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When Guerin senior basketball player Margaret Klich first found out that she had been selected for a trip to Bangkok, Thailand, she was just excited.
She never expected that her life would change forever.
“I feel my eyes have opened up to the different cultures in this world,” Klich said. “Every place is special and unique in their own way and I learned so much when I was over there.”
Klich had to write essays and collect numerous recommendations for HighSight — which offers academic and social support to Chicago high school students — as well as the AFS exchange program, before being picked. HighSight offers scholarships, tutoring, mentoring, leadership development and college readiness programs.
Klich departed July 1 and stayed with a host family until Aug. 23 during her time in Thailand, which is more than 8,500 miles and a 22-hour plane trip from Chicago.
“The households were different, their culture was different and the schools, buildings and weather were all different,” Klich said. “It was really hot. They have wild dogs walking around everywhere, which is crazy. It’s a completely different environment over there. They somewhat taught me their language, but it didn’t really carry over with me, though. They take English classes and know the basics of English and we also used our hands to communicate.”
Klich’s typical day consisted of waking up around 6 a.m. and having breakfast with the family before heading to school. She would either take classes or help teach English to the children.
After school, she would hang out with the students, playing basketball or going out for ice cream. Klich would then join the family on a trip to the market to get food for that evening’s dinner. They would then watch television or movies, which proved difficult for Klich because of the language barrier.
“It was challenging to be part of an environment completely different than America,” Klich said. “It was hard to adjust to the different ways, but the people were very friendly and I learned a lot from the experience.”
Maybe the most gratifying part for Klich was being able to help teach English classes to the children.
“Their teachers were not very helpful because they didn’t know how to speak the language well,” Klich said. “I would go from class to class and help them speak the language, set up lesson plans and just help them understand our language in some way. They had a huge ceremony at the end when we were leaving and they said they learned a lot from me. I’m glad they did because it made me feel a lot better that I was able to help.”
Guerin coach Johnnie Gage is not surprised that one of his players could have an impact like that.
“We have very smart athletes at Guerin,” Gage said. “Most of the girls are not looking for basketball scholarships; they’re looking for academic scholarships because their careers are not in athletics.”
Klich took part in a ceremony where students and teachers brought a large candle to the temple for the monks, who remain in the temple during the entire rainy season, studying or mediating. There is no electricity in the temple, so the candle provides light.
Klich also enjoyed riding on an elephant.
Klich’s summer went much better than her senior season on the basketball court has gone.
She tore a ligament in her elbow in the fourth game of the season when she got tangled up with an opponent trying to block out for a rebound.
Klich returned to practice Jan. 21 and got on the court briefly during Friday’s game against St. Edward.
“I was not able to do much, but it just felt great to even be on the court,” Klich said. “It was totally worth it.”~.