Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

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Cerritos College alumnae dies while on study abroad trip, community mourns

Courtesy of Camilo Santiago: Monica Santiago, 24, died while abroad in Tainan City, Taiwan. She was teaching English to local children when she died in November 2018.

Monica Santiago, a Cerritos College alumnae, died in Tainan City, Taiwan while studying abroad and teaching local children to speak English. While at Cerritos, Santiago, 24, participated in programs which included global studies, political science and Chinese.

Her father, Camilo Santiago, said, “Monica loved teaching the children; they had a positive attitude and were open to learning. She would say she was very excited to be there and that her students were very good kids.”

She was close to her students and said that they were her “kids” on a Facebook post sharing her last day teaching English in Tainan. The next day Santiago would die from asthma complications.

The days following her death, teachers who worked with Santiago expressed to her father that they were conflicted on how to inform her students of her death. Santiago said that his daughter’s students “enjoyed” being in her class and that it made it harder to cope.

Dr. Shin Lui, creator of the Taiwan Experience Education Program, said, “I was very shocked when I learned of her passing through other students and her family because she was so young. She was only 24.

“When you are young you never think this will happen to you. She had a history of asthma and even things like these we have to know them.”

Being the creator of the TEEP and leading study abroad programs Lui said “On new programs we need to pay more attention on the students’ health and ask more questions about their medical histories. Still today I feel so sad about Monica’s passing.”

The TEEP was established to take Cerritos College students to Taipei to study abroad. Santiago attended the program in summer 2017 heading to Tainan City with Lui and other Cerritos students.

A GoFundMe page was opened to help the family cover the funeral expenses. Her family, with donations from family, friends and her professors, were able to raise over $13,000.

A service was held in Tainan City with her body present, but her family could not bring her body into the U.S. due to strict regulation. Once back in the U.S. her family held a service with her ashes present.

Camilo Santiago said that even though her ashes were brought back to hold a final service “it just was not the same.”

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Cerritos College alumnae dies while on study abroad trip, community mourns