BUFFALO, N.Y. - Growing up in Burma, Ba Zan Lin admired the American election process.

In his country, where a militarized dictatorship ruled society, free and fair elections were a foreign concept.

"We were under extreme oppression. Even a small critique of government policies and their actions were severely prosecuted," Lin said. "It's more than just frustration, and people won't understand until they've lived under those conditions."

Lin, who moved to Western New York in 2006, is now enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University at Buffalo. This year, after a lengthy process, he finally earned U.S. citizenship at the age of 29.

That means he'll be able to vote on Tuesday for the first time.


"I don't know how I'm going to feel at that moment," Lin said, "But I'm pretty sure it's going to be a huge and memorable event for me. And I'm pretty sure my folks back home and here will be very proud of it, because they have never seen me casting a vote before."

Lin certainly chose an interesting election to cast his first vote.

"But the point is, if you don't like the candidate -- even if you only have two choices -- it is still important to make that choice," Lin said. "Because that choice is going to affect what's going to happen in this country and the global society."

"This is huge. Voting is more than just voting. It is a time where an individual, a citizen, can voice out his or her concerns, or even participate in decision making process of the state."

In Lin's home country of Burma (officially known as Myanmar), a national election was finally held in 2015.

Things are better-- but far from perfect.

"Back in the days -- and even today -- we still see the United States as a beacon of freedom and democracy," Lin said. "This is the whole reason why I came here."