It is an interesting time for au pairs and exchange students to be in the United States. Not only are there many local elections being held throughout their stay, they have the opportunity to experience America during the year of a Presidential election.
The process of primary elections, front-runner selection, citizen votes, delegate votes, super-delegate votes and the final candidates for each party can be confusing for born and bred Americans, so imagine how aJ-1 visitor might being feeling right now as he or she tries to make sense of it. Our election process may be very different from theirs. Some au pairs and exchange students come from dictatorships, monarchies or other government structures and not all are familiar with the concept of democracy.
This is a great opportunity for Host Families to share American culture unrelated to language, food, art, education or travel. In a year that has so many controversial issues and candidates it might be a good idea to explain to our guests how and why candidates are eligible to seek office, how the voice of the average citizen is “heard” and how someone can ultimately become President of the United States.
Actually, this is also a wonderful opportunity for parents to explain these concepts to children, as well. It will help them understand why mommy or daddy gets so annoyed while watching the people on T.V. arguing with each other.
Political discussions can often become a conversation where differences and comparisons are mentioned. Some individuals feel very strongly about the benefits and superiority (in their opinion) of their own country’s political process. It is a good idea, at the beginning of the dialogue, that everyone be reminded to remain objective, open-minded and respectful. This is just a learning opportunity and no-one is trying to convert anyone to a belief or sway an opinion. We leave that to the politicians, right?
There are many resources readily available to help with an explanation or aid in a discussion of American politics with children or with someone from outside of our culture. A list of such resources is provided below.
Au pairs and exchange students only get this opportunity once every 4 years. Let’s help them make the most of it!