An American student in Egypt

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The chaotic scenes from Tahrir Square in Cairo couldn’t be more distant from the calm, quiet suburbs of Windsor. However, for former SRJC student Tim Stewart, the violent clashes between anti-government protesters and pro-government supporters rocking Egypt for the past several days is now part of his everyday reality.

Stewart, 21, attended SRJC from Fall 2007 to Spring 2009 after graduating from Windsor High School. He traveled to the Middle East in the summer of 2009, visiting Egypt where he learned Arabic. After attending the Fall 2010 semester at SRJC, he returned to Egypt this time as a student of the American University in Cairo, studying Middle Eastern History.

Weeks later, the streets of Cairo erupted with the call for revolution and democracy, with hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demanding the immediate removal of President Mubarak and Egypt’s political establishment.

Stewart, the tall American from Windsor, now found himself witness to history in the making, documenting the protests and reporting it to the Press Democrat.

“I originally sent my dispatch to the PD as soon as things here started to heat up only because I didn’t see hardly anything in the papers on the West Coast about the riots,” he wrote in an email.

Bill Stewart, Tim’s father, said that he and his wife were nervous and concerned about their son, but realized that what Tim is doing in Egypt is important and that it was something their son would naturally do.

Immersed in the widespread rioting across the country, Tim Stewart and other fellow expatriates took photographs and marched alongside protesters, dodging tear gas canisters launched by riot police and avoiding violence from pro-Mubarak supporters.

“While we do stand in solidarity with the Egyptian people and support them, this is their revolution,” Tim wrote in an email, saying that his role is that of an observer and journalist, not as a protester.

Immediately after Tim’s reporting was published by the Press Democrat, he was flooded by emails and requests for interviews. His parents had received calls from friends and family worried and concerned about him.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Nate Long, a Windsor High School graduate and former SRJC student, describes Tim as “shy and intelligent”.

“He’s a smart kid,” Long said, recalling his days as a high school student with Tim, where they were both members of the school swim team in 2006. “He’s usually quiet but he’s always got something funny and smart to say whenever we hung out.”

“We’re very proud of him,” Bill said about his son, who he describes as outspoken and as someone with a broader view of the world than most Americans. “He’s very brave, and he has tremendous concern for the welfare of the Egyptian people.”

For Tim, the events from the last several days had broadened his worldview even more and had also changed him. He also said that the attention he’s getting has been overwhelming.

“Frankly the fame is hurting my head,” he wrote in an email. “I’ll be glad when this is all over and I can get back to normal.”

But that didn’t stop friends and family from posting messages of support on Stewart’s Facebook page. One commenter summed up the importance of his reporting to people back home: “I’m following your posts with great interest. Funny, I was certainly interested in the events in Egypt before, but knowing someone who’s there makes it even more real.”

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