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Crossing borders, overcoming obstacles, starting life over again in a new country. WYSO's radio series The Bind That Ties brings you the stories of immigrants from around the Miami Valley.

The Bind That Ties: Katia Maklouf and Stephanie Jensen

Katia and Stephanie pose for a picture.

Katia Maklouf left her home in Algeria with her husband, but the two separated, and Katia came to Dayton alone and for a while, she lived at the YWCA. Today Katia is an interpreter, works in healthcare and lives with her roommate named Stephanie Jenson, who she credits with making her transition to life in America so much easier. They first met on a ride at Kings Island.

(Editor's Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)

Stephanie Jensen: Hello. My name is Stephanie Jensen. I live in Dayton and I am a freelancer. And I also love to travel.

Katia Maklouf: Hi, I'm Katia. I live in Dayton and I am an interpreter and I moved to the US. Was it three years ago?

Stephanie: Oh, about three years ago, exactly. At Kings Island.

Katia: There were two parts to our meeting that day: There was the free fall, where we sat next to each other. We didn't know each other, but we held hands.

Stephanie: [And] kept hanging out after that, and we just kept getting closer. And then now we are roommates. Actually, years later, we're roommates. It's been amazing learning about your country and your culture and how you're adapting to everything here. It's been cool watching your story.

Katia: Thank you. You also helped me a lot. Like it's hard, as you saw. Like there is a cultural manners difference between us and US. And you made the transition very easy for me. I always found that, like, really, really kind of you. Like, you were sharing your life with me. I don't know how to say it in English, but it warms up my heart like you are welcoming me in your country and helping me to get to blend in with everyone to learn about the country you're taking me to everything that you know around here.

Stephanie: I've learned just so much through, like, international students at Wright State and traveling internationally. I feel like I've grown so much and it's just opened my mind to like how different people from different places, like, we can all have different perspectives but still come together in one room and have a good time and have friendships.

Katia: I'm Algerian and in Algeria there is different ethnicities and my ethnicity is Berber. Like for every holiday that we have back home, I try to keep the same traditions - to our clothing, to our food. I try to cook as much as I can, traditional food from Algeria. And of course, everything has to be spicy, even though it's not spicy originally. But we have to make it spicy.

Stephanie: Yes. And even I've tried the fasting during Ramadan.

Katia: Yeah. Trying to — yeah.

Stephanie: Yeah. I admire you guys. It's definitely challenging how you guys continue your work, studying everything with that. It's really admirable. It's fun to at the end of the day, too, you can come together.

Katia: There is like the normal New Years, like 2021. But our New Year, it's January 14, two thousand nine hundred something. What I started doing here in the U.S. is inviting my friends on the 13th — a lot of food from Algeria, of course, making sure that everyone eats Algerian that night does like, have some fun, watch TV, dance, sing together. Just a normal New Year for us. There is no as a foreigner being friends with an American. I have other friends from other countries, but emphasize it about my friendship with Stephanie, made my transitioning very easy to the states. Made my life here so much easier. And she will always make sure that I am comfortable wherever we go, whatever we do. It's always much in my religion. It's much in my culture. And also, like there will be manners that in Algeria it's normal. And here it's not normal. I would say having an American friend as an international person, it will be just a gift.

I have what I call like, American parents. It's my English teacher. And she just adopted me. Her and her husband and the whole family, they just, like, became my American family. So I would thank both of my parents. But I also. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you — a lot. She. She's one of my angels here in the U.S. And, you know, she is more than a friend. She is blood.

Stephanie: I love you!

Katia: I love you, too, Mama!

Mojgan started her full-time work after completing a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence. After a very successful 28 year career as a technical geek, she retired in 2017. While working she attended community voices weekend classes in 2014 and graduated as a Community Voice producer for WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. After retirement, Mojgan’s turned to the arts and volunteering activities. She proposed creating community voices stories to highlight immigrants’ voices and contributions in the Miami valley. Her first season production of “The Bind that Ties” in 2020 won first prize in the Radio Documentary of the Associated Press. Season two of the series was broadcast in 2022.