Where are you from?


What was it like growing up?

It wasn’t easy. It was challenging, politically. It’s a lovely country with a nice people. There were diverse people from different faiths. However, it wasn’t easy growing up as a Catholic. In a dominant Muslim culture, it was difficult. We were able to maintain our faith and activities as Christians, but were unable to speak out.

I received free education all the way through college, and earned my BA in literature from the University of Aleppo. Then, I went to work as a translator for the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces.

What brought you to Cleveland?

I decided to visit because I had family who had moved here. My uncle, who lived in Lakewood, encouraged me to come here. I came on a tourist visa to see what my opportunities would be. I came to the United States in the fall of 1986, and started to work toward my master’s degree at Cleveland State University, where I received a scholarship.

What were your first thoughts about coming to America?

I felt I belonged here. I felt the U.S. was my destiny. I love this country. I love the people here. It’s not perfect, but nothing is perfect.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

Even though I had good exposure to the culture, there was still the cultural shock, coming from a Middle Eastern country to the US. The gestures and nonverbal communication were different than in Syria.

What is your occupation?

Public relations administrator and Arabic translator/interpreter at Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC Attorneys at Law


rong>How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

They’ve made me feel very welcome.

What do you love about Cleveland?

I see it as a friendly place. People are very friendly. We have a lot of good education institutions, medical institutions. I also like the cultural diversity and the various ethnic groups in the Greater Cleveland area.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

This is a nation of immigrants. We are stronger because of this.

What suggestions do you have to make Cleveland a more welcoming community?

There should be more media exposure of cultural groups, in addition to more large-scale meetings involving the City of Cleveland and educational institutions, where speakers would be invited to discuss their respective cultural group with the community.