Students view tragedy from afar


Students view tragedy from afar


SEVILLE, Spain - The news of the 33 deaths in Blacksburg, Va., on Monday spread a sobering cloud over the UNC students studying in this traditional Spanish city.

Here, where the streets still shut down for the sacred midday siesta, students have pulled themselves away from the news on their computers and have begun to speak with foreign friends and host families about the Virginia Tech shootings.

In places around the world, UNC students are seeing the foreign reaction to the violence at home.

Some of the 436 University students abroad have found that the attacks did not surprise their non-American acquaintances as much as they surprised themselves.

"This has happened so many times in the U.S.," said Kristin Haug, a student from Oslo, Norway, in reference to the Columbine shooting. "It's just so weird that it's still so easy to get a weapon."

Her friends, all Norwegians in Spain for the semester, nodded in agreement outside the school building they share with UNC students.

International media have spotlighted the shootings. On Wednesday, two days after 23-year-old senior Cho Seung-Hui opened fire on Va. Tech's campus, the events were still on the front pages of newspapers in Paris, Dublin, London, Israel, Turkey, Dubai and Iran.

But the impact has not resounded with most foreigners in the same way it's hit Americans abroad. Norwegian students here called the shootings, with no intentional callousness, "typically American."

Michael Turner, a junior from Elizabeth City, first heard of the shootings when he turned on Al Jazeera in Jordan. He stated in an e-mail that local coverage depicted the violence as part of a trend.

"I don't expect it comes off that way in American media, and it certainly doesn't in my mind," he stated.

UNC sophomore Rosanne Niforos, a former advertising representative for The Daily Tar Heel, was in Puebla, Mexico, when she saw news about the shootings online. Lacking her cell phone, she waited for a friend at Va. Tech to change his status to show he was safe.

Now Niforos is watching the reaction on her Mexican campus. Much of the student community there has used the incident to examine U.S. policies in general.

"There are already posters up on campus with pictures of Va. Tech victims being carried out of Norris Hall and then an image superimposed next to it of President Bush, dressed in militant clothes, bullets and a machine gun," she stated in an e-mail. "I haven't seen many of those, but they are there."

UNC students have said non-Americans have asserted that this type of shooting could not happen in their home country. Some, like the Norwegian students, blamed U.S. gun control laws and pointed out that in many European countries, citizens cannot own handguns and that in some places, even police officers do not carry guns.

On, a poll of the day asked readers if there should be more gun control in the U.S. As of Wednesday morning, 93 percent of the 5,790 responders said "yes."

"When people here see this happen, they're really shocked," Spaniard Celeste Castellanos Calvo said. "They see it as an American thing."


Original Source: <a href=>Daily Tar Heel - April 19, 2007</a>


Julie Turkewitz


Daily Tar Heel




Sara Hood


Kevin Schwartz <[email protected]>




Julie Turkewitz, “Students view tragedy from afar,” The April 16 Archive, accessed September 22, 2017,