International students at St. John’s may not have been able to vote on Election Day, but many had conflicting views on the energy and spirit behind the American Presidential Race.
“In Taiwan, political discussion is much stronger,” said Chia-Chang Yeh, a 24-year-old student from Taiwan.
“They talk about politics all day [in Taiwan],” he said. “The China-Taiwan problems are so complicated, so politics are huge there.”
Freshman Ksenia Mikhaylova, an international student from Russia, agreed with Yeh’s assessment.
“From what I’ve seen, most people are not knowledgeable about the issues and just pick based on the look and popularity of the candidate,” she said. “Most people don’t know why they’re voting, they just know the faces.”
Mikhaylova said that Russians talk often about politics, and even pay attention to American elections.
“Since the cold war, we have always been following what happens in America,” she said.
Kotomi Yuyama, a 23-year-old Japanese student at St. John’s, said that political interest in Americans seems stronger than in Japan.
“We don’t talk about politics as well,” she said. “Americans seem more interested in politics. They like to talk about it a lot.”
Yuyama added that in the Japanese system of government, there are less opportunities to directly elect individuals.
“We don’t have as many chances to vote [in Japan],” she said. “And in America, people can choose the president, but we cannot elect the prime minister straight.”
Fellow Japanese student, 28-year-old Tokumitsu Shibata, agreed with Yuyama regarding politics in Japan.
“The voting rate in Japan is less than in the United States,” he said. “Japanese are not so interested in politics.”
Most of the international students asked admitted that they were not following the election too closely, and were not sure who they wanted to win.
“Obama has no experience,” Mikhaylova said. “He han’t proven he can make decisions, but he is young and energetic, which is unusual.”
Yuyama seemed to be leaning a bit towards Obama.”Everyone I know says Obama is better,” she said. “It’s risky because McCain is so old, and Sarah Palin has no experience.”
Shibata, however, was strongly in favor of John McCain because of his foreign policy, which he said would benefit his home country.
“Senator Obama’s policy seems like a little idealistic and is not as clear as Senator McCain,” he said. “Traditionally, Republican presidents have been more friendly to Japan.”
With Senator Obama’s win, many of the international students were not sure what to make of it.
“I don’t know what to think,” Yuyama said. “I can’t say he will definitely be a good president, because I don’t entirely know his strategies.”