Every morning, after tying up my mosquito net and turning off my fan, I always check my little Nokia phone to see if I have any messages from my team leader or other fellows. Waking up the other morning, the last thing that I expected to see was a text message from another fellow in my cohort saying, “Donald Trump won the election… he is the new POTUS.”
Being in Senegal with limited wifi and having all news outlets be in either French or Wolof, I could only follow small amounts of the presidential election. Being a person that likes to be in-touch with what’s happening in the world, especially in my own country, it has been quite difficult to know that such an important election is going on without having much information. The day before the election, I was able to go to my village’s internet cafe and check the statistics of what the projected outcome of the election would be. Seeing that Hillary Clinton was leading the polls by a small margin was both reassuring and terrifying. I had a nervous feeling that this projection would be a false sense of security for the American population who supported her, or rather disliked Donald Trump.
In the past week, I have been talking to my host family about the election quite often. It has been heavily followed by the news station France 24, so they have been able to follow the progress of what has been happening alongside me. I tried to use my best Wolof to explain the policies of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and why I would be voting for the democratic nominee. My main message to my family was that they practice Islam and consist mostly of women, therefore Donald Trump would automatically be of dislike to them. To be truthful, I did find it very difficult to discuss the two candidates without showing a bias towards one, which could possibly influence my family’s interpretation on the election.
On the other hand, I did talk to a fellow teacher at the Lycée de Thiadiaye, my village’s high school, who discussed the benefits of Donald Trump’s economic policies and the downfall of Hillary Clinton’s reputation during the Benghazi speculations. It shocked me to hear a black, Muslim person from a developing country talk positively about Donald Trump seeing as his policies, or lack there of, show his lack of empathy for someone of those characteristics. When watching a Senegalese news station, I was able to gather that the commentator was discussing the elimination of Senegal and the United States’ relationship now that Donald Trump would be running the country. But I see these contrasting viewpoints as a major benefit of being in Senegal during the election; I am able to witness so many different perspectives and reasonings behind them.
Not being in the United States during what looks to be one of the most important presidential elections America has ever seen, I haven’t seen any of the social repercussions of such a drastic decision by the American people to elect Donald Trump. Therefore, it does not feel as though it truly happened. Seeing the words “President” and “Donald Trump” side-by-side on the French news outlets is surreal. To be honest, being a young, female student coming from a low-income family, I don’t look forward to my return to Trump’s United States of America.
As a Global Citizen Year Fellow during this period of shock in the United States, it has only encouraged me to continue to understand Senegal’s culture and way of life. I want to strive to have a greater appreciation for the social freedoms that we possess in the United States, and be prepared to fight for them when I return. There is a no better time to embrace being a “global citizen” than now.