Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Students Abroad Tune In to Elections

On Tuesday, cheers for President-elect Barack Obama could be heard in more than one language. From bars in Ecuador to dorm rooms in Cairo, Georgetown students cheered on American democracy as Tuesday’s election results reverberated around the world.”We were running around in our Obama shirts screaming, and [people from Cape Town] were waving and honking at us,” said Ellie Gunderson (COL ’10), who is studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa.

Several other Georgetown students in Cape Town gathered at a local diner to watch the election results.

According to Daniel Meurer (SFS ’10), the outcome was announced in Cape Town at around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m., as locals and Americans sat side-by-side united through anticipation for an Obama victory.

“South Africans and Americans stayed up to watch the elections,” said Anique Drumright (COL ’10), who is also studying in Cape Town. “People were honking their horns in the morning in the streets. Everyone [was] so happy, I cannot even describe it.”

This group in South Africa was not the only group of students abroad to carefully watch the election results. Students in Turkey, Spain, Ecuador, England, South Africa and Egypt were all awake Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, their time – and most agreed that their host countries overwhelmingly favored Obama.

Because of the time difference in many of these global locations, the results were announced in the wee hours of the morning. In countries such as South Africa, Spain and Turkey, local newspapers were unable to report a winner. But that didn’t stop the celebrations.

Isabella Bennett (COL ’10), who is studying in Beijing, China, watched CNN broadcast the election results in a café. She said that when the news stations announced Obama as the winner, everyone in the café was given free beer.

“When he won, [around] 200 Americans squeezed into the café singing ‘God Bless America’ while [a] handful of McCain supporters remained quiet,” Bennett said.

In Quito, Ecuador, Beth Murdock (SFS ’10) said Americans as well as people of other nationalities gathered in bars in the Plaza Foch, a tourist area in the city. Murdock, who watched the results in a bar, said that there was an enthusiastic response to Barack Obama’s win, but an even bigger celebration came during McCain and Obama’s final speeches.

Ryan Hart (SFS ’10), who is currently studying in Madrid, Spain, also watched the election results in a bar. Most of the patrons were Americans and all of the bar’s 10 television screens were tuned into CNN. While Hart himself did not attend them, he said parties for both Democrats and Republicans lasted until dawn in Madrid. One of the parties for the Democrats was so popular, he said, that the entrance line stretched for blocks.

In Alanya, Turkey, Claire Brennan (SFS ’10) and her friends rented a hotel room the night of the election to watch the results in English.

“We had like three or four people in this tiny hotel room just sleeping between the projections and trying to wake up for important things,” Brennan said. “We made Obama T-shirts here and wore them [on Election Day], and a friend of mine passed a group of Turks on the street and they cheered [for] Obama.”

According to Bennett, the Chinese media tried to maintain a very objective view and did not seem to favor one candidate over another. She said that the news reported on the effect of both Obama and McCain’s policies toward China.

But the opposite was true for those studying abroad in other countries, where most media coverage was leaning toward Obama.

For Mia Curran (COL `10), who is studying in London, England, almost every newspaper in the city reported on the election. Something was written about the election each day.

“I’ve been wearing an Obama pin on my coat, and it has been the best conversation starter,” Curran said. “Everywhere I go, people see it, and ask me about it. Everyone here has an opinion.”

On Election Day, she said, pubs stayed open all night to show the election results on television.

“London is Obama crazy; much of the coverage was negative about McCain and Palin,” she said.

Similarly, according to Drumright, Obama’s win was all over the papers in Cape Town.

“The press for the elections has been unreal. People love Obama,” he said. “I was reading one of the newspapers yesterday and it said, `This is America’s Mandela election.'”

“About the Obama win, the main thing [for the media in South Africa] is the emphasis on being the first black president and bridging the racial divide,” Gunderson said. “They draw a lot of parallels to Mandela in ’94 and his whole platform of reconciliation.”

“In [South Africa], they hate George Bush,” Gunderson continued. “My friend actually asked me `Does George Bush know everyone hates him?'”

Even Murdock, a McCain supporter, felt the significance of Obama’s win to the people of Ecuador.

“Witnessing the election abroad really highlighted a lot of great things about our country, [like] what a really huge step towards the future Obama’s election is – for me at least, although I supported McCain,” Murdock said. “I think that Obama’s election shows that the U.S. can lead by example instead of force or economic coercion.”

In Egypt, Karen Cook (SFS ’10) said that newspapers called Obama what translates to “a friend from an Arab state.”

“I can’t talk to someone from Egypt without them saying, `So, Obama, good or bad?’ And when you say `very excellent,’ they are very happy to hear this,” Cook said.

Blair Munhofen (COL ’10) said that Egyptians talked about U.S. politics even more than Egyptian politics. “Newspapers are covering the U.S. election heavily over here as many assume there is much at stake for this country and the region,” Munhofen said. “People want Bush out and see some changes in the Mid-East policies.”

Brennan had the same experience in Turkey. “People know [Obama] is from the same party as Clinton. They know he’s not Bush or a continuation of Bush’s policies,” she said. “I think that like [some people think] in America, they’re hoping he’ll bring some serious change.”

With Obama winning the election, many students said that they were finally proud to represent the United States abroad.

“We are proud to be Americans [in South Africa] for the first time because before we would say we’re American and almost feel embarrassed because of the negative perceptions,” Gunderson said.

“With the promise of hope and liberal change and the knowledge that our nation came together to elect someone with so much grace and intelligence, I, for one, can say that I am proud to be American. I did not feel this way before,” Curran said.

any of these students said that they voted in this historic election through absentee ballots, while others went to the United States Embassy in their host country and voted via federal write-in ballot.

— For on-campus election night coverage, see “Painting Pennsylvania Avenue Blue” and “Minorities Watch Racial Divide Fall.”

Donate to The Hoya

Your donation will support the student journalists of Georgetown University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hoya