International students share perspectives on the 2016 race

Tyler Stigall, Science and International Editor

Miharu Koh

“I’m frustrated, at the same time frightened,” said Miharu Koh, ’20, of the recent election of Donald Trump to the office of president of the United States of America. “Even though I am a legal resident and can work legally, what Trump was saying about immigrants might make people think it’s okay to discriminate against immigrants in public places.”

Koh, who is interested in studying biochemistry at Allegheny, has lived in California for six years. Her family moved to Silicon Valley from Tokyo, Japan.

Koh said that she experienced a kind of culture shock when arriving in Meadville. She hailed from a traditionally liberal area in California, where a majority of her friends supported Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

“Before I learned everything in high school, I thought America was a free country where everyone gets equal rights,” Koh said. “I thought that politics were clear. In high school I learned that it’s more complicated than it looks.”

Many of Koh’s international friends believe that this year’s election results will directly affect them.

“Some people are thinking about leaving the country,” Koh said. “I don’t think that’s the best solution, honestly. That’s just living on your instincts and not thinking about it.”

Dipto Mukherjee

Dipto Mukherjee, ’19, lived in Calcutta, India for most of his life. Both Dipto and his brother traveled to the U.S. to study at Allegheny College. Mukherjee began following U.S. presidential elections in 2008 and 2012, when he admired then president elect Barack Obama.

“I liked the way [Obama] thought,” Mukherjee said. “[I liked] his foreign policy especially, how he tried to get America out of wars and make diplomatic negotiations the more usual way of dealing with things. In order to take away nuclear weapons for Iran, the Obama administration followed a diplomatic procedure.”

On the night of the election, Mukherjee kept vigil until the early morning anticipating the results. He said that, like the people he watched the results with, he was left in a state of disbelief.

“I honestly did not expect this from America—a country built on immigrants—that they would support a xenophobic leader at the helm,” Mukherjee said. “But it is democracy. If the people have spoken, we have to respect their opinions.”

India also hosts a two-party political system, according to Mukherjee. The Indian constitution borrows from the British constitution, making it easier for third-party candidates to win.

Miguel Guillen

Miguel Guillen, ’19, a political science and Spanish double-major at Allegheny, is a first-generation American citizen. His family immigrated from Nayarit, Mexico, to Santa Ana, California. He grew interested in American politics and history when helping his mother study for her naturalization exams.

Guillen followed the latest U.S. presidential election from near the beginning. When Trump announced his candidacy, Guillen thought it a joke. Now, the election results have left him fearful for the safety of his friends and family, as well as his own.

“Given that I do spend a majority of the year here in Meadville, and given the results of this election, I feel a little bit insecure. There’s fear of going out into Meadville and the surrounding areas because it is a very conservative and Trump-supporting area. Because of Trump’s rhetoric, I feel that people will become more emboldened to spew racist rhetoric.”

Guillen has received messages from his family asking that he not leave campus, and if he does, to travel with a friend and not go out alone.

“This isn’t just a temporary thing,” Guillen said. “As a person of color, I have to get used to living in Trump’s America. And that’s something that scares me. I have a lot of fear for myself, my friends, my family and my community.”

Medha Nag

Medha Nag, ’20, a future communication arts major, spent four hours crying after the election results were public.

She first heard of Donald Trump’s entry into the presidential election when messages from his campaign began bombarding her Facebook feed. She considered Hillary Clinton the more qualified and experienced candidate.

“It wasn’t an election of policy,” Nag said. “It was an election of morals.”

Nag said that Trump holds strong viewpoints that she does not agree with, and she considered much of his rhetoric to be intentionally offensive.

“I’ve heard a lot of people tell me that the fact that eh stirred emotion in people helped him win,” Nag said. “But the only emotions I see are anger and hatred.”