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Michigan shooting reignites US safety concern

Yet another mass shooting at an American university has raised questions about international student safety and whether gun violence will deter people from studying in the US.

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In a 2019 survey, World Education Services found that 37% were worried about gun violence

Three American students were killed in the shooting at Michigan State University on February 13. The Chinese Consulate in Chicago reported that two students from China were among five people injured in the attack.

In a statement, the consulate described the shooting as “shocking” and advised both Chinese students and visitors to exercise caution in the US.

While neither the consulate nor police identified the two wounded Chinese students, a GoFundMe page was set up to raise money for medical treatment and expenses for John Hao. According to the page, the 20-year-old Michigan State student was paralysed from the chest down after being shot during the attack.

The GoFundMe effort had reached $350,000 when organisers stopped accepting donations. The money will cover medical expenses and travel and accommodation costs for the student’s parents, who immediately traveled from China to be with their son at a Michigan hospital’s intensive care unit.

Argent Qian, who set up the GoFundMe page and says he is Hao’s roommate, said the parents were “mentally crushed” when they arrived at the hospital.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit research organisation, there have already been 81 mass shootings in the US this year – even though it is only February. It defines such incidents as shootings in which at least four people are killed or injured.

In a survey of 2,000 international students in the US conducted in 2019, World Education Services found that 37% were worried about gun violence.

The WES report commented: “For many years, international students have been willing to risk the dangers of the United States in return for the high-quality education it provides, and its enduring reputation as a country that offers newcomers good opportunities for advancement.”

“One thing which troubles me is that anyone can have access to a gun in the US and that I could be a potential victim of a shooting,” commented one student from Mauritius who took part in the survey.

Anne Greenwood, a spokeswoman at WES, said the organisation has not conducted additional surveys since the report was published and could not comment on whether fears of gun violence have intensified.

Simon Emmett, CEO of the student marketing and recruitment firm IDP Connect, said that both students and parents are concerned about safety in choosing a study destination.

“Our latest research, published in October 2022, showed that over a quarter of students who had the US as their second-choice destination cited safety as one of the reasons it was not their first choice; this compares to only 5% of students for the UK, Canada, and Australia who felt the same way,” Emmett said.

“This presents a challenge for US institutions who must find ways of reassuring students and their families”

“The US, while the most researched destination on our websites, ranks lower than other destination countries for safety,” he said. “This presents a challenge for US institutions who must find ways of reassuring students and their families that safety is the top priority for students on their campuses and within their communities.”

In the Michigan State shooting, the assailant was identified as a 43-year-old man who had no connection to the university. American students Alexandria Verner, Brian Fraser and Arielle Diamond Anderson were killed. After the shooting, the killer fled campus and died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while being pursued by police.

Michigan State has more than 4,000 international students, more than half of whom are from China.

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