When Hazel Park swim coach Geri Fuhr was attempting to increase the roster size of the team, her strategy was to ask every girl registering for classes if she was interested in joining her squad.
When she saw Carla Klain, she had the same question for her that she had for the other girls, “Do you know how to swim?”
When Klain said yes, Fuhr noticed an accent. That is when she learned that Klain is a foreign exchange student from Brazil.
Fuhr also learned that, aside from just being able to swim, Klain had competitive experience, having competed for a city team in her home country.
Once Fuhr learned that Klain was eligible to swim for the Vikings, it was a matter of determining her skill level.
Fuhr was in for a pleasant surprise.
“We put her in a meet, (and) she was outstanding,” she said. “We were so fortunate to get her on our team. We put her in the 500 recently; she has great endurance. She can do all the strokes well. She can do the butterfly, the free, the back, the breast. She is extremely talented.”
Living in the United States and the Hazel Park community has been a pleasant surprise for Klain, as well. She didn’t know exactly what to expect when she arrived in July or how she would be treated.
Klain said her experience here so far has been positive.
“People here are very nice,” she said. “They are friendly. They don’t know you, but (they’re) like, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ My first day at school, I was thinking no one would talk to me. Then I came here to the swim team, and people here are nice, too. Now I have friends.”
According to Fuhr, Klain has adapted well to her new environment. In fact, she has adapted so well that Fuhr believes she serves as a good role model for her peers.
According to Fuhr, Klain is getting close to straight A’s in school and has “good manners.”
When Fuhr asked her why she wanted to be a foreign exchange student, Klain replied that it would help provide better job opportunities for her in Brazil. Fuhr is impressed with the forward thinking of her 16-year-old student-athlete.
“She has good vision,” she said. “She is somebody who is preparing for her future. She’s got great character. She’s got a beautiful voice; she can play guitar. Very, very good addition to any sport she will choose to participate in this year. (She) is easy to get along with. Refreshing, very refreshing.”
While there may be plenty of people who grew up in the Hazel Park area not exactly excited about the thought of winter, it is something Klain is looking forward to. The change of seasons is not something she is used to, and she is taking time to appreciate it while she is here.
“We don’t have fall there like this,” Klain said. “The trees are so beautiful. I think it is beautiful. My city is warm almost all days of the year.”
Although Klain is living with her uncle and has other family members in the area as well, she misses her family back home. Her mother and father have provided encouragement by reminding her that her experience will be beneficial for her.
Klain is currently scheduled to go back to Brazil in January, although it is still possible her stay could be extended.
And while Klain does plan to live in Brazil when her time as an exchange student is complete, she said she will miss the people who have helped make her stay in Hazel Park enjoyable.
“I think I’ll miss my family here, and my friends,” she said. “I like the language. I like the American culture. I like those things. It’s fun here. I like it here.”