From the Congo to America

Junior Raphael Moembo arrived in the United States in 2016.


Photo By: Leslie Martinez

Junior Raphael Moembo runs through the soccer field. Moembo has been playing soccer throughout his entire life with family and friends.

Diversity among the campus is a welcomed constant. Several students come from different countries and cultures, adding to our flourishing melting pot.

Three years ago, varsity soccer and football player junior Raphael Moembo moved to America from his home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Moembo arrived in America in January 2016 as a 14-year-old, entering eighth grade at Woodlake Middle School. For him, the hardest part was learning a new language.

“[Moving] was kind of hard. It was hard because I didn’t know English and I had to learn it from the beginning,” Moembo said. “I started with taking the ESL class in middle school and I’ve been taking it for three years now. It was hard learning English. Really hard.”

The official language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is French, but other national languages also include Lingala and Swahili. Moembo is fluent in five languages: French, Lingala, Swahili, English, and he is currently still learning Spanish.

“I can talk to [anyone] that I want to talk to. It actually makes it easier. Some people, they can’t communicate with all the people that only speak English, but I can because I speak the language they speak. It’s easier for me to communicate with everybody,” Moembo said.

Moembo’s father moved to America in 2001 to study and work, occasionally going back to visit his family. It wasn’t until 2016 that Moembo finally got the chance to live with his father in America for the first time.

“I had to come live with my dad. I had never lived with him. He came here right when I was born,” Moembo said. “He came to visit and everything, but he was not there (Congo) for a long time, so I had to come and live with him.”

Junior Raphael Moembo looks out toward the field during a soccer game. Moembo plays for the varsity soccer and football teams. Photo by Leslie Martinez.
Photo By: Leslie Martinez

Moembo plays for the varsity soccer and football teams, but soccer is the sport he has always been passionate about as he grew up playing the sport with his family and friends.

“Whenever I play soccer, most of the time, I actually don’t care about what I’m doing. It’s just me having fun. Like playing with my friends and everything, that’s one of the only things I actually enjoy a lot,” Moembo said.

Even though the soccer team has struggled in recent years, Moembo is determined that they will make the playoffs this year.

“My goal for this year is [for the] soccer season right now. [We’re] trying to make it to the playoffs this year,” Moembo said. “We did three years and we haven’t done anything, so this year is the year we’re gonna make the playoffs. I believe in that.”

While Moembo enjoys playing sports, what he wants to do after high school is still undecided.

“I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, but I feel like being an athlete will go better in my life. I don’t know. I haven’t decided what I want,” Moembo said.

Moembo plans to continue playing soccer and football for his senior year and hopes to be able to visit his home country once again.