The year 2020 is an interesting time to be studying outside of my home country. This new decade has already brought the catastrophe of the Australian wildfires, the start and spread of the coronavirus out of China, as well as escalations of disagreement between nations such as the United States and Iran. It almost seems as if the whole world is starting off the new year a little on edge. These events have impacted everyone in one way or another and studying in Athens, Greece has given me a personal sense of how interconnected everyone is.
The year has only just begun and there still is one huge event that is taking place in November: the 2020 US Presidential Elections. Being a US citizen, I have always known that the United States actions have an immense impact of the rest of the world’s nations, but I never realized how closely others from around the world study and follow US government.
US President Donald Trump, seen by many as the most powerful man in the world (as is any president of the US), impacts a multitude of nations with the decisions that the US Government makes. My first day of classes here in Athens, Greece, the discussion of President Trump came up in four out of five of my classes in one way or another. Of course, these are political science courses, but my assumption when enrolling in these classes was that since I’m studying in Europe, the US would be a smaller topic of discussion. This may have been naïve of me, since the decisions that the US makes does effect the rest of the world as well, but it still astonished me that I am studying over 6,000 miles from my home in the US, and my classes are still talking about the President of the United States.
Studying here in Athens has expanded my knowledge of international relations, diplomacy and the repercussions of one nations decision on others. Not only am I learning from my professors about their knowledge of US politics and the relation to Greece, but also my peer students that are Greek often share their insights and opinions of the US and President Trump.
It’s very intriguing to learn the opinions of Greek citizens on US policies, since I wouldn’t have the opportunity to hear these differing perspectives at my home university in the states. On a taxi ride to downtown of the port town Piraeus, the driver asked where I was from. When I told him I was from the US, he immediately started talking about Trump’s hair. This was a rather random topic but it shows that, big or small, people from all over follow aspects of US government. Many of the locals are also very intrigued on my opinion of US politics from an insiders point of view.
With the current divisive state in the US on most aspects of politics, studying outside of the country is a breath of fresh air with differing perspectives and opinions that have already helped me see a new perspective myself. It definitely feels as if I’m an outsider looking in while I’m talking with Greeks. As cliché as it may sound, studying abroad has really opened my eyes to how big the world is and how many people one single person can impact by policy decisions. It has amazed me how many locals, whether they are professors, students or taxi drivers, have an opinion on the US President. The 2020 elections are just heating up, and it should be interesting to continue to have open conversations about this huge political moment for the world that will take place in November.
If I had to give three pieces of advice for studying abroad during the year of the 2020 elections it would be:
- Open your bubble and take advantage of learning from the citizens where you are studying and their opinions on the US political system.
- Share your knowledge from an educated insiders perspective on the 2020 elections with locals.
- Have an open mind!
Bonus piece of advice: Vote! Make your voice heard even while you’re abroad with an absentee ballot!