When I decided to be a part of the Kasteel Well program, I realized that would also mean the first time I voted in a presidential election would be overseas. But other than discussing the candidates with my friends and filling out my absentee ballot, I didn’t expect to hear much about the election.
It turns out that in many European countries, the people there were very invested in the America’s 2012 elections; some of the people I met were even more passionate about it than me. The first I heard of this was in my Intercultural Communication class, when my professor, Chester Lee, talked about how American foreign policy has an impact on Europe that many voters don’t think about. From that point until November 6th, and even after, the question of Obama versus Romney came up in more situations than I had expected to see in Europe.
On November 1st, the Office of Student Affairs at the castle ran an open forum on the presidential elections. Professor Dr. Evert van der Zweerde of Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands came to facilitate the discussion. What I found most interesting was not his presentation or his theories about US politics, but how passionate the castle professors were when it came time to discuss and debate. In particular, the idea that Europeans should have a say in the US elections incited an intense discussion. “The USA is still the world’s largest power, affecting the life of people everywhere on the planet,” van der Zweerde explained. Later, Lee, the Intercultural Communications professor, added, “We all talk about this. But inside America I don’t think you have any idea [how this affects us]. This is not a domestic issue.”
I was in Monterosso al Mare, Italy a few days later when the election occurred. We had no access to internet or television in this town, so one of my traveling companions’ mothers texted us the election results. Satisfied that Obama would be in office another four years, we continued on with our day. Later on, when hiking a local trail, I was approached by an older Italian couple.
“Are you American?” the man asked me. “Yes,” I replied. “Do you know who your new president is?” was the next question. “Yes, it’s Obama,” I told him. “Is that good?” He gave me a smile. I was a little surprised that the only thing he wanted to know was if Obama or Romney had won. The topic came up a few more times throughout the day when Italians we met asked who we had voted for or if we were happy had Obama won.
A few weeks later I had the opportunity to visit a Dutch high school. By this point I was very curious if younger people also cared about the American president. The students I spoke to very much did. One girl, Shelley, explained that Romney did not care about the world economy and he would have been very bad for Europe. She confirmed what I had been hearing throughout my time at the castle: Obama was good, Romney was bad, and Europeans had been far more worried about the election results than some Americans I know.