This post is from official student blogger, Sarah Al-Arshani, who is from the University of Connecticut. Sarah is a Political Science and Journalism Major studying in Dubrovnik, Croatia
After the hectic presidential campaign this year, I was excited to escape the tense climate in the States. As an aspiring journalist, I knew I couldn’t turn my attention away from the political news unfolding back home, since, after all, I was studying diplomacy. However, I wanted to avoid the partisan and hypercritical political conversation that would occur in a currently divided America. After attending both the inauguration and the Women’s March in D.C., I wanted to make sense of the present history from a more nuanced perspective, rather than just expressing my immediate distaste with current policies.
My adventure in Croatia couldn’t come at a better time. I never assumed that everyday Croatians would be also focused on American politics. I was aware that American politics concerned many across the globe, but found myself a little naive to how informed many people were, even if they were abroad. One of the first pieces of advice our resident’s advisors gave us was to avoid political arguments with the locals. It would lead to nothing more than an effort to provoke us on our views of the current state of American foreign policy and global image.
A few days later, I found myself in that exact position. After finishing a meal at a restaurant, a manager handed us cards for the restaurant and in the midst of the interaction, brought up Trump. Not long into the conversation, he asked which of us had voted for Trump, and I found myself escaping the crowd and heading outside. Looking back, I slightly wished I had stayed to figure out his views and what he wanted to get out of the conversation, but I also didn’t want to get muddled up in conversation that would not add any value to my political understanding of myself or others and only create a more tense situation.
It’s no lie that many across the globe have strong feelings about the current president. For me, during times like these, it’s important to understand the political and social impact that current policies have, as well as how they relate to past policies. Studying diplomacy abroad gave me a different perspective on how to handle situations like the one I recently was in. Many of the students I go to school with, appear to have a greater understanding of past and current events than some of my peers back home, but that might simply be because they’re International Relations students. However, no matter its origin, I still found this to be very beneficial because it allowed me to hear a different analysis of what’s going on back home.
Although some appear to have strong feelings about US political figures, I found that most were more interested in the overall global impact of political actions on the current international stage. While I felt that the general public in the US was more concerned with the domestic impact of a Trump presidency compared to its global impact, those I’ve interacted with here seem concerned with how numerous politicians from many different prominent countries will shape the world stage. While it’s true that those in the US may pay attention to some of these countries, the concern seems more bilateral rather than global.
In the US, the concern tends to lean more on individual relations with other countries, for example, the relationship between the US and China, rather how multiple countries interact through many facets whether it be policy, economics or the like. The global perspective that I’ve gained abroad is something I will take back home with me and utilize in discussing events with classmates and friends in the future.