Where are you from?

My name is Seyma Saritoprak and I am from Istanbul ,Turkey.

What is your occupation?

PhD Student -at Case Western University-Clinical Psychology

What was it like growing up?

Growing up in the United States was a unique experience because I was not only from a different ethnic background, but also from a different faith background than the majority of the population. I would often get comments of questions regarding where I was from and what I believed in. At first I wanted to be like everyone else, however, as I grew up I realized the importance of diversity and took pride in my background. To this day, being different than others has positively influenced how I developed my identity as a Muslim woman living in the United States.

What brought you to Cleveland?

I came to Cleveland when I was in7th grade due to my father’s new job. Therefore, I did not have a say in coming to Cleveland. However, since the earliest days I have come to make great friendships and love Cleveland.

What were your first thoughts about coming to America? Did those change?

When we first arrived to US, I was only 6 years old. I remember that everyone around me was speaking a different language that I could not understand. I felt scared at times but because of my connection with my family, I never felt alone. Gradually, I learned the English language and the American culture. My thoughts since childhood have definitely changed. I came to incorporate and assimilate the American views and values into my own beliefs and practices and became more comfortable with those around me.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

I would say the biggest challenge I have faced living in the United States as been living as female Muslim without feeling judged or associated with terrorism by others. Unfortunately, the media shows Muslims in such violent and hatred manners that some Americans have become fearful of Muslims. This only perpetuates polarization among individuals of different backgrounds. Nevertheless, I have noticed that the more people get to know me and my values, the more they realize how more alike we are than different. This gives me hope that through friendship and dialogue we can truly get to know one another.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

Cleveland is a great city with people of many backgrounds. People are aware of the importance of diversity and are open in discussing global issues. I have felt very welcomed here in Cleveland. Because of the authenticity of friendship of Clevelanders, Cleveland has become my second home.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

First, because I am a practicing Muslim, I practice the things modesty in clothing and praying five times a day. In addition, we celebrate two major religious holidays every year. The first one is celebrating the end of Ramadan, which is the month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. This celebration is called eid al fitr. The second one we celebrate is the festival of the sacrifice which is calle id al adha. During these times, we get together with family and friends. We visit each other’s homes and celebrate the holidays together. And of course, we eat many delicious Turkish food!

What do you love about Cleveland?

What I love most about Cleveland is the people, food and Metroparks.

What is your favorite thing to do in Cleveland?

We love spending time at Edgewater park when the weather is nice. We go on walks and have picnics with families.

What is the best thing about living in Cleveland?

The best thing about living in Cleveland is that it has a city feeling, however, it’s not huge enough where you feel overwhelmed by the city life. It also has great suburbs that make Clevelanders have a taste of the country life.

Why is Global Cleveland a great resource?

Global Cleveland is great resource because it provides a platform from which people of varying backgrounds can connect and interact. Through organizations such as Global Cleveland, people have the opportunity to not only know more about a different faith or tradition, but also interact and create innovate ideas together to advance and globalize Cleveland.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

Immigrants and refugees can bring a sense of intellectual diversity. When we are around other that act, think, and look like us, we will never develop creative innovative ideas. However, when we bring people of different backgrounds into our cities and businesses, it opens up a whole array of opportunities to flourish as a city, both economically and culturally.

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

I suggest promoting more interfaith and intercultural events. In addition, I suggest opening up business that promote getting to know different cultures such as more ethnic restaurants and shops!