Students discuss study abroad safety after UM student’s death

Skyler Crane
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

Tragedy struck the University of Mississippi and its affiliate university Nanjing University when a UM undergraduate student died Oct. 1 while completing his bachelor degree requirements.

Undergraduate Chinese major Frank Anderson, 22, was a fifth-year University of Mississippi senior completing his Capstone year in China as a member of the Ole Miss Chinese Flagship program.

“All Flagship students are expected to participate in the Capstone Year in China,” the University of Mississippi’s Chinese language program page reports.  “[This program] further develop[s] and refine[s] their Chinese language skills by studying alongside native Chinese students in their major fields.”

The program requires that students attend Shanghai, China’s Nanjing University during their final fall semester following an intensive five-year course load, with Nanjing University being “one of the oldest and most prestigious intuitions of higher learning in China,” Nanjing University’s official webpage reports. Frank Anderson was one such student that went overseas to pursue his bachelor’s degree in Chinese.

“The Study Abroad Office is very shocked and saddened by Frank Anderson’s death while traveling in Shanghai for China’s National Holiday week,” said Blair McElroy, director of UM’s Study Abroad Office.

China’s National Holiday week is a seven-day holiday week recognized by China’s government. It is better known in China as “Golden Week.” This holiday period begins on Oct. 1, which is the day that Anderson died.

“Frank was a fine young man who we knew well from his participation in three study abroad programs,” said McElroy. “Both Nanjing and the University of Mississippi have communicated with the students who are participating in the same program and will arrange any counseling for them [if they desire it].”

Anderson held a zeal for the Chinese language since his first language class when he joined a Mandarin course at Culver Academy, a boarding school. His grades were so bad that his teacher recommended that he drop the course. However, instead of following his instructor’s advice, Anderson fervently pursued his dream of comprehending the Chinese language.

During his time at the University of Mississippi, Anderson founded the University of Mississippi chapter of Global China Connection, a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 to “develop deep and meaningful relationships among Chinese and non-Chinese university students,” said GCC’s website.

Anderson’s drive to deepen relations with the United States and China was impressive.

“The entire Ole Miss community is heartbroken over the unexpected death of Frank Anderson, one of our finest and most dedicated students,” said Donald Dyer, chair of modern languages at the University of Mississippi and co-director of the UM Chinese Language Flagship Program. “We offer our deepest sympathy to Frank’s family, friends and fellow students.”

While the University of Mississippi’s University Communications has acknowledged Anderson’s death, they have yet to release any further information on the situation, including Anderson’s cause of death.

“Prior to every student’s departure to study overseas,” said Jonathan Scott, UM’s director of public relations, “the Study Abroad Office provides comprehensive orientation that addresses the use of health and safety insurance.

“The international health insurance provider and its emergency management team are assisting Frank’s family with repatriation,” said Director Scott, in an email, “[but] health privacy laws prohibit UM from releasing any specific information without the family’s consent.”

Out of the 600 students that study abroad in other countries every year through the University of Mississippi, deaths are infrequent and practically nonexistent. Though individual cases cannot be divulged without the suffering family’s consent, the fact that there is a low number of such families is a positive statistic in relation to studying abroad deaths.

According to NAFSA, on a national scale, almost 290,000 students garnered academic credit for studying abroad overseas in 2013. Out of this number, about 53.3 percent of students study abroad in Europe and roughly 12.4 percent study in Asia.

Project Atlas states that 25,312 students from the United States enrolled in Chinese universities in 2013, which correlates with the originally presented numbers with a 1 percent margin for error.

The Forum of Education Abroad stated that out of the 290,000 students listed earlier, the mortality rates for students studying abroad outside the United States in 2013 was 13.5 per 100,000 students.

In comparison, the same report states that the mortality rate for students studying at colleges in the United States is 29.4 per 100,000 students. This correlation shows that studying at colleges in the United States is more than two times as dangerous as studying abroad.

This correlation indicates that, statistically, studying abroad is safer than studying in the United States. As such, Anderson’s death is made even rarer and thusly more impactful.

Students of the University of Mississippi also shared thoughts about Anderson’s death.

Junior public policy major Drew Perry, 20, heard about Anderson’s death via The Daily Mississippian when it was first reported on Oct. 6. Perry has thought about studying abroad in western Europe; and while Anderson’s death has made him think of his potential future venture plans, he has not been scared away by the incident.

“It’s a shame it happened,” he said. “I think it happens rarely. I think [the Study Abroad Office] takes safety seriously.”

Sophomore Mikayla Johnson, 19, heard about Anderson’s death secondhand through Facebook and was saddened by the news.

“They should advise students more and be more connected with them,” she said, regarding the SAO’s current approach to guiding students about their individual study abroad plans.

Sophomore English major Bethany Fitts, 19, also sees the University of Mississippi’s SAO positively. Fitts plans to study abroad her senior year, though she has not thought about it much.

“They’re responsible,” she said. “It doesn’t happen often. I think it’s pretty safe.”

Sophomore biology major Edwardo Rangel, 20, does not have plans to study abroad, but believes studying abroad is a safe educational option. Anderson’s death did not affect his perception of studying abroad.

“Accidents happen,” he said. “I don’t think it’s normal. It’s as safe as studying here at home.”

Junior Bryce Biddy, 20, said he knows a few people who have studied abroad, and they told him it was a great experience, so he has been thinking about the opportunity.

“It’s sad to hear,” he said. “[The Study Abroad Office] puts a lot of work into their programs, but I wish I was more informed on everything.”


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