The day that the world has been anticipating for many weeks now has finally passed. After an unexpected turn of events, this election has brought many firsts. My first time voting in a presidential election. My first time voting in a presidential election abroad. The first president without a political background. Whether the outcome was ideal or not, it is more important than ever to keep a positive outlook and never stop being proud to be an American.
When I went to the U.S. consulate in Milan a few weeks ago to submit my absentee ballot, I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride. I couldn’t stop thinking about how fortunate I am as an American citizen to be able to vote no matter where in the world I am. How lucky I am to live in a place where my opinion matters and my voice can be heard. How lucky I am to live in a democracy that people from other parts of the world dream to have.
Whenever I travel, I have realized how important it is to be prideful of the place I come from. Being American means something different to everyone. Since most of our families originally came from every part of the world, we all have our own traditions, views, and cultures. I am a first-generation American, as both of my parents immigrated to America from the Soviet Union. Because of this, sometimes I feel more Russian than American. And other times vice versa. But at the end of the day, I was born in America and it is my home. The beauty of our country is that we are able to openly discuss our ideas, our thoughts, our concerns. And no matter what happens, we have to do everything to support, listen, and be accepting towards one another.
The night of the election (Milan time) I, along with a few other IES students, volunteered at a pre-election viewing event. People holding executive positions from all over Italy and America were in attendance and it was a unique opportunity to interact with them and experience the election from an outside perspective. It was especially interesting to notice how involved non-Americans were. After the event, I stayed up all night with a few friends to actually watch the election take place. Surprisingly, many of our Italian friends at Collegio sat and watched with us. It was refreshing to freely talk about our opinions as Italians are simply curious, and don’t judge or jump to conclusions when talking politics. They are genuinely interested to listen to our perspectives and hear what we have to say.
As American students abroad, we are the representatives of our country to locals. To say we are embarrassed to be American is unfair to all of our friends and family back home. By talking negatively about where we come from, we lose respect from foreigners. Many of the people I have met dream to visit the United States one day. It is our job to keep it the place that people dream of and while abroad, our words are the most powerful tool we have. It's more than okay to discuss what we agree with and what we want to change, but there is no reason to say that the place that gives so many opportunities to people from all over the world is one that we are ashamed of.