Raoul Mehta, a senior at the Highland School in Warrenton, could be 20 years old before he graduates from high school. And that's just fine with him.
The native of Sweden is one of three foreign exchange students recruited this fall to play on the Hawks' boys soccer team, a Delaney Athletic Conference member that finished 7-6-1 last season.
"There's much more homework here. So I don't know if I'm getting a break. But it's fun," said Mehta, who is actually falling behind his classmates back home because this year won't count in Sweden--where students begin elementary school two years later than in the United States.
Meanwhile, Jakob Paur came to Virginia because he wanted to "become a real American." The junior had visited with his family from Germany twice before, but last year he found himself wanting something more.
"I wanted to live here as another person, not just as a tourist," he said. "Being part of a family, going to school. I wanted to have an adventure."
Paur and Mehta--who will start and play defense and midfield--and Thiago Scataena of Brazil could figure in first-year coach Bob Allen's plan to finish high in the DAC standings this fall. Scataena is expected to get minutes off the bench.
"They are not the best players on my team," Allen said. "But they fit nicely into my team."
Paur and Mehta have found themselves playing more soccer than they would have had they stayed in Europe.
Paur hadn't played competitively in three years, having quit to concentrate on basketball and table tennis. Mehta played in Sweden but said he would practice only twice a week with his high school team back home, compared with twice a day with the Hawks.
"That's one thing I like about America, that sports is so big," Mehta said. "In schools in Sweden, they're cutting down on physical education all the time. There, we have about one hour of physical education a week. Here, I think I have about five."
Similarly, Paur said German schools rarely if ever push sports, and soccer is usually played at the club level.
"It's not like it is here," said Paur, who started playing soccer in the third grade back home in Germany, and as a child would play pickup games nearly every afternoon. "You may get to play school tournaments against kids in your grade and your classes. But we don't usually play against other schools."
Paur was actually born in California, where his parents were chemistry professors at the University of California, Riverside. His family moved back to Karlsruhe, Germany, a year later.
His family took two vacations to the United States when he was younger, to the West Coast and to Florida. When the chance to study for a year in Warrenton came up, he jumped at it.
As he spoke Monday night, he realized back home in Germany it would have been his first day of school.
"It's weird, but I'm glad I'm doing it here, because back in Germany it would've been just another school year," he said. "Now, it's exciting."
CAPTION: (This graphic was not available)1999 Boys Soccer Preview