I did not know Chuyuan “Chu” Qiu personally, but as far as I can tell, Chu’s life paralleled my own in many ways.
Like myself, she has travelled across half of the planet to attend a prestigious academic institution of her choosing.
I grew up in Hong Kong, China, a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China. Chu attended the Nanjing Foreign Language School in Nanjing, China; according to Chinese media, she was one of the several female students of her Chinese high school to have entered into some of the United States’ best universities.
She had just made it to Northwestern. Classes had only been in session for three days when Chu died. On the third day of classes in my freshmen year, I didn’t even know where the bathrooms were in Fisk Hall. I barely knew the names of the people in my Peer Advisor group.
Chu described her upbringing as “fortunate” because of the relative leeway and freedom her parents provided for her to choose her own future.
“Since I was young, unlike my classmates, who were forced to attend private tutoring and all sorts of remedial classes, my mother would often talk with me and seek my agreement before going,” Chu told Chinese media in a 2015 interview.
Her secondary school life extended beyond just academics. According to Chinese media, she had written about food and cooking in her college application essay.
“I like to try to make different dishes,” Chu told Chinese media in December 2015. “Although most of them weren’t successful, I never gave up.”
“In my college application,” she continued, “I wrote about the joys and sorrows of cooking, and I think this application demonstrated my character.”
What was her character? Her personality? Beyond food and cooking, what else did Chu want to do on campus?
She was a member of the Kaplan Humanities Scholars Program. She was a resident of the College of Community and Cultural Studies, where she lived in a single, according to an email from Christopher Bayston, president of CCS.
She was a student who had just started at Northwestern University. Her parents were halfway around the world when this tragic incident occurred.
Chu was struck and killed at the intersection of Sheridan Road and Garrett Place at 5 p.m. Thursday. Based on the publicly available information, Chu’s family was likely in China at the time, and the time difference means that the country would have just been waking up at 6 a.m. on Friday.
I cannot imagine what it would have been like for her parents to wake up to that phone call. What else can I write about her? What else can I describe about someone who had only made it to campus for a few weeks? What else can I say about a student of Northwestern who had only just started to make her own mark on campus through friends, instructors and peers?
Among flowers and candles left by a tree at the intersection of Sheridan Road and Northwestern Place, someone left a plate with a waffle. A message promised to meet her in Sargent for waffles tomorrow.
Chu loved food and cooking. That’s all I know about her. That’s probably all I’ll ever know.
We'll never get to see the amazing things she might have done at Northwestern and beyond.