What can you expect from your first J-Term at Carthage? New friends, immersive study, and a month you won’t forget — whether you stay on campus, or get a head start touring the world.
All first-year students are required to take a J-Term course their freshman year. Most first-year students stay on campus for their first J-Term, but freshmen can participate in a J-Term study tour if spots are available.
When Brittany Sherman ’15 was a freshman at Carthage, a J-Term study tour to Germany gave her a richer understanding of that country’s history than she could have gleaned from a textbook.
Only one semester into her time at Carthage, Brittany traveled to Germany with Prof. Gregory Baer for the course Representations of Germany’s Past. Students visited cultural and historical sites and met with students, scholars, and civic planners to see the factors that affect how people view history.
The “indescribable” experience of seeing the Dachau concentration camp and hearing the recollections of a survivor stand out in Brittany’s mind. Although she calls the study tour a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it has sparked an interest in future Carthage expeditions.
“I never could have traveled and done all we did for the same price on my own,” Brittany said.
Overseas travel also helped Brittany, a neuroscience major from Bloomington, Ill., bond with a diverse mix of students.
“A lot of them I never would have met if it weren’t through this trip, since we have distinctly different majors and would not have traditional classes together,” she said.
A zoom lens on another government
Kendall Vega ’15 had been to Europe but was interested to see another part of the world. A J-Term 2012 study tour in New Zealand accomplished that.
As a freshman, Kendall was part of a group of students who traveled with Prof. Brent McClintock, who teaches economics, and Prof. Michael Phegley, who teaches business and pre-law. Through field work in the vastly changing nation, students were able to analyze the similarities and distinctions between U.S. and New Zealand public policies.
“It’s a chance to travel in a safe environment for a good price, all while learning about a foreign country,” she said. “I wanted to visit New Zealand because I knew I would be able to experience a completely new culture without having to deal with a language barrier.”
Though she was halfway around the world, Kendall said she felt at home.
“When the trip started, I was nervous because I was the only freshman in the group,” she said, “but the other students welcomed me so quickly that I completely forgot what I was nervous about and just enjoyed myself. I’ll always remember the lengthy plane rides, the waterfalls, the mountains and the cheerful New Zealanders.”
Viewing campus from a new perspective
As a freshman, Maddie Gronset ’17 stayed on campus in January and faced the cold weather. But ask Maddie about her first J-Term, and she’ll answer that she had just as much fun as those who traveled elsewhere.
Maddie took the J-Term course “The Pursuit of Happiness” taught by sociology professor Ellen Hauser. The class focused on finding happiness in the now and within yourself, Maddie says. They read books on the Dalai Lama and spent days talking about The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. As a class they also participated in meditation and improvisation games.
One of the greatest assignments in the class, Maddie says, was to spend a full day without power: No computers. No televisions. No cell phones. Nothing.
Getting away from the screens was a form of meditation, Maddie explains. The exercise made her explore new things, and opened her eyes to how beautiful the campus is, even in the winter months. It also sparked her interest in the impact media has on society, causing her to change her major to communication.
“It’s crazy how much I learned from a class I thought was going to be about ways to be happy,” Maddie says. “I am glad I had the month to focus on this class because it was an eye-opening experience.”
“Hollywood Does Psychology”
Fred McCann ’17 also stayed on campus for J-Term his freshman year. A football player, he had daily workouts, so traveling wasn’t an option.
“I wanted to take a class that would interest me and help boost my GPA,” Fred says. “I came across the course Hollywood Does Psychology, and I knew right away that it was going to be my first J-Term class.”
“The first day of class, we spent a half hour learning about the psychological concept of aggression, and then we watched the movie ‘Goodfellas’ for the remainder of the class,” he says. “J-Term classes are structured to last three hours every day of the week, and this class was no exception. But man, it sure didn’t feel like three hours when you are watching some of the best movies every made.”
The students write a short paper every day about the movie they had watched and how it related to a specific psychological concept.
“My first J-Term was a great experience,” Fred says. “My work for the day was often done by lunch, leaving plenty of free time to hang with friends. I also met my future roommate, gained a broad understanding of subject outside my major, and earned a 4.0 GPA — all while watching phenomenal movies such as ‘Star Wars (Return of the Jedi)’ and ‘The Shining.’”