“I’ve never been extremely patriotic but now more than ever I’m embarrassed.”
Between a highly divisive election, an uncontrolled pandemic, and ongoing Black Lives Matter protests over the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, among others, the U.S. has had a chaotic year. While events in the U.S. might feel far away for many Canadians, these crises have real consequences for American international students in Canada.
From fears of a second Trump term to pandemic woes, these three students have all felt anxious about the situation unfolding in the U.S..
Abby Hyde has been frustrated with how the political tension in the U.S. has affected her relationship with her family. Hyde is a recent geography graduate still living in Victoria and is originally from San Francisco, California.
Though Hyde is close to her parents, many of her relatives are conservative and she often has difficulty balancing her personal relationship with them with their opposing political views. Hyde says she appreciates how Canadians tend to be less devoted to specific political parties, but rather switch between parties based on their policies.
“I think I’m pretty serious about not going back if [Trump] is elected because the people that I’m going back to see would have voted for him,” she said. “My dad keeps saying they’re family, you have to love them and I used to agree… but now more than ever I think if you can be susceptible to that kind of propaganda I don’t know who you are.”
Hyde also worries about how her family will continue to be affected by COVID-19. Her parents live in Bali while much of her family lives in the U.S., and border closures have made it hard for her parents to visit relatives.
“My mom has been extremely impacted, her mom has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and so she immediately flew to Florida so she could take care of my grandmother who is 89,” Hyde said. “When COVID really hit she wasn’t able to go back to Bali or Canada … so she actually ended up staying for seven months…and Florida now has the highest number of cases so I’m scared for her.”
On top of her COVID-19 fears, she is “terrified” of what the election will bring and is often embarrassed to say she is American.
“I’ve never been extremely patriotic but now more than ever I’m embarrassed,” said Hyde. “It’s not nice being ashamed of where you’re from.”
Bridget Dunsmore is a third-year political science student and is originally from Dallas, Texas. She stayed in the U.S. for the summer and returned to Victoria in September. As a dual citizen she is permitted to return, however, between flight cancellations and the two-week quarantine rule, travelling has been stressful.
“It makes it a lot harder to get back here or to go back there … there’s a lot of uncertainty, ” she said. “I really want to go home for Christmas … but it’s so tricky trying to get home and get back up here.”
The upcoming election also has Dunsmore concerned.
“We are a very liberal family and Texas is a very redneck southern state,” she said. “Of course not all of Texas is like that.. But some of the things I saw when I was home made me really worried for my family.”
She says that despite many of the problems in the U.S., she wants to return to start her political career because she believes she will have more of an impact there. Living in Canada has made her realize the stark inequities in the U.S..
“[Canada] has opened my eyes a lot more to how the U.S. works and how it’s run,” she said. “I think the U.S. is working how it was meant to work. And that is treating people very poorly who do not deserve to be treated that way.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, over fear that the borders would close, Lily Jones had to pack up her apartment in 24 hours and return to Seattle. Since March, she has been taking online courses in the U.S. and has not been able to return to Canada.
Her decision to stay in the U.S. was not an easy one. But like Dunsmore, Jones has come to learn more about the inequities exasperated by the pandemic and Trump’s presidential term.
“I think from living in America, it’s a very disturbing crisis we’re living in today … which just makes it feel a lot less safe to live here as someone who is a woman, an immigrant, and part of the LGBT community,” Jones said.
Jones is in her fourth year of political science. Originally from the UK, she moved to Seattle, Washington when she was 13. Jones noted that the U.S. is not the only country to face these challenges of social inequity.
“I also think other countries such as Canada place themselves on a pedestal as if these issues aren’t transnational when the reality is yes, they’re more overt and serious in America but Canada still struggles with racism, with racial profiling from the police, with sexism and all these things,” said Jones.
Jones fears if Trump is re-elected it will only solidify the damage that has already been done and give him the ability to act as he pleases. This poses a lot of uncertainty for her future and makes her question where she wants to live.
“I am getting out as soon as possible,” she said. “America isn’t somewhere I would feel comfortable or would want to raise a family … I want to live in a country that doesn’t accept racism, sexism, homophobia as just prerequisites to living there.”
Having lived in different countries, Jones has been able to compare the U.S. political system with those of other countries and appreciates the social safety net in Canada.
“I would be willing to sacrifice the individual liberties and economic opportunities in the U.S. in order to have good education, healthcare, social welfare policies, and protection,” she said. “Coming from somewhere where we had those things and then they were taken away, I realized how important those things are.”
“I really want to be optimistic, but I’m not. I think America is so broken to its core … to the core of our system we are broken.”