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Exchange students playing a role on the field

    For some athletes in the United States, soccer is just a sport. A game that is not revered as highly as football, baseball or basketball.
    But for foreign exchange students Mika De Asis and Ray Zeng, soccer is so much more. It is a way to bridge a cultural gap between their respective countries and America.
    De Asis and Zeng are different in many ways. De Asis, a senior at Statesboro High School, stands at just 4-foot-11. Zeng, who attends Bulloch Academy, is closer to six foot.
    De Asis hails from the Philippines, with Zeng from China.
    What the pair does have in common is their love for soccer and how the game has brought them closer to their classmates in America.
    “Most of my friends play soccer. They help me a lot. Everytime we see each other in the hall they say ‘hi,’” Zeng said. “You can see many different people. Sports is very important. It can help (you meet) many friends.”
    Not only is Zeng a member of Bulloch Academy’s soccer team, but said he has also joined the track team. Zeng plans to try out for the football team during his time in America.
    On the field, Zeng is starting to make an impression with his coaches.
    BA soccer coach Matthew Meek said Zeng is a quality player who makes an impact for the Gators.
    “Ray is a good, quality technical player and hopefully a guy that will get into the flow of American soccer,” Meeks said. “He’s doing great work in the classroom and hopefully going to be able to help us on the soccer field in the next couple of months.”
    For De Asis, making an impact on the soccer field is something she’s used to.
    In the Philippines, De Asis, 17, was selected to play for the Philippines’ national soccer team at the age of 14. She said the experience helped her translate her skills to Statesboro.
    “When I joined the training camp (in the Philippines) most of the players knew each other so I had to adjust, too. It’s similar here (in Statesboro),” De Asis said. “My teammates here are very accepting. I have fun when I’m here. I’m starting to fall for them. I always look forward to practice with them. That’s the most exciting part of my day.”
    De Asis said she enjoys the serenity America has to offer. A stark contrast compared to the Philippines—a place she describes as a “third-world country.”
    Statesboro and De Asis seem to be on a roll lately. The Lady Blue Devils (4-2, 2-1 Region 3-AAAAA) are scheduled to take on South Effingham High School.
    “What’s great about it is seeing the benefit that they get from the people here and also our girls this year get to learn from (De Asis’) experience,” said Statesboro High School athletic director Chad Prosser. “She has a positive outlook on everything and she has really been a blessing to our soccer team and just the school in general.”
    SHS is coming off a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory over highly-touted Effingham County.
    “Playing soccer) helps a lot in making friends. That’s the main reason I came (to America). To meet new people and they are open to new cultures,” De Asis said.
    Zeng said he came to America to learn the culture. Candidly, Zeng said he was never a good student in China, but seems to flourish at Bulloch Academy.
    When he first came to the United States Zeng admitted he couldn’t stand the taste of one of America’s quintessential cuisines—burgers.
    After a month, Zeng said he can eat three burgers in one sitting. Certainly a testament to his transition into the American culture.
    “The first time I came here, English was very hard because I can not keep up with the pace. My friends would be playing and I would have to study and study hard. I have to study again, again and again,” Zeng said. “I have to read every page to make sure I get a good grade. My teammates helps me a lot. They make me feel more confident.”
    Zeng and De Asis both hope to pursue a future in America. De Asis said if she doesn’t receive a soccer scholarship offer she will likely return to the Philippines.
    Zeng plans to attend college in the United States and become a “successful businessman.”