U.S. student killed in Egypt was enthralled with region’s politics, languages

Posted at 9:58 PM, Jun 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-30 23:33:41-04

By Faith Karimi

(CNN) — An American student fatally stabbed in Egypt was so fascinated with the region, he read poems about it to his girlfriend, his mother said.

Andrew Pochter of Chevy Chase, Maryland, was stabbed Friday in the port city of Alexandria. He was in the country teaching English to elementary school children.

“As we understand it, he was witnessing the protest as a bystander and was stabbed by a protester,” his family said in a statement. “He went to Egypt because he cared profoundly about the Middle East, and he planned to live and work there in the pursuit of peace and understanding.”

Egyptian state media reported that he was stabbed in the chest while filming the protests.

Protests have raged for days between supporters and foes of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy, prompting the United States to recently warn its citizens against travel to the nation.

Poetry about the region

The 21-year-old went to Egypt this year after spending time in Morocco and falling in love with the region.

Before the trip, he interned for AMIDEAST, an American nonprofit that focuses on the Middle East and North Africa. He also took a class in regional politics.

While enrolled in the class, he read poems about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to his girlfriend, said his mother, Elizabeth Pochter.

“The class wasn’t just about some detached war to him, but a struggle that he passionately wanted to resolve,” she said, according to a statement by Kenyon College, where he had just completed his sophomore year.

“Andrew was a person who didn’t see the world as separate nations, but a collection of vibrant cultures.”

‘One of the rare kids’

His goal was to understand the political and religious dynamics in the region, sharpen his Arabic skills and learn the different dialects, according to his family.

“He was one of the rare kids who lived what he believed,” said Marc Bragin, the Jewish chaplain at Kenyon. “His belief was that everyone should be included, everyone had a voice, and no one should be left out because what they think is different than what others think.”

Rugby player, radio station host

A religious studies major, Pochter was raised in a Christian and Jewish household, and was a member of the Middle Eastern Students Association. He was headed into his junior year in college.

After Egypt and Morocco, he planned to venture farther into the region, including a planned trip to Amman, Jordan.

“In an essay as part of his application for the study-abroad program in Jordan, Andrew … reflected on his hopes to develop ‘life-long ties … with Arab-speaking friends,’ ” the college said in a statement.

Pochter, a college radio station host, had varied interests, including rugby and cooking, his mother said.

Kenyon College said it was planning a memorial service in the fall.

In addition to his mother, Pochter is survived by his father, Theodore Pochter, and sister, Emily Pochter

CNN’s Yousuf Basil and Greg Botelho contributed to this report.