An American college student has been reported missing by his family while studying abroad in France.
The parents of 22-year-old Ken DeLand Jr. have set up a website in an effort to share information about their son, who they say has been missing since last month.
They say they last heard from their son, known as Kenny, on Nov. 27 when he was boarding a train to Valence in southeast France.
The family says they “fear the worst and want him to be located.”
DeLand Jr. was studying at the University Grenoble Alpes in France through a study abroad program. On Sunday, Nov. 27, he left his host family’s residence and was headed to Valence, a two-hour train ride from Grenoble, according to the website set up by his family in the U.S. His family says they last spoke to him via messaging service WhatsApp and have not heard from him since.
His study program was supposed to end on Dec. 17 and his visa expires early next year, they say on the website.
Grenoble’s public prosecutor said in a statement that it had opened an investigation following a report on Nov. 29 “by students, of the disturbing disappearance of a 21-year-old American student who had come to Grenoble to study French.”
“The young man reportedly told several people that he had arrived in France insufficiently prepared and that he had difficulty making friends,” the statement said. “He appears to have left Grenoble voluntarily,” it added, noting that “He also mentioned that he wanted to go to Marseille before returning to the United States.”
DeLand Jr. had been in “constant communication” with his family while in France, his father, also named Ken DeLand, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview that aired Monday morning.
“He would reach out to me almost daily, sometimes every other day,” the father said.
“Kenny’s a friendly, outgoing college student, a young man,” he added. “He loves to travel. So, this trip has been something that he’s really looked forward to and enjoyed.”
The private St. John Fisher University in Rochester, New York confirmed that DeLand Jr. was a student there.
The University told NBC News that it will continue to do all it can to assist in the investigations to find DeLand Jr. University officials were in “close contact” with the study abroad agency, American Institute for Foreign Study, which is working with French law enforcement on the search, a university spokesperson said.
“Our campus community remains hopeful that Kenneth will be found safe and return home,” the spokesperson added.
The AIFS said that it “joins others concerned for his safety and we are working with local law enforcement who have begun a search. We have been in contact with Kenneth’s family and university and we are hoping for his swift and safe return.”
DeLand Jr.’s family said they had filed a missing person report with French police, meaning that authorities would be notified if he were to board a train or flight to leave France using his passport.
A surveillance camera captured DeLand Jr. entering a sports store in Montelimar in southeast France on Dec. 3, where he made a purchase for $8.40, according to the parents.
DeLand Jr.’s Facebook page shows photos and videos from his recent travels in France but has been inactive since Nov. 19, eight days before his family says they last heard from him.
He is roughly 6 ft tall and weighs 190 lbs. He was last seen wearing a red jacket, scarf, grey beanie, blue jeans/slacks, black backpack, and sneakers, according to the website set up by the family.
Caroline Radnofsky contributed.