A chance to focus on one course, to travel or intern. What’s not to love about January (and J-term)?
My favorite time of the year is just around the corner – January, and with it, J-term.
J-term is a month-long semester when students focus on one area of interest. It’s offered by institutions on the 4-1-4 academic calendar, like my school, Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
Students at these institutions take a full course load during the fall and spring semesters, but during January, campus takes a step back from the grind of full-semester classes. This gives students a chance to seek out new experiences in an academic setting without the distractions of a full course load.
Many use the month to explore a subject that might not otherwise fit into their major.
An example: My freshman year I had the opportunity to study 17 Woody Allen films under the direction of a philosophy professor, where we spent time examining his evolution as an artist. Other friends have tried their hands at whittling in “Scandinavian Fine Handcrafts,” or in a chemistry course like “Kaboom: The Science of Explosions.”
While J-term offers unique opportunities on campus, it’s also the perfect time for travel.
Nervous about spending an entire semester abroad, but still want the experience? Go in January – you skip tourist season without missing out on too much back home.
Do you know what’s going on in January on most college campuses? Naps and sweatpants.
Last year, I had the pleasure of studying the lives and writings of two great authors while traveling in the U.K. with two members of the English department. Our texts? J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicle of Narnia.
Some head off-campus for other pursuits. Recent Luther grad Seth Duin spent last January interning full-time with Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) in Minneapolis.
“The whole month was a blast,” Duin told the Luther alumni magazine (PDF). “The internship affirmed that a career in radio could be a definite possibility for me in the future.”
Still more head around the country for preliminary student teaching practicums, getting hands-on experience in the classroom before they commit to the major.
J-term also brings interesting voices to campus.
This year I’m looking forward to working with award-winning novelist Jane Hamilton, who will be visiting campus to teach a creative writing class. If it weren’t for J-term, I wouldn’t have room in my schedule for another writing course as I enter my final semester of undergrad.
A chance to focus on one course, to travel or intern. What’s not to love about J-term?
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