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Mar 03 2017
by Akshara Nair

What It's Like Being An International Student in Trump's America

By Akshara Nair - Mar 03 2017

On the 17th of September 2016, I arrived at Davis with two large suitcases and a clenched fist filled with determination. This place was going to be my home for the next four years and somehow, without having even taken my first steps, I knew I was accepted here. My eyes gleaming with hope for a bright future, I shared the same dream as many other international students — the dream of freedom, happiness and success in a land that was never ours but is now. On the 8th of November 2016, the dream I had became a mirage. That feeling of acceptance was snatched away as the election results came out.

I’ve always been an immigrant — sort of like a gypsy. This was the first time I felt unwanted, or worse, unsafe. I began probing over my tomorrow, let alone questioning my dreams. Did I have a tomorrow in this land? It’s been three months and my question still remains unanswered. Today, I realized I had gone through my own rendition of the "Eight Stages of Grief." It went something like this:

1. Denial

Nope. Not happening. Surely there’s got to be a mistake. I mean, Clinton did win the popular vote. That would influence the Electoral College, wouldn’t it? Or maybe Biden would actually not give Trump the Wi-Fi password and he’ll just leave out of frustration (the man’s got to tweet). 

2. Regret

Although there was very little I could do as an international student that would have had an effect on the election results, I could've been more involved. I regret missing the marches that were held and advocating on social media. 

3. Rage

Okay, so we’ve got a President who’s against LGBTQIA, does not respect women, thinks Global Warming is a hoax, opposes abortion, has problems with Mexicans, Muslims, and African-Americans and is BFFs with Putin. You’ve got to be kidding me America.

4. Fear

Being an international student, I feel like I’m constantly under surveillance and if not, I’m being followed by the prying eyes of nationalists. If I go back home this summer, will I be able to return or will I be held captive here for the next four years?

5. Bargaining

What must I do? Sell both my kidneys to the black market? Buy clothes from Ivanka Trump's fashion line? Make a deal with the Devil? I'll do anything.

6. Depression

Robin Scherbatsky was my spirit animal during those times of distress.

7. Acceptance

As Albert Camus quotes in his book The Outsider, "Since we're all going to die, it's obvious that when and how don't matter."

8. Hope

I've reached the end of this emotional turmoil and honestly, I'm not sure if I'm content or not. But after accepting everything life throws at us, all we can do is hope — hope that henceforth, President Trump makes executive decisions keeping the well-being of America and its people (including the immigrants) in mind. 

A few freshmen were kind enough to share their thoughts on the election with me:

Shraddha Jajal, NYU

"On November 8th, I was ashamed, not because of my nationality , but because I was in the company of people who hated me, my culture and everything we represented. Relatives in India joked about it and told me America sucked and I felt bad that my home was being ridiculed because of one man. But of course it is not one man, it is all these men and women across the world who want a white supremacist nation. So how do I feel living in Trump's America? I feel angry, I feel enraged and most of all I feel disappointed of all the people in this great nation who think that hate and bullying is the way to live because let me tell you, it will bring nothing but pain to all those around them." 

Anna DiGiacomo, UNC

"I found the election to be a total farce. To everyone who is complaining about Trump, keep in mind that this is what happens when two parties become too entrenched and too partisan. As it stood during the election, neither candidate actually reflected America’s values and neither attempted to talk to the other side. Still, that’s what happens when only two candidates are allowed to debate. I can only hope that we will learn from our mistakes and have more inclusive debates in the future. As for Trump’s president affecting me personally, I can’t say it has and I don’t know how much it will. Historically speaking, a president’s actions rarely affect the lives of individual Americans and I believe this next term will just be about weathering the storm." 

On a serious note, this election was a whirlwind of emotions for many people.  Some are optimistic about President Trump’s vision of making "America great again" while the rest, well, let’s just say we’re preparing ourselves for the "east wind."

Despite all that's happening in America and despite being an immigrant, one thing that makes this country truly great are the people and their determination to uphold the "true values" they believe America stands for. 

Lead Image Credit: Nitish Meena via Unsplash 

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Akshara Nair - UC Davis

Akshara is a freshman at UC-Davis from Dubai. She's majoring in Economics. In her free time, she binge-watches TV shows and re-reads Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for the millionth time.

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