Andrew D. Pochter, the young American teacher who was killed during protests in the Egyptian city of Alexandria on Friday night was a man whose mind was “filled with Arabic language and with the Arab world,” a teacher who taught him in Morocco told Al Arabiya English.
He was also a young man who “loved common folks, socializing and simple life” despite coming from an upper middle class family in the United States, said Hachimi Taoufik, a teacher who taught Arabic to Pochter in al-Jadida, Morocco.
“I believe he was the only student among his group who was the most social; he loved to go buy sardine sandwiches in Mellah, that cost 5 dirhams (60 cents), he loved to come home and cook with my wife and kids, he even liked to go grocery shopping to cook some of the meals he wanted to share with us,” Taoufik said.
Pochter, 21, studied in Morocco between June 2010 and June 2011 as part of the U.S. National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) funded by the Department of State to study in Morocco, said Bouchra Kachoub, then resident director of NSLI-Y.
In 2011, Pochter wrote a blog for Al Arabiya about his experience in Morocco and the changes taking place in the Moroccan society during the Arab Spring.
“My Moroccan host family represents a prime example of the kind of change I have noticed among the middle class. My surrogate parents, being teachers, for the most part have been satisfied with their jobs, livelihood, and finances,” he wrote.
“They were previously apolitical and avoided community involvement outside of their normal sectors.”
“My host family’s approach to life came to an apparent crossroads with the February 20th protests, the date of the first nation-wide rally,” Pochter added.
His former teacher Taoufik said: “I am sure that he went to Egypt to continue his learning of Arabic and also explore Egypt and learn more about the Arab culture and society.”
Exclusive images: Andrew Pochter in Morocco
His family posted a statement on the Facebook page R.I.P Andrew Pochter, saying he went to Egypt for the summer to teach seven and eight-year old children and improve his Arabic.
“He was looking forward to returning to Kenyon College for his junior year and to spending his spring semester in Jordan,” they said.
Taoufik said Pochter's "openness to people and love to socialize with them" was likely what led him to Egypt.
“He liked to go to hotels that you will not hear about,” Taoufik said.
His supervisor Kachoub said that when Pochter was studying in Morocco he spent most of his time in a modest house of one of his teachers despite the luxury he found at his host family’s place.
“Andrew’s host family lived in a beautiful villa in el-Jadida and despite the space provided and the luxury in the house, he always wanted to change and live in a modest place,” Kachoub said.
“They were impressed by his respect, organization and dedication to learning. They were happy to host Andrew because he had a positive influence on others. They hoped that their teenage son would learn from him good habits such as reading books, doing homework and keeping an organized bedroom,” Kachoub added.
Junaid Saiyed, a U.S. student who went to school with Andrew in Morocco, described him as “one of a few genuinely great people in the world.”
The following video shows both Saiyed and Pochter speaking in Moroccan Arabic at their school in el-Jadida.
Andrew Pochter, wearing glasses, practice Moroccan Arabic with his friend and classmate Junaid Saiyed. They talk about going to a restaurant and what to eat.