Student learns about diversity in Italy

PERUGIA, Italy — Study-abroad opportunities can be life-changing for undergraduate students, and that indeed is the case for Julianne Arcamone, a third-year student studying elementary and early childhood education with a minor in psychology.

"I think that being abroad and coming into contact with so many different cultures and languages, religions and lifestyles, will affect how I view my future classrooms in the United States," said Arcamone, who currently is studying abroad at the Umbra Institute, an American study-abroad program in Perugia, Italy. She is taking courses relevant to her degree in the States, such as PYHD 430: Human Development through Culture, and her favorite class, CESP 353: Education in Italy Seminar and Practicum.

Through dialogue and action, the Education in Italy Seminar and Practicum introduces students to community engagement based on mutual growth and reciprocity. The seminar portion of the course consists of readings and in-class discussions revolving around educational psychology, pedagogical models, the Montessori Method, and English-language teaching methods. During the practicum, students gain teaching experience as they apply their intercultural communication abilities and theoretical knowledge to field-specific work within local elementary and high schools.

As part of the Education in Italy course, Arcamone spent her semester working in a local elementary school twice a week, and teaching Montessori high school students once a week. She worked with Italian professors to help design and implement lesson plans, group work and other classroom activities, with a focus on the instruction of English language and culture.

Arcamone, who will do her student teaching in spring 2018, said she appreciated the multicultural environment to which she was exposed. She admitted that she would never have imagined that the classroom in Perugia was not filled solely with Italians.

"After a few weeks, the teacher told me that one of my students had just moved from Romania and another doesn't actually know much Italian because he just moved here [to Perugia] from Ecuador," said Arcamone as she described the challenges and rewards of teaching students with whom she could not communicate linguistically.

"As I got to know the students, I began to discover different patterns," Arcamone commented, in reference to how noticing patterns, as a teacher, can help when teaching in an environment where dissimilar cultural backgrounds are present.

Arcamone views her experience in Italy as a way to develop and test different teaching strategies, such as speaking slower and with clear enunciation, or using visuals to present ideas adapted to match various learning preferences.

"I think it is important for educators to see how teaching and learning is done in different countries," said Arcamone. She explained her belief that learning from a book is helpful, but actively participating in an unknown culture, and stepping out of one's comfort zone to observe and experience different education methods, can help educators improve their own teaching strategies, as well as better relate to students.

Ultimately, Arcamone has learned techniques for time management, language-learning and intercultural understanding in relation to learning habits and classroom discipline. She recognizes the importance of understanding diversity, and that diversity in the classroom can be used to encourage understanding and a well-rounded learning experience.

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Last Updated June 21, 2017