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Thousands of Foreign Exchange Students are Missing and It’s Time We Do Something

To this day, there are more than 6,000 foreign exchange students declared missing. Many came to the United States for a chance at a higher education and have mysteriously disappeared. Unfortunately, while American students learn “stranger danger” at a very young age and know what signs to be aware of, foreign exchange students may not be as familiar with these threats, especially within a new American setting. Plus, many students begin school before being fluent in English, which can make the process all the more difficult.

For example, Friday, June 9, 2017 was the last day Yingying Zhang was seen alive. She is an exchange student from China currently studying at the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL.

Yingying’s father described his daughter as someone who “loved to learn” and was “well-behaved, sensible, independent, and excellent.” It was not uncommon for her to video call her parents every two days.

Yingying originally had plans to attend graduate school in Canada, but that option was deemed too expensive, so she decided on an education in the United States. The scholar’s rent in Illinois had become expensive, so on the afternoon of her disappearance, Yingying had planned to meet with her housing manager to sign a contract that would save her $300. The manager reported receiving a text from Yingying that claimed she would be 10 minutes late. Forty-five minutes later, there was still no sign of the young girl.

By examining video surveillance, police have identified that she was last seen around 2:00 pm on the 9th of June. Yingying Zhang is 5’3″ with shoulder length black hair and was last seen wearing a long-sleeved light-colored shirt, light blue jeans, and white shoes. She was taken by a black Saturn Astra at Goodwin and Clark in Urbana, IL. The police suspect a white male is responsible.

If you see Yingying Zhang or the suspecting car, call the FBI at 217-522-9675.

Unfortunately, the abduction of foreign students is becoming more prevalent because they are seen as “easy targets”. They may not be as aware of the dangers, especially in big cities, and this is where the school should do more to help keep their students safe. Whether it’s more English classes early on or a safety course that teaches students how to respond in questionable situations, there are steps to take to ensure a better lifestyle. While it is important for a community to work together to help bring these students home, it’s equally as vital for school’s to take responsibility in their student’s safety.

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Ariel Zedric is a student at Tufts University. When she's not studying, you can find her wandering around on her blog at Contact via email at or on Twitter or Instagram @arielzedric

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