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Voting & Politics Abroad

Prepare to Vote From Abroad

Your vote matters! You can and should vote while studying abroad.

If you are going to be abroad during an election (2020 is an election year!), begin the voter registration and absentee ballot request process well before your departure to ensure you will be able to vote while abroad.

The below instructions apply to U.S. citizens only. If you are unsure about your eligibility to vote in U.S. elections, review this helpful USA.gov resource. If you are eligible to vote in another country's elections, you are encouraged to review that country's procedures for absentee or early voting.

Step 1: Register to Vote

Visit NU Votes to learn how to register to vote, check if you are registered, or update your registration.

Note: Not every state allows online voter registration. If your state requires you to register in-person, you will need to do this before going abroad.

Step 2: Request an Absentee Ballot

The best option for voting from abroad is to request an absentee ballot that you can complete and mail in prior to Election Day.

Note: Many states require you to mail in your request for an absentee ballot, which can take time. NU Votes can help you with this process.

Step 3: Vote From Abroad

Complete your absentee ballot and mail it back to the U.S. prior to Election Day.

Note: On-site staff can help you navigate your host country's mail system. Customs sometimes slows down mail delivery, so allow extra time for mail to arrive in the U.S. to ensure your vote is counted.

Prepare to Discuss U.S. Politics While Abroad

You may be surprised to discover that people in your host country will know a significant amount about U.S. politics and government. You should expect that you will be asked about U.S. politics while you are studying abroad, so it is a good idea to prepare for what you will say.

  • Learn about your host country and region's politics and government. It is important to research your destination, including its government and current political issues. Not only will this help you better understand cultural dynamics while studying abroad, but it can also help you have conversations about U.S. politics by understanding where people in your host country might stand on certain issues.
  • Be prepared to answer questions about U.S. politics, especially in an election year. Many countries in the world follow the U.S. elections closely. You may be asked about your stance on political issues or which candidate you support. Consider ahead of time what you might say in response to these questions.
    • Learn political vocabulary in your host country's language. If your host country speaks another language, you may wish to brush up on some specific vocabulary related to current issues, voting, and the U.S. political system.
    • Develop an understanding and explanation of the electoral college. This is a very common question about the U.S. political system, and it's helpful to have a background on how it works and how to explain it. 
    • Know that in many cultures, politics and religion are not taboo topics. You might be asked questions about the U.S. political system, candidates, or events that may feel personal. Cultural contexts will vary in different locations. Questions that you might perceive as personal or invasive may have been asked with innocent intentions.
    • Remember that when you are abroad, others may see you as a representative of your country. This is an opportunity to share your own experiences, learn about other systems, and have interesting conversations.
  • Follow U.S. news and world events. Stay up-to-date on major U.S. news and world events while studying abroad. Knowing when a serious or potentially controversial event occurs will help you have thoughtful discussions and make informed decisions.