In just two weeks’ time, I’ll be returning to school—several weeks earlier than many of my friends. While there, I’ll trudge through ankle-deep snow and fight bitter winds day after day in the constant battle to attend class and eat food. The radiator in my dorm room will most likely be less than adequate, and I’ll spend most of my time with three coats on and a mug of tea in my hands.
We call this J-term, a third semester many schools offer which encompasses only the month of January. The often-cold, dark, campus-half-empty time of year, for those of us who know it well.
And yet, despite all of this, I think J-term is an experience no student should miss.
What could possibly make it worth the arctic conditions and dreary skies, you ask? Well, first of all, most schools only allow a student to take one or two classes during J-term. Since these classes must be completed in a month, they usually meet Monday through Friday.
J-term classes are often different than those offered during the rest of the year. Some majors will offer special workshops or seminars geared at specific areas of interest. J-term is a time for you to dig into things that really interest you and focus exclusively on them, without any general education requirements muddying the waters. It’s a time to be creative and think outside the box.
Another benefit of the one-or-two class scenario is that it gives us a break from the regular university schedule. Campus is also much less crowded, which is quite nice if you’re an introvert. Even if you’re not, the lower amount of people can be a benefit because it gives you time to make close relationships. Dorms are usually half empty, which allows those there to form a special kind of bond. And since you’re probably going to be in a class that focuses on a specific area of interest to you, you’re likely to meet people who are interested in the same things you are. That’s often the foundation of a friendship.
J-term is also a prime time to study abroad. Most schools will offer month-long trips during this time, and many of them are for credit. What’s better than traveling during the dreariest month of the year and getting class credit for it? I can’t think of much.
J-term trips are great for those who want to go abroad but are nervous about committing a whole semester to it. They offer you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a culture for three or four weeks, and then return home before the homesickness has even hit. If you live in a cold climate, J-term trips have the added benefit of spiriting you away to somewhere warm. I know that’s what I want in Indiana in the middle of January!
Many schools offer internship opportunities during J-term. The great thing about this is that the lack of classes gives you an opportunity to put your whole heart and soul into your internship—and you don’t have to give up an entire summer!
J-term may seem like a bit of a drag when you’re packing up the car weeks before your friends, but I think you’ll find it’s pretty exciting once you get there. And after this interesting, creative break, you’ll be rested and ready when regular classes start up in February!