A UCSB junior died in Italy shortly after her education abroad program there came to an end.
Michelle Wilenchik-Black, 21, participated in EAP’s summer program in Siena, Italy, which ended Aug. 26. On Sept. 9, after returning to Siena from visiting several other European nations, Wilenchik-Black passed away in her apartment.
Close friend Kia Mjolsness, a senior environmental studies major, said a preliminary autopsy performed in Italy found that Wilenchik-Black died of heart failure.
Mjolsness said Wilenchik-Black took a train from Amsterdam back to Siena, where she was picked up by Italian Professor Antonio Artese.
“She said she didn’t feel well and would go to her room to sleep it off,” Mjolsness said. “Her roommate found her later on the floor and was unable to wake her up.”
A memorial service was held days later in her hometown of Encinitas, Calif. The crowd flowed out of the Self-Realization Fellowship Temple where the service was held, Mjolsness said.
EAP spokesman Bruce Hanna said the tragedy marked only the sixth death in 40 years of sending students abroad. The most recent came last year when senior anthropology major Chantal Armstrong died in a car accident in Mexico.
Friends said Wilenchik-Black had looked forward to returning to Italy next year.
“She wanted to go back next year and be an RA with the program,” junior communication major Meggie Doscher said. “After that she wanted to try to get a job and live in Italy. She was very excited to go back.”
Wilenchik-Black, a double major in art and Italian, loved many forms of art, including graphic design, painting and photography, friends said. She also enjoyed writing and poetry. Some of Wilenchik-Black’s poetry was distributed at the memorial. She worked on campus for Campus Learning Assistance Services and at Gold’s Gym.
“I was always impressed by how she was always doing things; she was always busy,” Mjolsness said. “She was full of vitality.”
Michelle Wilenchik-Black is survived by her mother, Verna, and two older sisters.