Can’t stop thinking about the election? Neither can we.

By Catherine Orr

Office of International Education

Guest Blogger

It seems like this campaign season is never-ending. Months of hotly contested primaries followed by months of debates, radio advertisements, and yes, Saturday Night Live skits, have left many people politically exhausted. But aren’t you still a little excited?

Richmond students are. Many of them took time out last Friday to participate in an open forum about the world’s opinion of the U.S. presidential race. This forum, the first Jepson International Forum and a part of the Office of International Education and Department of Modern Literatures & Cultures Culture Klatsch Series, is a perfect example of how international education permeates all aspects of a Richmond education.

International students and scholars representing 13 countries and U.S. students who have studied abroad in places from Cambodia to Spain, crammed into a classroom to talk candidly about the world’s opinion of the candidates, media coverage, and the implications of the U.S. presidential race.

The conversation centered on the hot topics of the election: health care, Iraq, the economy, etc., but this political discussion went beyond the typical back and forth of personal opinions on the issues. Instead, students challenged each other to think beyond our domestic borders and put this U.S. election in a global context.

A German student spoke about her countrymen’s support of Barack Obama because in Germany national health care is a given. A student from Swaziland told the group that most people in his country support John McCain because they believe age is a key factor in experience and maturity. As in any healthy debate, everyone in the room did not see eye-to-eye on all the issues, but I think it’s fair to say that everyone walked away from the discussion having learned something from their international and American peers.

That’s the beauty of going to a school where 8 percent of students are international and approximately 60 percent of students study abroad some time during their college career. Cultural exchange is constant both in and outside of the classroom and it inevitably results in a deeper understanding of the world.

So on Nov. 4, as some of you vote for the first time (you 18-year-olds are voting, right?) and the rest of you watch intently as the nation makes this decision, stop for a second and consider the implications not only for you, your community, your state and your country, but for the world. That’s what Richmond students will be doing.

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