More times than not, I pride myself with having the memory of an elephant. On this particular occasion, I really wished I didn’t. “I remember it as if it were yesterday” is a saying that couldn’t apply more accurately than in this particular instance.
I remember having talked with a friend that very day about the leisurely fashion that I and all those around me were experiencing those last few days before Election Night. I had a beautiful, yet busy café close to a big university campus, where I would usually go and work, read, write and watch all of my political night show coverage of the election (takes me hours to get through all of them, and for years now it has been the most enjoyable couple of hours of my daily routine – hence, waking up at 5am every day comes in handy when you’ve got a crazy passion that involves a lot of time). I used to have some free mornings and I would always come by the café and do some work, accompanied by the best cappuccino (coming from a student, whose very definition is organically linked to caffeine, that says a lot about the quality of their beverages). That day, Election Day, was unlike the others. Although always a crowded place, it seemed as if everyone was a bit more joyful than usual: there was laughter, jokes, kindness, a certain light that was looking over the entire place. The stickers with “I Voted!” became the norm of the day, being placed on the most original, yet visible, of places. A sign of pride and civic duty, people who wore it, were sending a message that resonated and connected everyone that day. At one point, the playlist managed to adequately shuffle Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat”. As if it the whole moment was orchestrated, everyone burst into a simultaneous laughter – not only at the irony of the moment and its more than perfect timing, but at the unavoidable atmosphere that this created.
I had planned to spend Election Night with my good American friend at the event organised by one of the political societies on campus, over pizza and the CNN coverage of the results. The atmosphere was tense, yet pretty reassuring. As the results were coming in, the sentiment of relaxation, having been backed time and time again by any pollster, historian, political analyst, journalist or academic that meant anything, was still present. The hours went by, and our relative assurance began to turn into discomfort, then nervousness, then fear, then despair, and for some, flat out crying and yelling. I remained speechless. While overhearing that I would leave back home in a month, a girl from Florida came towards me and asked me the size of my luggage and whether she would fit into it. It was sure to say, no one expected this, regardless of side. We left before all the states had been announced. We left feeling uneasy, as if we’d experienced a monumental event that will change everything.
I reached home, checking my Facebook feed one more time before going to have the most unsettling night’s sleep since I can recall. As I was brushing my teeth with CNN in the background, I noticed Van Jones getting emotional. Having barely slept, I woke up and laid in bed for a few minutes before getting up. I went to check my phone – dozens of notifications from all my news apps, announcing the winner and the incoming 45th President.
I left for school in quite in a hurry the next morning – it felt like the campus was completely changed. To me, my university campus and the US was a place for everyone and anyone, a place where the American Dream was created, a place where the Dream might actually become reality. This is how I experienced my life as a student in the US- not through the eyes of division, spite, friction and resentment. But through the eyes of its very people. I’ve witnessed it with kindness, love, humour, excitement and lots of potential for the days to come. This is how I’ll remember the US and my time there, hoping this potential will be ever greater in four-years time.
The views and opinions expressed in this and all other content on QMUL Global Bloggers are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of opinions of Queen Mary University of London or its Global Opportunities Office.