This post is a bit overdue, but it is time to write about what I consider the most unique part of the Middlebury curriculum – J-term. J-term, for those who do not know, is a term in our academic year that lasts for only one month, January. During January students take only one class, which allows them to focus solely on that subject for the entire month. This means that students can be less fearful about meeting the requirements of the class because they have no other courses to worry about. Courses offered during J-term are also unique, while some mainstays of the curriculum like Organic Chemistry and other intro classes, or upper level requirements, most students take a course that is something completely new to them, or something that you would not expect to see offered. The quirkiness of many of these course allows students to explore topics that interest them in a way that makes them nonthreatening I used my first J-term to explore the arts here at Middlebury, something that I wanted to do, but I was afraid that I lacked the skill and artistic ability to participate in studio art classes at the college level. Having a less rigorous course schedule, and more time to complete work with, I was easily able to take my first art class at Middlebury. My experience with the arts here convinced me to take several more classes, all of which have provided me with great experiences, as well as new techniques and skills that I never thought I would know.
I think the one problem with J-term is how few classes you will be able to take before you graduate. The classes offered during this time of the year take both students and professors out of their comfort zones, and both groups explore entirely new subject matter with each other. It is easy to see the excitement in both students and their professors as both become immersed in the beauty of learning and exploring, which at the end of the day is what the liberal arts are all about. A few of my favorite classes offered during J-term range the spectrum of science, literature, languages, and the humanities. One of my friends here at the college took a class during her sophomore J-term called “Caveman Chemistry” during which she learned about chemistry through science projects that you might see in a 5th grade classroom, such as, how to make soap and paper. Another group of my friends took a class about the Lord of the Rings, just like everyone else in the world, they are huge Tolkien fans, during their class they read the trilogy, the Hobbit, and the Silmarillion. The best part about this class was that it was taught by a computer science professor who simply had a passion for the Lord of the Rings.
The other great thing about J-term are the experiences students have outside of the classroom. Only taking one class, which often meets only a few times a week, and for only part of the day allows students to explore the social, cultural, and community aspects of Middlebury as well. J-term workshops offer student the ability to take fun, non-academic courses such as iron-working making your own Adirondack chair, and a cooking class to learn how to make that special someone fall in love with you through their stomach. J-term also offers you perhaps the best skiing opportunity you may have in your entire life. Free shuttles to and from the College take students to Middlebury’s own ski slopes at the Snow Bowl.
In my eyes, J-term symbolizes everything that Middlebury is about. It is a unique way to accomplish our liberal arts mission. The opportunity to learn in a unique environment provides students academic opportunities, which they would not otherwise have. J-term is my favorite part of the Middlebury curriculum, and the memories that I have created here during J-term will always be some of my fondest memories from Midd.