Bangladeshi students looking at US election 2020 with concern and hope



The US presidential elections have captured the attention of people across the world, for many different reasons. Bangladeshi students studying in the USA, however, are in a situation where the results may have a direct impact on their immediate lives.

“Even though I haven’t been paying much attention, this election does concern me. If the Republican candidate wins the election, I can expect a celebration rally to pass my streets. And I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them tells me to go back to my country, which has happened to me before, in a college town that’s supposed to foster a liberal atmosphere,” says Nuren Iftekhar, PhD candidate in Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The issue of discrimination and racial tension has occupied the thinking of Bangladeshi students in the USA. Talking to Wasique Hasan, an undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he doesn’t seem to think either candidate will be able to do enough to enact policy changes. “But I think a win for Trump will bolster the xenophobia among parts of the population here,” Wasique adds.

Students who envision a future in America are paying special attention to these elections. Nabiha Nusaiba recently completed her A Levels, and is in the process of applying to universities abroad, US universities prime among them. She hopes to start school in Fall 2021. She says she started paying attention to US politics when looking at universities abroad.

“As an international student, I expect to pay a lot of money in tuition compared to what domestic students will pay. This makes it important for me to understand my options. Do I expect to work there once I graduate? Do I intend to settle down? How easy is it to even get a visa? Politics influences all of that. This election could be the difference between higher education being more accessible to me as opposed to things staying the same,” she says.

The effects of heightened social tensions are not lost on Nabiha either, “As an international student, I won’t interact with the president, but I will interact with his people. Trump is president because he carries at least some of the qualities of the people who voted for him. And that’s terrifying. Racism and xenophobia at the top has made it easier for some Americans to unleash their own. The thought of walking among people who do not accept you for at least four years is intimidating.”

Despite all this, the US is still one of the best destinations to pursue higher education for Bangladeshi students. Universities in the US enjoy a degree of administrative freedom that allows them to protect international students from the federal governments.

Tanzir Islam, a PhD candidate at Stony Brook University in the state of New York, is hopeful in that regard. “International students with the F1 visa were given notice to leave the country if their university did not have any in-person classes. This decision was overturned within a week as all the universities fought a legal battle against it together. So I am hopeful even if the Trump administration creates problems like this in the future, universities and other educated people will be there to protect the interests of us, the students.”

The world has its eyes on the 2020 US presidential election, as it still hangs in the balance at the time of writing this article. Bangladeshi students in the USA are looking at it with hope for some positive change, being wary at the same time of the shifting political climate in America.

The writer is a sub-editor at SHOUT, The Daily Star. Reach him at azminazran@gmail.com with election predictions and other political discussions.

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