January Term study abroad programs leave an impact

Gustavus Adolphus College has a 50-year history in helping students study abroad. For the last 15 years, January Off- Campus Coordinator Linda Shaw, has been a part of this history by creating opportunities for students to study abroad during January Interim.

J-term study abroad opportunities allow groups of students to travel to different parts of the world on an intensive, one-month trip, where they study a single topic taught by the Gustavus professor accompanying them.

“A lot of times [studying abroad for J-term] is to get their feet wet, to see if they want to travel for a semester or another J-term,” Shaw said.

This past January, students traveled to a variety of places, which included Peru, Scandinavia, Cuba, Spain, India and Nepal, and Ireland.

January program fees are the estimates of the trips’ cost up until the beginning of the next academic year, where the final cost is determined. While scholarships are not available for J-term programs, students can apply for personal loans.

The March 1 deadline for applying for loans is close to a year ahead of time.

Although not as cost effective as a semester or year abroad, January programs are popular for a variety of reasons.

“J-term is short, but it gets you [to that country]; the experience is impactful and never goes away,” Shaw said.

January study abroad trips give students a quick and concise experience through the cultural emersion combined with the lesson plans. Students studying abroad are able to absorb the culture and their surroundings, while enhancing their experience by discussion of their class topic.

Students studying abroad in Peru for J-Term 2014 show off their climbing skills. Submitted
Students studying abroad in Peru for J-Term 2014 show off their climbing skills. Submitted

Sophomores Cole Tucker and Thomas Buan found their experiences very rewarding. Tucker studied in Cuba and Buan studied abroad in Ireland. While in Ireland, Buan worked with two Irish directors, Martin Maguire and Patrick Sutton. The Gustavus students in that abroad program worked on a showcase that they presented to the students at the Irish Gaiety School of Acting.

“You just have to take that leap of faith when you know there is no safety net; you just have to trust that you will get to the other side,” Buan said.

While in Dublin, Buan stayed in a hostel and backpacked. The cost of luxuries and necessities in Ireland was slightly more expensive for Buan and his peers; the conversion rate is currently 1 Euro to 1.37 US Dollar. Although the J-term trip was slightly more expensive than he had initially planned for, Buan feels as though his trip was worth the cost.

For Tucker, traveling to Cuba allowed him to clear up misconceptions that have been said about the people and system.

“I recognize now not to take things at face value, to find truths on my own, to give back and not waste the privileges I have,” Tucker said.

The Cuba group stayed at Martin Luther King Memorial Center while they visited Pinar del Rio, Santiago de Cuba, and Havana.

“The experience in Cuba is one that will never leave me, even when I leave it,” Tucker said.