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J-Term at Carthage

The Freshman Experience

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.

Lizzie Wenzel '19 stands in front of London's Buckingham Palace during her first J-Term study tour. She traveled to England, France, and Germany to study World War II.Lizzie Wenzel '19 stands in front of London's Buckingham Palace during her first J-Term study tour. She traveled to England, France, and Germany to study World War II.

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.

Shown against the backdrop of Neuschwanstein Castle, Brittany Sherman ‘15 traveled to Germany to study representations of Germany's past.Shown against the backdrop of Neuschwanstein Castle, Brittany Sherman ‘15 traveled to Germany to study representations of Germany's past.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, traveled to New Zealand for a field study during J-Term.Kendall Vega, ‘15, traveled to New Zealand for a field study during J-Term.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.

That only fueled an interest in comparative politics for Kendall, a political science and religion major from Kenosha. For her, the opportunity to travel as a freshman was a no-brainer.

“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.’”

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2018), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • Scheduled to open in fall 2018, a new residential tower will offer suite-style housing and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about The Tower

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • 96% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit Career Services.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. 95% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • As a freshman in the highly selective Honors Program, learn how to gain expertise in anything from music to forest ecology. After that, tackle a contemporary social, economic, or political problem. If you like, you can live on an Honors-only floor of a Carthage residence hall. 

    • In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Carthage was named a top producer of Fulbright Scholars by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our athletic and recreation center, student union, computer labs, audiovisual production suite, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 10 years. Our new science center caps it off.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to athletic training, neuroscience to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of our students receive financial aid, a hefty chunk of which is scholarships and grants — including $1.25 million annually from the Presidential Scholarship Competition and numerous Merit Scholarships. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” says biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 30 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from 75% tuition up to full tuition, room, and board. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 120 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Chemistry Club, to Frisbee and Latin Belly Dancing. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • Imagine presenting your original research at an international conference — as an undergraduate. Carthage is dedicated to undergraduate research. Learn more about current opportunities.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …