Raised in Europe with an American education, Katarina was able to enjoy a trilingual upbringing (Slovak, German, English), which prompted her to pursue a degree in linguistics and cognitive science at Rice University. She went on to complete an M.A. in international education at Columbia University under the Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship, focusing on East Asia. After extensive Chinese-language study, she moved to China, where she facilitated student exchanges and cultural programming at several nonprofit and for-profit educational institutions. She joined Whittle to promote study-abroad programs among pre-college students.