• by Lucy Shilling

Photograph of Joe Biden speaking on the election trail

When I discovered I would be spending a year in Duluth, Minnesota as part of my American and Canadian Studies degree I had not even considered the thought of witnessing the election rallies first-hand. This is especially since Minnesota does not tend to be thought of as a very competitive state. However, the hype surrounding this election throughout the country has been phenomenal. The fact that this race is so close saw the Democrats come to town last week and I was lucky enough to gain an up close experience of the election process.

Within the same week I was able to see former President Bill Clinton speak at my campus and witness Joe Biden on a rally in Wisconsin. I was one of only a few hundred that got to witness Clinton’s speech in a very intimate environment. I was in awe of the atmosphere that this powerful speaker created. The passion and patriotism was overwhelming. This was a cry for people to vote, and to vote Democratic, in this election of which no one seems to be able to predict the result. The campus as a whole became the hub of activity with a sense of something special happening.

Just a few days later I was then lucky enough to go and see the Vice President Joe Biden speak in Wisconsin. He was a real crowd pleaser and this rally was on a larger scale than the Clinton rally which had been predominantly college students, due to its location. Biden drew teenagers, families, the elderly and many veterans too. It was amazing to be surrounded by such a diverse selection of Americans. Listening to Joe Biden was an experience in itself but I was then lucky enough to shake his hand, once he descended upon the crowd. To get so close to such an influential figure was an experience I will never forget.

The atmosphere in the United States is incredible; there are flyers posted all around the campus, volunteers are telling students to vote in classes and they are knocking on doors every day. Everyone knows this is a close race and so turnout is the key issue, in a result that could go either way there is a sense of duty for Americans to play their part. I have received many phone calls asking me to vote and have been stopped numerous times by volunteers. Once I could eventually tell them that I am in fact British and cannot vote they still go on to tell me of how their party will benefit America. The passion, the enthusiasm, the dedication to their country’s politics is enviable. It does not matter that I am not American and that I cannot vote, they are proud and want to share that with me!

My last ten weeks in Duluth have been dominated by election talk from the debates to the TV ads to the rallies. My year abroad experience would have been dramatically different if I had come on a different year. I would not change this experience for anything, I feel privileged to have had these opportunities.

Lucy is currently on her year abroad at University in Minnesota. She is studying American and Canadian Studies.

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