While some students may be glued to Twitter updates on the latest celebrity gossip, Austin Mix checks the news feed on his phone for unfolding international dramas.
"Most kids don't have a genuine interest in U.S. foreign policy, but I do," said Mix, who also enjoys flipping through issues of The Economist.
He and four other students from Beaufort High School will compete Saturday against 42 schools across the nation in the 11th Annual Academic WorldQuest National Competition at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
The competition, hosted by the World Affairs Councils of America, tests high school students' knowledge of international affairs, current events and foreign policy topics.
Four-person teams compete by answering multiple-choice questions divided into 10 thematic categories ranging from U.S. energy policy, education and economic competitiveness to the Middle East and the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
"These students represent some of the very best of the nation's young minds with a keen interest for the trends and implications of today's global affairs," said Blaine Lotz, president of the local World Affairs Council. "We're looking forward to cheering them on at Academic WorldQuest and as they continue to cultivate the skills and knowledge needed to live, work and thrive in the global economy."
The Beaufort High team -- Mix, Michael Schwartz, Shaye McAuliffe, Ciaran Cordial and Andrew Woods -- won the trip after clenching a regional qualifier hosted by the World Affairs Council of Hilton Head.
They won a tie-breaker at the end of a three-hour marathon March 2 that featured 100 difficult questions about current events and national security issues by naming more of OPEC's 12 member countries than the Hilton Head team.
Their training regimen includes reading 50 or more pages a day of U.S. government and United Nations reports, policy speeches and Wall Street Journal articles.
Then run-throughs of practice questions every Thursday. Such as: What percentage have college tuition fees risen in the U.S. since 1990? The answer: More than 274 percent.
"The reading is really dry," Mix said. "But I've always liked learning about what's going on between our relations with other countries. I get engrossed."
Learning about global affairs was an everyday routine for most of the students, growing up in households with a father who worked for the State Department, as in Wood's case, or a sibling who is now a national political analyst, as in Cordial's.
"It's always been a part of my life," Cordial said. "My dad always had the news on while eating dinner. It's been sort of a subliminal thing for me to know what's going on."
Ditto for Mix, who says he remembers being glued to the TV as early as kindergarten, transfixed by developments after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and build up to the Iraq War.
In today's interconnected world, events in one country have rapid and dramatic ripple effects in the U.S., said coach and social studies teacher Deborah Kidd. That's why it's important students are knowledgeable about other countries and cultures -- understanding that will be essential as they prepare for college.
"I think Beaufort High is somewhat overlooked some times, and I'm glad that we're getting this recognition, because (the students) deserve it," Kidd said. "They work hard."