CHICAGO — Meredith Chait has learned to speak hockey quite fluently since moving to Latvia eight months ago.
The Gold Coast native and Loyola Academy graduate is on a Fulbright Scholarship teaching English as a second language to college and high school students in Ventspils, a city of about 40,000 on the Baltic Sea.
Chait also has played hockey since she was an 8-year-old skating around at Johnny's IceHouse on the Near West Side. The now-25-year-old still relishes the sport and spends hours of her free time instructing 5- to 9-year-olds at a hockey rink in Ventspils. She also shoots pucks at goalies ages 13 to 18.
But Chait doesn't speak Latvian — except for a few words like "Go" or "Iziet" — and the young skaters don't know English.
"So I use my body language and hand signals and hockey stick," Chait said. "I love the sport and I wanted to stay involved with it in any aspect. And this was a good chance to play and connect with the community."
As a high school senior, Chait helped lead Loyola to a runner-up finish in the 2009 state tournament, losing in the finals to New Trier at the United Center. That capped a 10-year commitment to the sport where Chait would commute as much as two hours each way to trek to rinks in the suburbs.
"Two hours doesn't seem too bad if it's either that or not play hockey," Chait said.
Chait also has a passion for international studies. Before moving to Chicago, her family lived in Brussels for three years. Her minor at Kansas was Swahili and, after graduating, she spent three months volunteering in Tanzania. Chait's major was journalism/international studies, and her ultimate goal is to become a war correspondent.
For now, she's happy helping others enhance their English and hockey skills.
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