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By Kristen Cole   Date: 11/7/08

Smith Juniors Studying Abroad Report on World's Reactions to Obama Election

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – A bout with the flu confined Smith junior Jahleese Ladson to her bed in Germany on Election Day, thousands of miles away from her home in New York City, but that did not stop her from following the moment-to-moment events.

Jahleese Ladson reports from Hamburg.

Read more responses from abroad:

Like many of her classmates studying in various time zones around the globe, the junior learned that Sen. Barack Obama would become the nation’s 44th president and the first African American to hold that office through an international lens.

“The political moves of the U.S. usually have far-reaching effects in the world so many people were rightly concerned about the election,” said Ladson via email from Hamburg on Nov. 5, at 8:30 p.m.—2:30 p.m. in Northampton. “However, this election was of special interest because of the trials America has been experiencing as of late.”

In the months before the historic 2008 presidential election, the news media widely detailed the enormity of the trials that will face the next president—namely two wars and an economic crisis that has spread around the world. Roughly half of Smith’s junior class has followed the coverage from abroad; they are in enrolled in programs in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the South Pacific.

The news of Obama’s win was “all over” the Dutch news Nov. 5, according to Nicole Vetter, Smith anthropology and film studies major studying in the Netherlands.

Nicole Vetter follows the election in Caferoos, Amsterdam.

“It is all people have been talking about since I’ve been here,” said Vetter. “I’ve never had so many people explicitly ask me who I’m voting for. It really seems like this was the last straw for the United States to redeem itself in the eyes of the international community.”

Periodicals in Spain featured images of Obama and slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., reported Julia Learned, who is studying in Barcelona, where interest in the election, even among the youngest citizenry, was also evident. The Smith double major in English and Spanish noted that she felt “really ignorant” when a 5-year-old Spanish boy asked her on Nov. 5 by how much Obama had won.

“There is a ton of interest,” said Learned, who learned about Obama’s win at an Irish bar in Barcelona. “Everyone that I teach has congratulated me.”

Julia Learned on the Seine River.

While they missed the chance to vote in person this election, whether in Massachusetts or their home state, the juniors studying abroad did not pass up the opportunity to vote by absentee ballot. Ladson mailed her ballot a week prior to the election; Learned and Vetter some three weeks before.

On Election Day, Vetter bicycled all over Amsterdam trying to find a public location to watch the televised election coverage before giving up and watching it on her computer. Obama was announced the winner over Republican candidate John McCain at about 6:30 p.m. Amsterdam time, she said.

The image of revelers taking to the streets in New York’s Time Square was mirrored in Amsterdam, Vetter added.

“In some areas people were running around the streets yelling and carrying on,” she said. “Everyone slept soundly that night…they are as pleased as punch.”


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