Sakina Hassanali, a College of Communication junior from Tanzania, said she was astounded by the amount of spending a U.S. presidential campaign requires.
“I didn’t know so much money goes into just the election planning,” Hassanali said. “And just because I come from a third-world country, to see that much money go just for the campaigns and the election, and there is so much money that America still needs.”
As election season comes to a close and a number of Boston University students cast their ballots in a presidential race for the first time, a large portion of the student body is not able to take part in voting.
About 2,000 of the 16,000 undergraduate students at BU are international, according to the International Students & Scholars Office. Although they are ineligible to vote, some international students said they still pay attention to the election.
“I am a part of the community and it [the election] does affect me,” said Ali Uslu, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore from Turkey. “But I don’t get to participate.”
But Uslu said not being able to participate does not make a difference to him.
“I don’t think the real decision-making mechanism is influenced by the people,” he said.
Xiaopei Luo, a COM sophomore from China, said the whole idea of democracy and voting is new to her when she came to Boston in 2011 for school.
“In China we don’t have such things, like voting,” Luo said. “I’ve never voted before. We’ve never heard of this idea. This would never happen in China.”
The idea of voting is not the only aspect of American culture that international students said surprises them.
Hassanali said the method candidates use to communicate is different than what she expected.
“Even in terms of the way people send out messages,” she said. “Twitter isn’t a big thing there [in Tanzania]. The president is on Twitter, but when it comes to the campaign, the people who are going to vote and the people he is depending on are not on Twitter, so he uses very different media.”
When comparing the U.S. to Turkey, Uslu said the U.S. campaign season is tame.
“We do have an ongoing civil war and a political party that represents those two parties, so it tends to get really wild and really hard,” he said. “It is much more structured and organized [in the U.S.] compared to what we have at home.”
Uslu said the two-party system in the U.S. seems flawed.
“To be perfectly honest, the difference between the two parties isn’t substantial,” he said. “The problem is the spectrum of the debate is too limited. The whole problem with American politics is that it is all about identities, but there is no reference to class and those two are profoundly correlated.”
Samarth Virk, a School of Management sophomore from India, said the party system in the U.S. does not make sense.
“In India, we don’t have two parties,” he said. “So if you have 10 parties and 10 opinions, some will overlap, but here it is not like that. There are just two and they are so different. Both together can form a whole, but they don’t want to do that.”
Virk also said he noticed young people in the U.S. are more invested in the political system than youth in India.
“To be really honest, in India kids my age aren’t really involved,” he said. “At least in high school because the voting age is 18, and we weren’t 18 so we didn’t really care. I can definitely sense that it is bigger here than it is in India.”