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Student Killed in Paris Was Proud First-Generation Mexican-American

Photograph by Getty Images

At least 129 people were killed in Paris on Friday by terrorists who targeted the Bataclan theater, a stadium and multiple restaurants, and more were critically wounded. California State University-Long Beach student Nohemi Gonzalez, 23, was identified as one of the victims gunned down in the Paris attacks on Nov. 13. Gonzalez was a senior design major, and was spending the semester abroad studying at Strate College of Design in Sèvres, France, a city just Southwest of Paris. She had never left the country before, and arrived in France to study in September.

Nohemi Gonzalez, known as Mimi to her family, was killed at one of the restaurants struck by the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 while she was out in Paris with fellow students, including Long Beach State students. Her friends managed to escape, but Gonzalez was one of 19 killed at the popular bistro, La Belle Equipe. According to the university, 16 other Long Beach State students studying in Paris are safe.

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A friend saw Gonzalez being carried away on a stretcher, according to her parents and a university official. She later died of her injuries at a Paris hospital, according to the university's associate vice president for international education, Jeet Joshee.

Her aunt, Sandra Felt, told NBC News that her niece was "always a go-getter, very organized" and that she worked to save money for her trip because she always dreamed of learning French and studying in Paris.

Photograph by Facebook

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Considered a "shining star" by one of her professors, Gonzalez was part of a team that recently won second place in an international design competition for a biodegradable container design they submitted. On campus, she was a teaching assistant as well as a mentor to other students, and she also had an off-campus job to help with saving for her study abroad trip.

According to the LA Times, for a university assignment where she was to create a brand based on her identity, she exuded confidence and pride about her background, creating a logo for herself featuring an arrowhead.

"I am Mexican-American," she wrote, "and I also happen to be first-generation, born in the United States. I grew up in Whittier and had a very hard-working mother that raised me to be extremely independent. If I had to describe myself in a few words, I would say I am very high-spirited, clean, orderly and self-driven."

She said the arrowhead was a reminder that "when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it's going to launch you into something great. So just focus and keep aiming."

Hundreds, including family, friends and others from the university community, gathered at Cal State Long Beach's campus for a vigil on Sunday evening. The university says it will "extend all support necessary" to comfort nearly 80 foreign exchange students from France, as well as all students, faculty and staff affected by the attack.

Nohemi's mother, Beatriz Gonzalez, told KTLA that she felt "lost, sadness. She was my only daughter."

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