students said they prefer the Democratic party to the Republicans, attributing this to the amount of media coverage the big-name Democrats receive compared to their Republican counterparts.

Other international students cited the U.S.’ unfavorable image abroad due to the Iraq war.

“If a Democrat wins, we as international students get more freedoms and it’s easier for us to come into the country,” Murali said. “It seems to me that the world outside of the U.S. does not like President Bush and what he has done in Iraq.”

Chatterjee said she also knows more about Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama than Republican candidates.

“(They) are depicted more in the news, they’ve become iconic figures,” she said.

Chatterjee, Lee and Murali all said they would like to see Obama win the presidency.

“A lot of minorities support Obama so international students that think they are the minority think they should support him too,” Chatterjee said.

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