As an international student, watching this election sparks fear

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Media: Illustration by Joshua Sun

Standing at the intersection at this historic moment, I feel like I can’t pursue my future plan the way I wanted.

By Jocelyn Yang, Opinion Editor

Tags related to America have only trended once a while on the Chinese Twitter-like social media platform Weibo since the pandemic began. I remember seeing trending terms like “U.S. COVID-19 cases climb,” “Trump blamed China for coronavirus outbreak,” “Trump tested COVID-19 positive,” and now the U.S. presidential election

Growing up in a country that limits domestic political conversations, I’m often surprised to see how people in China closely pay close attention to U.S. political news. My parents, too, are watching this election while working during the day in Beijing. They want to know who gets elected and what their policies for international students look like. And so do I. 

Anxiousness and uncertain feelings have bugged me. I can hardly sleep after seeing the projected results come out after election night. Standing at the intersection at this historic moment, I feel like I can’t pursue my future plan the way I wanted. 

From one side, the study abroad experience has enhanced my global social awareness. Through classroom learning and daily conversations with friends, I have been able to reflect on social justice and civil rights. I deeply care about climate change and have learned more about environmental issues because of my time in the U.S. But all of the proactive changes I wish to make come along with one obstacle: my time as an international student studying in the U.S. is dependent on someone else’s vote. 

Many other international students may feel the same as well. In the past four years, Trump’s administration had repeatedly angled to restrict international students, including the recent DHS proposed rule to eliminate “duration of status” that may affect many students’ visa status. Many of my international friends who come to study in the U.S. have decided to take a gap year or transfer to schools in other countries because of the tougher policies against international students. The Trump administration’s unwelcome attitude towards international students and handling of COVID-19 has driven some of my friends and other international students out of the country. According to The Washington Post, Studyportals has tracked a 45 percent drop in interest for international students studying in the United States among its site users year-on-year, largely due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. All of these frustrates me. 

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When it comes to the election, according to an online poll conducted by Erudera College News, 71.1 percent of international students in the U.S. prefer Biden over Trump. This preference may or may not be the same for American voters’, as we’re still waiting to see the results. Today, tomorrow, or the next week or so, people across the world watch this presidential race and wonder how the election results would possibly shape the international landscape. 

My mom texted me around midnight of election day, when I finished my first draft of this piece, after Trump just won Florida and Ohio. She asked me “How I’m holding up?” I sipped some water and took a deep breath. I don’t know what will happen. I keep my faith in the heart, so are many international students who are watching.