Language & Friendship, Inc. has a staff with more than 100 years of combined experience in intercultural and educational programs. The benefits of this expertise are reflected in the high-quality service provided.
Naomi Thomsen, Founder of Language & Friendship
Educational travel abroad was a passion for Naomi, who created Language & Friendship, Inc. The daughter of missionaries, she grew up in Madagascar. She received her teaching degree and her Master’s in French, worked at Concordia’s Language Villages, led for the Experiment in International Living, and taught in St. Paul, MN before getting into student travel. After 16 years of directing French programs for other organizations, she created L&F in 1988. In May 2004, the French government awarded Naomi the prestigious honor of Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes Académiques in recognition of her work. Naomi passed away in 2004, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Her spirit of optimism and determination will always be the inspiration and driving force behind Language & Friendship.
Liane Mattson, Director & Coordinator of Programs to France & Québec
(with L&F since 1998) After her program abroad through Concordia College, she knew she wanted to share the excitement of experiencing another language and culture. She has a double major in French and biology, worked at Concordia Language Villages, and, during her years of teaching, led students abroad several times. She was the National Director of Nacel Cultural Exchanges, organizing programs in France, Germany, and Spain. She is passionate about language education and about promoting opportunities for people to learn about other cultures. As well as many trips to France and Spain, Liane has traveled in Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Romania, Russia, and Turkey. She and her husband, Jim, have three children (’80, ’84 and ’86) who all love travel, music, and sports. They love spoiling their grandchildren, too!
Rachel Aldrich, Coordinator of Programs to Spain, Costa Rica & Argentina
(with L&F since 2004) Rachel had her first experience with Spanish as an AFS student in Argentina. She fell in love with the language and majored in Spanish. At the University of St. Thomas, she spent her junior year abroad in Granada, Spain. She taught high school Spanish for several years and led students on programs to Costa Rica, Spain, Mexico, and also on mission trips. Rachel loves to explore new places both locally and abroad and immerses herself with the locals and their food! Rachel, her husband, Stacy, and their son (’13), like to camp, ski, and, of course, travel and host!
Barbara Keenan, Coordinator of Information & Technology
(with L&F since 2006) Barbara’s love of languages started in junior high with a German class, which she continued throughout high school and into college. She studied Spanish at the University of St. Thomas, where she enjoyed her junior year abroad in Granada, Spain. After teaching Spanish and leading her own student groups to Mexico, she moved to Japan to teach English. Barbara has hosted leaders and loves creating international friendships. Barbara spends her time off with her many family members and also enjoys running, tennis, and, of course, traveling!
Laurence Gallarato, Coordinator of Programs to France & Martinique
(with L&F since 2008) A French native, Laurence grew up in Paris and lived there for 19 years. She now loves to go back “home” to visit her family in the beautiful regions of Bordeaux and Bearn. After studying in Bordeaux with a double major in History/Arts/Geography and Tourism, she worked as a tour guide in Europe before moving to the U.S. in the 1980s. She has been a teacher and has organized family-stay programs in France. She loves to travel and some of her favorite destinations (besides France, of course!) have been Greece, Ireland, Italy, and Mexico. Her hobbies are taking care of her grandsons, playing volleyball, dancing, reading, and going to movies.
Tammi Brusegaard, Coordinator of France Programs
(with L&F since 2015) Tammi moved to Germany with her family at the age of 12 where they lived for 3 years with the military. It was this experience living in Europe as a teenager that opened her eyes to travel. While in Germany she started studying French and has not stopped. Her love for France and the French language led her to participate in a student travel abroad trip after high school where she stayed with a French family. She earned a degree in French and Communication at the University of Minnesota and participated in a study abroad program in France. Tammi earned her TEFL certificate from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN, and was lucky enough to teach English in Paris for 4 years. She enjoys spending time with her family, doing DIY projects, sewing, and embroidery.
Kari Vacura, Registrar
(with L&F since 2011) Kari’s first taste of international travel came during a multi-country European tour during a summer break in college. She has since returned to Europe three times (and counting!), most recently to France. Kari has a bachelor’s degree in Management from Hamline University. She took French lessons at the Alliance Française and practices daily with her colleagues. Kari enjoys volunteer work with a variety of organizations and loves to entertain, read, and plan family vacations. She and her husband, Greg, have three children (’95, ’99, and ’02). They have hosted and her oldest daughter participated in the L&F Argentina program.
Liz Horstman, Accountant
(with L&F since 1997) First introduced to Language & Friendship by her friend and neighbor Naomi Thomsen, Liz (a CPA by trade) has worked as the accountant for L&F. On different occasions while growing up, Liz’s family lived in Oxford, England, where her father was a visiting professor. While living in England, her family traveled through Europe, particularly enjoying the Loire Valley. As a result she is still trying to master the French language! Liz and her husband have three children (’88,’92 and ’94). Liz’s oldest son spent a semester in Spain. Her daughter, who taught for two summers at Concordia Language Villages, is majoring in Spanish and International Relations at Pitt. Liz’s family has also enjoyed hosting students from Spain and France.
Michelle Roemmich, Coordinator of Hosting Program
(with L&F since 2016) Michelle started learning French in middle school and never stopped. She attended the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire where she earned a double major in Elementary Education and French teaching. During her time at UWEC, she studied abroad in Montpellier, France, where she lived with a host family in France and took advantage of the many travel opportunities in Europe. After graduation, she returned to France as an English language assistant in Niort. Michelle returned to Eau Claire, WI, the following year and spent the next several years teaching high school French. She organized a student trip to France with L&F and helped find numerous host families in the Eau Claire community before joining the L&F team! Michelle enjoys traveling, discovering new French films, seeing theatrical performances, and spending time with family and friends.