Oh, the places you’ll go: J-Term 2019

Besides regular semesters, all students at Gustavus are required to pass two of the January Interim Experiences, usually referred to as the J-Terms. Lasting approximately four weeks, each J-Term provides professors and students an opportunity to immerse themselves in a unique, innovative, and expansive topic.

As J-Terms are developed with interdisciplinary and international emphases, study-abroad J-Terms have been growing in number and participation. Hundreds of Gusties have spent their January Interim Experience 2019 in all parts of the world, from Indonesia, Tanzania, Italy, to Hawaii. Three of these enthusiastic J-Term abroad students have shared with the Gustavian Weekly their global quests.

Junior Communication Studies Major Marisa Jasicki spent her J-Term “[learning] from the farmers in three different areas of Indonesia about how they are adapting to climate and economic change.” Joining her in “Anxious Harvest: Farmers Facing Climate and Economic Change” in Indonesia are ten other Gusties including her three best friends, Professor Jim Dontje, and his daughter, Audrey.

“We also went to a fourth area where we learned about marine biodiversity and eco-tourism,” Jasicki said.

With Professor Dontje’s guidance and the translator Ditrich’s assistance, Jasicki and her classmates learned about various topics concerning Indonesian farmer’s adjustments according to climate change.

“The first week, I learned a lot about rice and organic fertilizers and pesticides, along with the many challenges farmers in small villages experience.  The second week, we learned about sorghum (which is a type of grain,) which seemed to be much more resilient to climate change than rice.  The third week, we learned more about palm oil and palm oil plantations along with marine biodiversity.  The fourth week, we went to this beautiful marine biodiverse area, called Raja Ampat (translated to Four Kings) where we learned more about marine biodiversity and eco-tourism,”Jasicki said.

Besides her scientific and economic discoveries, Jasicki admired the “indescribable beauty” of Raja Ampat. She also explored a cultural site in Jakarta, where the world’s third largest mosque has been standing right next to a Catholic church for decades.

“It symbolizes how the two different religions can live in harmony and support each other. They even shared a parking lot, which really supported their encouragement and support of each other,”Jasicki said.

Jasicki would “definitely recommend this J-Term experience. It will challenge you and change you in the most beautiful way.  And I would recommend to anyone who is even slightly interested in climate change and how it affects our world.”

Exploring another country, Senior Biology Major Emily Wagner went on a trip to Italy to explore and appreciate this country’s well-known cultural delicacies and customs.

This trip is titled “Eat Italy!” and was led by professors Nate and Stephanie Otto, both from the Health and Exercise Science department.

“Before our departure, our class of 27 students stayed on campus for a week with Nate and Stephanie to prepare for the on-site experience. During this week, we visited the Faribault Cheese Cave and Chankaska Creek Winery to get a feel for tasting and talking about food. Through these activities, our class got to know each other a little bit more before leaving for Italy. Once we arrived in Italy, we were guided throughout the duration of the trip by our on-site guide, Consuelo; she was amazing and kind, and we all miss her so much,”Wagner said.

“Eat Italy!” visited “multiple different regions of Italy, including Emilia Romagna, Toscana, Campania, and Lazio, among others.” In these myriad of locations, they “were able to fully immerse ourselves into Italy’s unique culture” through a variety of activities: group meals, tastings, cooking classes, and guided tours.

“We saw how different varieties of cheeses, wines, and olive oils are produced, all while interacting with the people that actually make them. Also, we are all pros at making homemade pasta and pizza now! Aside from the food, our group got to take in much of Italy’s cities, countryside, and coastline; we saw many of the tourist hot-spots, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Rome’s Colosseum, along with some lesser talked-about sites, like the breathtaking views of Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. Overall, we learned so much about how the Italians make their food, as well as why it is so important to them,”Wagner said.

What stood out most to Wagner was how Italians value their food, which was evident in their typically over-two-hour meals with multiples courses served.

“Each dish was obviously made with intention and care. Wine is an important pairing to meals as well–they consider it to be food! Everything is made with fresh, local ingredients, and the flavors are unique and special to each region that we visited. Food in Italy is truly an art form,”Wagner said.

Wagner would also definitely recommend this J-term experience to other Gusties.

“It was a 10/10! You get to experience so much of Italy’s diverse and beautiful culture, and the food is amazing. Also, as someone who came into college not even considering studying abroad, I think that J-term is the perfect time to do it because you get to experience so many new things in a short amount of time (and then you’re back home before you know it!). For anyone who has an interest in travel, architecture, history, trying new things, and especially food, you should seriously consider eating Italy–I’m so grateful that I did.”

In yet another part of the world from “Anxious Harvest” and “Eat Italy,” Senior Communication Studies Major Courtney Erickson’s J-Term trip focused on healthcare issues in Tanzania.

“We visited the cities of Arusha, Moshi, Iringa, Tungamalenga, Mwagusi, Pomeran, and Bagamoyo. Our course was led by Barbara Zust in the nursing department and her brother Todd Mattson,”Erickson said.

According to the Senior, the goal of this trip was to look at different aspects of health in Tanzania. Besides acquiring a more holistic health perspective, Erickson learned how Tanzanians’ spirituality interacted with all parts of their lives.

“One of the biggest pieces of our trip was focused on music and how they used it as a healing modality, for both spiritual and physical aspects of life,”Erickson said.

Erickson and her classmates had the opportunity to directly interact and interview the local people of many regions of Tanzania. They not only learned about the hospitable cultures of Tanzania, but also learned to be part of them.

“I think one of the most important things that I learned personally was that even if there is such a big disparity between America and Tanzania, there are still so many things that we can learn from them and how they live and treat each other,”Erickson said.

Erickson’s favorite memorywas how friendly and generous the Tanzanian people were.

“We met these women at a market and we all got custom made pants, shirts, or skirts from her, and on one of our final days there she asked us all to come to her house for lunch and she taught two of our students how to make a traditional meal. Although she didn’t have a lot and she had to care for her four kids, she was so willing to provide for us and invite us into her home, and that is something I will never forget,” Erickson said.

Erickson finds the J-Term experience would be “beneficial for anyone to take because of emphasis on holistic health” and she would highly recommend this course for anyone interested in healthcare.

“[The trip] does look at how Tanzanians live as a whole, which is a very eye-opening experience. Aside from that, we did have the opportunity to go on a two-day Safari through Ruaha National Park as well as spend some time on an island and reflect at the end of our trip, which was definitely an added bonus,”Erickson said.