Kate W.

Major and Certificates: Philosophy Major, Integrated Liberal Studies Certificate, LCA-Hindi Language Certificate

Graduation Year: 2013

Current Location: Madison, WI

Languages: Hindi, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish

What have you done since graduating from UW-Madison?

My life has brought me to many places since graduation. In the summer of 2013, I was fortunate enough to attend the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program’s Hindi-language immersion course in Jaipur, India. I continued practicing and refining my Hindi for an intense 10-weeks with CLS, an abroad program organized by American Councils and funded by the US Department of State. Once I returned to the USA in September of 2013, I began work as the Program Coordinator for UW-Madison’s International Learning Community. It has been rewarding to work for a place that has given me so much opportunity and joy, and it has led me to be accepted as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kosovo starting in June of 2015. I will be teaching English to high school students, while I learn Albanian language. I am thrilled to start this new adventure, and extremely thankful to my education and Wisconsin Experience for helping me attain it.

What motivated you to study these languages?

I studied Spanish in high school and loved practicing it, but after getting the retro-credits, I thought I should take advantage of all the languages UW-Madison had to offer. My grandmother is from Croatia, so I took Serbo-Croatian to talk with her in her mother tongue. I enjoyed those classes immensely, but knew I wanted to study abroad somewhere with a language component. The UW-Madison College Year in India program caught my eye, and I began studying Hindi to prepare for my academic year in Varansi, India. That has been my most proficient language so far, although I intend to learn more.

How have these languages enriched your life?

Whether I practice them or not, all of these languages are still inside me today. I use basic Spanish to speak with cohorts, but more importantly, my first language-love Spanish encouraged my passion for language study. Serbo-Croatian brought my grandmother and I closer together, and I learned of the deep historical and cultural nuances to languages shared between different ethnic groups. Hindi-Urdu, similar to Serbo-Croatian, opened my eyes to the intricate relationship with language and the people who speak it, and my active use of Hindi in India truly made my time there unforgettable and invaluable. I still use it today, and plan to continue reading Hindi while I serve in the Peace Corps in Kosovo, where I will also practice Serbo-Croatian, and learn Albanian. All of these different languages have helped me to connect time and people in the world, as well as to better understand the person I am.

What do you remember about your UW language classes? How were they different from other classes you took?

UW-Madison language courses were more intense than others, but in a great way. I was able to extract so much more out of my class-time because of the expectation that the language would be practiced in depth. It was never too overwhelming, it was more motivating than anything else. My peers and professors held me accountable for doing my best, and I wanted to perform my best.

How valuable were your out-of-classroom experiences?

As a House Fellow, I worked along-side the International Learning Community, and thought about living there, but worried if I lived in the ILC I would not feel motivated to get involved in other parts of campus. With hindsight, I can see the benefits students gain from ILC events, seminars and other activities, and how they feel more willing to explore other opportunities around and outside of UW-Madison. It would have been the perfect place to come back to after studying abroad. Despite the reverse culture shock upon my return to the USA, my time studying abroad was one of the best experiences of my life–I cannot say enough good things about it. Living in an ancient city and learning a different culture firsthand was incredible. Whenever I travel now, I feel very confident that I can do it with little trouble due to overcoming challenges in the past. My study abroad memories keep my inspired.

How have you maintained or improved your languages since graduation?

I watch foreign language films and listen to foreign language music. I speak with people on campus who study or know the languages I’ve been working on. I read old study materials to jog my memory. There are so many ways to keep up with a language, it is surprising to me how feasible it is.

What advice do you have for current language students?

It is always worth it to learn another language–even if you cannot see the benefit now, you will see it later. Once you open yourself up to learning world languages, they will open you up to the world.

What is your favorite word or phrase in a language you know?

“Mujhe tumhari yaad aati hai.”: To me your memory comes, or “I miss you.”