Kate Thornborough

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Majors and certificates

French Language; African Languages and Literature

Graduation year


After graduation

After graduating, I worked briefly as a substitute teacher before abandoning the 9-5 workforce for a job as a flight attendant for a major US airline. I have flown all over the world, both for work and pleasure, and get to meet and work with new people who are as passionate about travel and culture as I am. The job has suited me very well, as I get considerable time off to travel the world, and at a significantly reduced cost, no less. I also have an extremely flexible schedule that gives me lots of freedom to substitute teach part-time, as well as volunteer in my community.


I was passionate about French since middle school, where I had a series of wonderful teachers that encouraged me to open my eyes to the world around me. When I got to UW-Madison, I continued to have great professors who were always supportive of my ventures. For Arabic, I was always curious about it as my family is half Egyptian. The culture was there, but growing up, the Arabic language was a missing link. Studying it in college enabled me to connect with my grandparents and family in ways that I couldn't before. The dual complexity and simplicity of Arabic intrigued me, and the variety of cultures and traditions practiced across the Middle East and Southeast Asia kept me coming back for more.

How language enriched

I use French and Arabic on a day-to-day basis on my flights as an interpreter, and the extra money certainly doesn't hurt. It also feels good to be able to help a family get their vacation started on the right foot - or end on the right note - by being able to answer their questions and talk with them. Additionally, when I travel, both languages come in handy with being able to find my way around many countries, even some I didn't expect. Arabic helped me make friends in the Netherlands, and French helped me make friends in Albania. After learning two languages, I can learn new languages easier and quicker, as I already know how my brain likes to memorize new vocabulary and grammar rules. My Spanish is vastly improving, and my Russian is coming along nicely as well.

Favorite memory

My UW language classes were much smaller than most of my other courses, and they were intense and discussion-based, which I loved. Being able to talk to someone and being forced to rack your brain for how to say something is the best way to learn a language, in my opinion. It makes you seek out new vocabulary, and you learn so much from the person you're talking with - it's a win-win. The professors were also vey understanding, and were adept at gauging the class discussions and providing extra instruction at points we struggled with. Valued experiences

How language was maintained

I use both languages everyday at work, helping and chitchatting with passengers as I fly them around the world. I also travel frequently for fun, and being able to speak multiple languages is incredibly useful.

Advice for others

Keep studying, and always be looking for the best learning techniques that work for you. Not everyone can make some flash cards and be fluent in a week - don't forget to listen to music and read books and watch movies in the target language, and make friends that you can chat with in that language. UW-Madison has many areas where you can hang out with people who speak the language you're trying to learn, whether via a language exchange or a group meet up like at the French house or the Arabic house.

Favorite word or phrase

voyager - meaning to travel!


Being able to talk to someone and being forced to rack your brain for how to say something is the best way to learn a language.