Immigrant Stories: Rafael Sepulveda

Published by Program Manager on

Immigrant Stories: Rafael Sepulveda

Rafael Sepulveda is one the faithful few that have been attending the level 3 conversational English classes at BIIN this fall, and his hard work and determination extend beyond the realm of class. Originally from San Germán, Puerto Rico, Rafael moved to College Station in April of 2017, citing his partner’s getting a job at Texas A&M as a key reason for his relocation. Rafael is not the only one in his family to move to the continental United States; he has aunts that live in New York, and his mother and sisters live in Pennsylvania, although his father and son still live in Puerto Rico. Before moving to Texas, Rafael had visited other places in the US like Miami and California, but he has not lived anywhere else here besides College Station.

Rafael began working in the construction industry from the age of 16 in Puerto Rico. Currently, he works for a paving company and is taking courses in accounting through a university in Puerto Rico. He wakes up around 5:30 in the morning, gets off work at 5 in the evening, and then studies at night. In the future, once he graduates from his accounting course, he would like to start his own business of some sort, and then be able to bring his son here so they can work in his business together. Although he works hard and likes making good money, he says he does so to be able to help others and is a firm believer in breaking the cycle of poverty.

In many regards, his life in Texas does not seem extremely different from his life in Puerto Rico. However, one of the biggest differences Rafael said he noticed when moving here was the construction of buildings, which starkly contrast to the old buildings in Puerto Rico. One thing that he does really miss about Puerto Rico is the food. While he enjoys dishes like steak and tacos, which he said he can easily find around College Station, he misses classic Puerto Rican dishes, like mofongo (a savory dish based in plantains), which is harder to find in Texas outside of big cities like Houston. He also mentions how kind the people are here and how crazy the weather is. Here in Texas, Rafael still has the same hobbies, like going to the gym and reading books on motivation, and though his setting has changed, his character has not.

Being the best that he can be seems to be a defining characteristic of Rafael. He is taking English classes with BIIN to improve his skills.

While Rafael grew up taking English classes in school in Puerto Rico, has lived in College Station for 4 years, and has been taking English classes with BIIN since the spring of 2021, he acknowledges that his English still has room for improvement. Although he does not care what others think if he makes a mistake or mispronounces something in English, he wants to be more fluent. Being able to improve his grasp of English was made possible when he heard about BIIN on the radio and decided to join the conversational English classes. Besides attending the classes, Rafael says that he watches YouTube and movies in English (which he says he understands 90-100% of). He watches with subtitles on, so he can look up words that he does not know, illustrating how he is constantly looking for ways to improve.

Learning about Rafael’s life and journey is truly inspiring. His story shows how much you can accomplish with hard work, determination, and a good mindset, and reminds us that sometimes a little help from places like BIIN is all you need to pursue your dreams.

Thanks to fall 2021 Conversational English intern Nicholas Neighbors (right), who wrote this profile of Rafael (left).