Slight Dilemma: Studying Abroad During the 2020 Election

Jacob DeCarli ‘22, Managing Editor

The 2020 Presidential election will take place in nine months, and current Democratic party primaries/debates make me more excited about the race. This election will be historical, possibly even more than the 2016 election. As an International studies major and Political science minor, I am invested in the Democrat’s race to the presidency. However, I will not be in the country for the 2020 election. 

I plan to study abroad in Bologna, Italy for the entire 2020-21 academic year, so I will miss the final months of the presidential campaigns, the presidential election, the inauguration of a new president or Donald Trump and their first 100 days in the White House. It is hard for me to process the fact that I will miss an important time in American history. 

In junior year of high school, I took AP U.S. Government during the 2016 presidential election. It was a crazy time to take the class, and I was grateful to apply knowledge from the class to developments in the campaign trails. Unfortunately, I was not eligible to vote in the election, so I felt I had to watch events unfold from a distance. This will be a problem for me in the 2020 presidential election. 

Don’t get me wrong, I plan to request my absentee ballot and vote before I depart from the U.S. (and I will vote in the Democratic primary election for Pennsylvania this April). However, it feels weird to become an outsider of internal political affairs in my home country. Most of my friends are also Political Science/social science majors, and we share the same sentiments. They will be abroad and must vote absentee. The issue does not seem like a big deal, but the 2020 Presidential election has been on a lot of our radars for three years. 

I am sad to miss the final events before election time, but it will be interesting to watch everything unfold from a foreign perspective. I am sure that some Italians (particularly at the University of Bologna) will be curious to see the results of the 2020 election. Hopefully, I will gain new perspectives of American politics. Since the 2016 election, other countries have talked about the U.S.’s political situation and controversial President. Therefore, I am sure that some people will have questions about my thoughts on the election and the presidential candidates. 

Apart from new perspectives on American politics, I hope to learn more about European politics and compare the two systems. The United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union, and this will clearly affect the dynamics of the institution. Many Americans do not understand the implications of Brexit, so it will be fascinating to experience the aftermath of the controversial decision. I will not study in the U.K., but Brexit affects EU leaders (like Italy). So, I will experience a shift in EU dynamics as a foreigner to the system. I’m privileged as an American student and International studies major to have this unique experience. 

My transition from an American-domestic student to an international student will be challenging, and it will be difficult for me to witness the 2020 election from a far distance. However, I am appreciative to witness domestic political events from a new perspective. Besides, there will be many more presidential elections to come in my lifetime.