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American college student reported missing during study abroad trip is alive in Spain, officials and family say

Ken DeLand Jr. was reported missing in November after he boarded a train for Valence, France.
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An American college student who was reported missing during a study abroad trip in France is alive in Spain, his family and officials said Friday.

A spokesperson for the Grenoble public prosecutor’s office said prosecutor Eric Vaillant told French media that Ken DeLand Jr. had been able to speak with his parents.

The family said on a website dedicated to finding DeLand that he called them early Friday morning. His mother, Carol Laws, is in France "preparing to see Kenny and hopefully bring him home for Christmas," they said. Laws confirmed to NBC News that she had talked to her son but did not provide further details.

On the website, the family thanked news outlets, saying: "Without the media’s help, Kenny would not have seen himself in the news."

DeLand was reported missing last month while studying at the University Grenoble Alpes in France, his family said in an older post on the website. They said at the time that they had last heard from DeLand on Nov. 27 via WhatsApp, a text message and calling app.

Ken DeLand Jr.
Ken DeLand Jr. who has been reported by his family as missing in France.Ken DeLand via Facebook

The 22-year-old went to class on Nov. 28, his family had said. The following day, he left his host family's home and boarded a train for Valence, France, packing a small bag that held his cellphone, food, wallet and a change of clothes.

The family said on the website that DeLand's phone pinged on Nov. 30 at the Valence train station, and days later, on Dec. 3, he made a purchase at a sporting goods store.

DeLand is a student at St. John Fisher University in Rochester, New York. His study program was supposed to end Saturday, and his visa expires in January.

His family previously said on the website that DeLand "struggled to fit in and make friends" when he first arrived in France, but eventually "made great connections."

"It is vital to note Ken has friends in France, and they are the ones who initially reported him missing to the school and continue to show support and check in for updates on Ken," they said.

The disappearance was investigated by the Grenoble public prosecutor’s office, which had previously said that DeLand told people he was "insufficiently prepared" for the trip. The office said it appeared that he had voluntarily left Grenoble.

Details surrounding his disappearance are not clear.