International students discuss their thoughts on midterm elections

By Cecilia Milmoe, Features Editor

For many students, voting in the midterm elections is a way to impact the future. However, a sizable portion of students are unable to vote: international students.

As of Fall 2021, there are 9,841 international students enrolled at the University, which is roughly 17% of total studentsHowever, since they are not U.S. citizens, they do not have the right to vote.

Abel Kartawinata, junior in Engineering, is an international student from Indonesia. She said she thinks many international students are unfamiliar with the election process.

“As an international student, I’m personally not too familiar with how the election system works,” Kartawinata said. “I think I can speak for a lot of international students — We’re all too busy with our work to really know what’s going on.”

Iris Shang, junior in LAS and an international student from China, said that she has only begun to learn about the midterm elections.

“The election is a relatively new thing to me,” Shang said. “I see posters everywhere on campus and got very curious that so many students are interested in this and also vote. I just learned that midterm elections are the general elections for the seats in the House of Representatives and also in the Senate — I’ve never heard of this before as a foreign student.”

Shang said that it can be hard for international students to find information about U.S. elections.

“For other elections, like the less-known midterm elections, a lot of information online is not available to people outside of the U.S.,” Shang said. “Also, as foreign students, we don’t really know how to access this information or where to find it.”

Shang also said another layer of difficulty is that many other countries have vastly different election processes from U.S. elections.

Kartawinata believes some international students are not aware of the midterm elections’ impact on them.

“We know about the elections that happen every four years, but I don’t think enough attention is brought to the midterm elections coming up soon,” she said.

Kartawinata added that she saw the impact of elections on international students during Donald Trump’s presidency.

“I remember when Trump was president, I know a lot of international students, myself included, really considered their decision to study in the United States or not,” Kartawinata said.

While both Shang and Kartawinata said they didn’t know much about the issues that are at stake in the midterm elections, they both pointed to major issues they were aware of. Kartawinata said she knew there were issues relating to the economy, and Shang said she sees abortion as a “very important issue in this midterm election.”

Daniel Perez-Astros, graduate student studying Latin American literature, is an international student from Venezuela. He said that as an international student, he feels helpless.

“I feel helpless because one, I cannot vote, and two, because of my visa status,” Perez-Astros said. “They tell us that you shouldn’t go to any form of, let’s say, political reunions or stuff like that.”

Perez-Astros said that while it might be fine to attend a protest, he worries that attending one could be used as a way to deny his visa.

Perez-Astros said that while it might be fine to attend a protest, he worries that attending one could be used as a way to deny his visa.

Shang said that she sees international students being unable to vote as fair.

“We don’t have the same rights as U.S. citizens, and that’s completely fine because we’re not Americans,” Shang said. “So, it’s just not fair for us to have a right to decide on other people’s destiny, because we will then be away, maybe go to another country or go back to our home country.”

Shang added that even if she could vote in the upcoming midterm elections, she wouldn’t, as she does not know enough about all of the issues at stake.

Kartawinata expressed similar beliefs but said she believes international students should still have a say in political matters.

“I’m not really sure where I stand with it, because we do pay a lot of money to be here,” Kartawinata said. “We contribute to taxes, education (and) anything else that the government wants to use our tuition for. But in a way, I think maybe there should be a way to do it that doesn’t really constitute as voting.”

Still, Kartawinata said that if she could vote, she would.

Perez-Astros said he believes international students should have a say in elections.

“Yeah, of course (I would vote),” Perez-Astros said. “I mean, in my opinion, voting is a right. Since political people and political parties do affect us (as) individuals, it doesn’t matter if you are an international student or not. So, I would say in a beautiful and ideal world, maybe I will have a say.”

 

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