University of Iowa student dies while studying in Portugal

Molinski 'died suddenly,' though no details have been released

A University of Iowa computer science major studying abroad in Portugal “died suddenly” over the weekend, according to UI officials.

The university released no details about how Nathan Molinski, identified as a fourth-year UI student, died Saturday. But UI spokeswoman Hayley Bruce said he was living with a family in Lisbon and participating with two other UI students in a semesterlong language and culture program with the Council on International Education Exchange that started Sept. 1.

The council, a nonprofit promoting international education and exchange, confirmed Molinski was participating in a semester program at its study center in Lisbon and reported he “died suddenly” during an “independent travel weekend to another part of Portugal.”

“The CIEE community grieves for this terrible loss, and our sincerest condolences go to Nathan’s family and friends,” according to the council’s statement.

The university also expressed its “deepest condolences to Nathan’s family, friends and loved ones.” Officials reported Molinski’s family is interested in receiving remembrances and memorial statements to be shared in Portugal.

Anyone interested in sending a statement can email Associate Provost and Dean Downing Thomas at by noon Wednesday.

When a student is injured or dies while studying abroad via one of its programs, the Council on International Education Exchange helps notify fellow students and provides support and counseling, Bruce said. Once family and authorities have been contacted, UI leadership reaches out to offer support, Bruce said, potentially helping cover travel costs for the family and sending someone ahead to the location “to meet the family upon their arrival and to support them during this traumatic time.”

A Facebook page for a Nathan Molinski who studied at the UI and lives in Iowa City indicates he’s from San Rafael, Calif. A LinkedIn page for Molinski indicates he’s worked several internships, including for companies in New York and Chicago.

Although fatalities are rare for the UI Study Abroad program, another of its students died in 2015 from injuries in Italy. Andrew Mogni, a 20-year-old UI junior studying finance, died in April of that year after spending four months battling serious injuries suffered in what authorities initially characterized as an “accidental fall.”

Italian authorities later reported suspicions Mogni was attacked and injured in an attempted robbery near the Tiber River, where he was found with severe head trauma, even as the school at which he was studying — John Cabot University — reported he fell after leaving a bar, according to media reports.

Mogni, of Glen Ellyn, Ill., was flown back to the Chicago area before he died, and no one has been arrested in connection with his death. But police did make an arrest in the death of a University of Wisconsin student who died under similar circumstances a year later.

That student also had been studying at John Cabot University, with which the University of Iowa has ended its study abroad partnership.

About 1,300 UI students study abroad annually.

Although updated statistics weren’t immediately available Tuesday, the UI in 2015 told The Gazette it had documented only 37 of its thousands of students leaving study abroad programs early. Of those, 16 were on yearlong programs and decided to come home after one semester for personal reasons.

Eight of those who left early did so because of illness, three had family emergencies or events, three left due to political unrest or natural disasters, two were victims of crime, two were injured, and one died while abroad in 2011. That death occurred during an outdoor adventure program in India when the student slipped into a nearby river while hiking, according to UI officials.

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