Carthage is ranked No. 5 in the nation among baccalaureate institutions for student participation in short-term study abroad
Every January since 1973, Carthage students have left wintry Wisconsin to explore new corners of the world.
“J-Term is one of the most amazing things about Carthage.”
They head to Sweden to study international business and marketing, meeting with top executives at major companies like Volvo Cars, Saab Aerospace, and ABB Robotics.
They head to Rome to study the myth and politics in Shakespeare’s Roman plays. They study art in Senegal; rural development practices in Guatemala; the neurobiology of marine invertebrates by scuba diving off Roatan Island in Honduras.
In India, students examine the benefits and problems that arise from the country’s religious pluralism. In Turkey, they spend weeks exploring the remains of Greco-Roman cities and sanctuaries.
Every year, new destinations are added. More than 400 Carthage students traveled with faculty to 21 countries as part of the College’s January Term 2018.
“J-Term study tours have become part of the culture of the College,” said David Steege, senior associate provost.
This culture has earned Carthage a place in the Top 5 among baccalaureate institutions for student participation in short-term study abroad. The Institute of International Education ranked Carthage No. 5 in the nation in its 2018 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange.
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January Term is just one of the many areas in which Carthage excels, said Study Abroad Director Erik Kulke, assistant professor of modern languages. The program allows faculty and students to tackle subjects that don’t fit neatly into textbooks, explore topics normally outside their disciplines, and see first-hand the artwork, architecture, culture, and geography that they are studying.
“If you’re reading Shakespeare in the classroom, that’s one thing, but if you’re actually able to be in Rome and see where these different events took place, or if you’re taking an art history class in Italy and you’re actually seeing these works instead of looking at slides or a book, it makes a huge, huge difference,” Prof. Kulke said.
Every J-Term, Carthage professors offer between 15 and 25 study tours to such destinations as Nicaragua, China, Ireland, and Israel. In recent years, faculty have expanded their J-Term offerings into the summer months, offering study tours during June, July, and August.
There are also more than 90 courses offered on campus, in which students build telescopes, create museum exhibits, study forensic science, examine the biology of cancer, learn cartographic design, prepare for law school, and more. Students must complete at least two J-Term courses during their time at Carthage, although most students choose to participate in J-Term every year.
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Whatever subject students choose, whether on campus or off, Carthage’s J-Term has a history of solidifying career plans, awakening new interests, and changing lives, students and faculty say. The study tours play an enormous role in that.
“J-Term is one of the most amazing things about Carthage,” said Carthage alumna Breannin Beelow ’13. “When I was a freshman, there was a music study tour to Namibia, Africa. It was honestly one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”
“I went with a group of students and two professors to the island of Ometepe, Nicaragua, where we worked in rural medical clinics,” recalled Carthage alumnus Alex Nelson ’14, who double-majored in biology and music. “The hands-on experience from the clinics is something most pre-med students do not get until they are in medical school. … I will always remember and truly cherish the interaction we had with the people of Nicaragua and the new friends we made.”
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“It’s really thrilling to show students the world. You see dimensions of your students you might never see in a regular classroom.”
“J-Term study tours offer students a short-term study abroad experience that they couldn’t get by simply going on a trip,” said Prof. Steege. “These are academic courses and they offer insights into an area’s culture, geography, and experiences that people would never get on an ordinary trip.” It’s four credits of intense academic work, and students are on site doing oral presentations and research.
Most study tours are led by multiple professors. “You’re getting two different faculty members with two different perspectives so students get a much richer experience,” Prof. Steege continued. “Students are going to Africa and talking to the minister of finance. They’re going to Sweden and seeing how major car companies actually work.”
Professors Seemee Ali and Michael McShane have teamed up to teach Shakespeare in Rome during J-Term. Students read three of Shakespeare’s most famous Roman plays before spending two weeks in Rome visiting locations relevant to Shakespeare’s work.
“J-Term broadens their horizons in a very liberal way,” Prof. Ali said. “Because we were reading Shakespeare, which was very familiar to them, my students could feel at home in Rome. By the time they left, they really knew the city well. They gained a kind of authority in the city and became fearless travelers in the best way.
“It’s really thrilling to show students the world,” she continued, “and you see dimensions of your students you might never see in a regular classroom.”