When the University of Delaware’s Louis
Arena arrives in Italy, it seems as though the entire country takes
notice, welcoming him warmly as family.
But Arena, associate professor emeritus of linguistics and cognitive
science, rarely travels to Italy alone — most often, he’s leading a
class of UD students.
“In every way, the best part of my entire trip was the insight and
knowledge Professor Arena was able to provide,” wrote one student after
participating in Arena’s study abroad program on linguistics and English
held during Winter Session this past January.
“He was always challenging us to view what we were learning in terms
of real world situations,” wrote another UD student. “We had to actually
go out and interact with citizens from each of the cities we visited
and then do a linguistic write-up on the results we found. Talking with
natives of Italy really pushed us to immerse ourselves in the culture
and the write-up was no easy task, challenging but rewarding.”
Another student noted, “Professor Arena taught me more in one month
than any other professor has in an entire semester. He truly made this a
once in a lifetime experience.”
These are just a few of the student nominations that contributed to
Arena’s selection as UD’s Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year.
A faculty panel unanimously voted for Arena to receive the honor, as well as study abroad coordinators at the Institute for Global Studies
(IGS), based on his “endless work mentoring faculty in program
development and encouragement of students to become global citizens,”
according to IGS Deputy Director Amy Johnson.
Expanding students’ cultural horizons has been a major goal of
Arena’s over the nearly 14 years he has been involved with study abroad.
While Italy has been a preferred destination for this native speaker of
an Italian dialect, Arena also has co-directed a study abroad program
in Switzerland and has considered proposing a program in Japan since
Japanese is his major language.
“In one word, ‘diversity’ is what attracts me to Italy, in every
city, village, restaurant, church, tradition, local and national
holiday, and even in the educational system throughout the country,”
Arena says. “There is diversity in the native Italian population in
terms of language, dialects, history, culture, food and beverage, among
lots of others.”
Arena says the goal of all of his study abroad programs is for UD
students to return to the U.S. and to celebrate diversity in all of its
many facets — racial diversity, cultural diversity, linguistic
diversity, historical diversity, diversity in art, social interactions,
philosophies, religions, science — and to like, if not love, the culture
and people of a country other than ours.
“My experience is that when a student 'likes' (or loves) the culture
and the people of a different country, then that student will learn the
language of the people of that country really easily, pleasantly, and
comfortably,” Arena notes.
“When students really love their experience abroad, they return as
essentially different persons. It's almost as if the students had
discovered fire for the second time in the history of mankind,” he says,
with a twinkle in his eye.
Arena was honored by the IGS staff at a luncheon held at Tarantella
di Napoli in Newark, Del., where he was presented with several gifts.
His name also now appears on a plaque displayed in Elliott Hall.
Mille grazie, caro professore!