Mourning and Fear in News of Chinese Student’s Death at Boston Marathon

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 at 1:23 pm

A memorial site along the course of the Boston Marathon, a few blocks from where two explosions struck near the finish line.

Early Monday morning, Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN that international students are scared to study in the U.S. “They think they’re not safe in the United States and so they don’t come,” Kerry said in an interview.

His words took on a new meaning only a few hours later, when two bombs detonated near the crowded finish line of the Boston Marathon, injuring hundreds and killing three spectators. One of those killed was Lingzi Lu, a Chinese international student at Boston University.

She was studying for a master’s in statistics and was only 23, according to a long profile in the New York Times.

A fellow Chinese student, identified as Zhou Danling, was seriously injured but is reportedly in stable condition.

“Our hearts and thoughts go out to the family and friends of both victims,” wrote Boston University President Robert A. Brown in an open letter.

It’s a sentiment that was echoed by the Chinese consulate in New York, and by the tens of thousands who have reached out online to express their condolences, leaving messages and candles on Weibo.

Is it safe to study in America?

CNN concluded its profile of the victim by writing that, as a statistics student, “She would have known how slim the chances were that something like this could happen to her and her friend in a crowd of thousands cheering the runners on a sunny day.”

But fear doesn’t obey logic.

A student at the School of Management and Economics, where the New York Times says the victim once studied, told the Times, “Terrorist attacks always seem far away, yet suddenly it was so close.”

“Some friends were thinking about applying for further studies in Boston. They’re quite worried,” she added.

On Twitter, even before it was revealed that one of the victims was an international student, several expressed concern about coming to the U.S. in the wake of this incident.

“And they tell me to go study in the US,” wrote Bahraini @sisamM95 in response to the news.

“The Boston bombing has given my mom another strong claim to object me to study in the USA,” said @ZhaoLucas from Singapore, adding that her mother’s previous objection was after a school shooting.

Travel agency founder YunnanZhangmei, however, called for Chinese to overcome these fears, according to China Daily:

“The more I watched video clips of [the] Boston explosion, the more I want to tell people that one should never allow things like that to stop us. I will still go to the USA to run the Marathon in Big Sur. I want to take a rafting trip in Salmon River. I will go hiking in Alaska! Hope more friends will join me.”

What do you think? Will the bombings make international students feel scared to study in the US? Should they? Would you be more wary about studying in Boston now? Leave your thoughts in the comments. 

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