Voters participate in U.S. elections while abroad

  • Marquette students studying abroad shared their experiences about voting and reactions of foreign citizens
  • Most said they have already voted and following election coverage has been relatively easy
  • Foreign citizens have generally been very interested in the election and eager to talk to students from the United States about the candidates

As Election Day approaches, the Marquette community may forget that many students abroad are voting as well, except from completely foreign environments.

Students studying around the world shared some of their voting experiences. They explained the voting process as they experienced it, the methods they employed to follow election coverage and various reactions they have witnessed from citizens of foreign countries.

Abigail Sosinski, a junior in the College of Business Administration, is studying abroad for one semester at City University London. She said in an e-mail that she voted for the first time while abroad and followed election coverage mainly through the New York Times' Web site.

Sosinski said her absentee ballot was hand delivered to her by her hall director. All she had to do was complete it and mail it back to the States.

"I think that being away from home during such an incredibly important time has made us all aware of how fortunate we are to be Americans, and we feel responsible to vote," Sosinski said.

Sosinski said she thinks England has been keeping a close eye on the U.S. election, in part because there has been more overseas campaigning there than ever before. She said she has even seen ads in the Tube with Obama's face that read, "Hope."

"Obama is more appealing to the English because it is a very liberal country," Sosinski said. "The Bush administration gained a bad reputation here . Europeans are looking forward to any change."

Although, Sosinski has already voted, she finds herself backing both candidates during conversations in England. She said she does not want people from other countries to think America has made a mistake in electing one candidate over the other.

Stephanie Treffert, a senior in the College of Health Sciences, is studying abroad for the summer and fall semesters at La Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador.

Treffert said in an e-mail that she used Overseas Vote Foundation, an online organization with access to all state ballot request forms, to receive her ballot.

She said she had to send in her request in early September, and she just recently received her ballot. Treffert filled the ballot out, had a witness sign the envelope and mailed it back.

"I believe nearly all of us are voting," Treffert said. "We get some coverage here . but it is difficult to get the full story at times."

Treffert said the U.S. election is huge for El Salvador. She said the United States' presence in El Salvador is very big, and because they use the U.S. dollar, the economy is equally dependent on the upcoming election.

"Globalization and deregulation of markets has taken over here, and a lot of people are becoming even more marginalized," Treffert said. "People here generally feel that Obama would give them more of a chance to live more humane lives."

Willie Boucher, a junior in the College of Business Administration, is currently studying abroad in Madrid, Spain.

Boucher said in en e-mail that he had to re-register in his hometown after registering for the primaries in Milwaukee. He had to provide his address in Spain, wait for a ballot via e-mail, print the ballot, complete it and get it signed by an American witness. He said he went to the U.S. Embassy in Spain to send his ballot back free of charge.

Boucher said he has been following the election by reading the New York Times online every day and by receiving podcasts from CNN, NBC and PBS.

"I know of two other Americans who are voting, and a few others who aren't," Boucher said.

Boucher said international students from Germany, Turkey, England and France have appeared to be interested in the U.S. election. He said teachers have been very interested as well.

"I think the majority here wants Obama to win," Boucher said. "Obama seems like a fresh face to them. McCain seems more like George Bush, and he didn't leave a good impression on most Europeans."

Laura Frericks, a junior in the College of Education, is studying at John Cabot University in Rome.

"John Cabot University has made voting a breeze for abroad students," Frericks said in an e-mail.

She registered for her absentee ballot at John Cabot, received it a few weeks later in the mail, filled it out and sent it back to the United States.

"We were checking in to a hotel in Italy, and the man running the desk would not give us our room key until we told him if we liked Obama or McCain," Frericks said. "I didn't realize how much Europeans pay attention to the election."

Brian Sara, a junior in the College of Business Administration, is also studying at City University London. Sara said his ballot arrived covered in stickers reading "Urgent Mail." He said the person working at the mail desk keyed into his room and put on his bed while he was out.

Sara said once someone figures out he is American, it is very common that the election will become the topic of conversation.

"They all seem just as well-informed, or even better informed, than any person I know back home," Sara said. "On the whole, though, everybody seems very hopeful and cheery about the election."