Now that January is approaching, many students will be taking advantage of the multitude of J-term study options. I highly encourage every student to spend at least one January studying instead of taking a break from school; not only will it be an academically and socially rewarding experience, it can be a whole lot of fun!
The first step in making sure that you have a successful J-term experience is determining exactly what you want to do. There are several options. Probably the most common is just taking a J-term class. This is very similar to taking a class during the semester, with a few notable differences. First, obviously, is the shorter length of the class. Because you only have one month to complete the class, you’ll be going to it more often and for longer periods of time. You might go four or five days a week, and anywhere from three to five hours at a time (depending on how your school does it; there is a lot of variation). And while this may sound like way too much studying when you’re supposed to be out of school, you have to think about the class you’re taking. For example, I took an English class focused on hard-boiled detective fiction, in which we read books like The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. How cool is that? Many departments offer fun classes over J-term, so check out the catalog and see what you can find.
Another study focused option is studying abroad. Most schools offer study abroad programs, and those that don’t can hook you up with one that does pretty easily. You can travel all over the world and study whatever you’d like. Many students at my university studied theater in London, theology in Rome, and business all over Europe. I studied ghosts and monsters in 19th-century British literature in the UK. You have all kinds of options, both in classes and destinations. Some programs even travel through different areas, so you may be able to see several different countries over the course of a month. To find a study abroad program, check out www.studyabroad.com.
Another great J-term option is the service-learning trip. This is less focused on academic learning and more centered around volunteer service. You could be building houses in Mexico, helping out at a school in Tanzania, or doing natural disaster cleanup in South America. There are many service-learning organizations that take J-term trips with college students—ask around your campus, and you’ll be sure to find at least one that you can hook up with.
No matter what you do over J-term, I recommend making the most of it. Take one or two to do nothing (you deserve it), but use the rest of them to do something beneficial for yourself and others. Maybe it’s studying, maybe it’s serving, or maybe it’s something completely different. What have you spent your J-terms doing? Leave comments below and let us know!
As always, if you have any questions, comments or funny stories you'd like me to share about college or the blog, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org