Jan Term at McDaniel: Three weeks of exploration

Gales at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo courtesy of Mark Gales.

Senior Mark Gales says his favorite part of both of his Jan Terms abroad, to Berlin and Dublin, was connecting with fellow students and forging new friendships. He said the experience also helped events from history books, such as the Holocaust and the fall of the Berlin Wall, come alive. “It made it all seem so real,” Gales said on his visit to a concentration camp.

January Term offers McDaniel students the opportunity for an in-depth and exciting three weeks of exploring a totally new subject, taking on an internship, or studying abroad.

“Jan Term is part of what makes McDaniel unique,” said Stephanie Madsen, associate dean for sophomores.

If students choose to dive into a new subject on campus during the few weeks prior to the second semester, they will attend around 14 days of classes. Other students can choose to study abroad for their Jan Term which is usually a 1-3 week trip.

“This short trip is great for students because most are usually nervous about traveling abroad on their own,” said Elizabeth Davis, director of International and Off-Campus Programs. “And for some it’s their first time being outside of the country.”

In these abroad programs, students travel in groups with the support, planning, and organization of McDaniel professors and staff.

One example of these abroad programs is Discovering Dublin and Beyond. This program is hosted by Student Academic Support Services (SASS) of McDaniel.

“Our program is designed for students with disabilities in the mind,” said Dana Neville, associate director of SASS and coordinator of special programs. Gales was one of the students that traveled on Neville’s Jan Term. “After traveling on the first trip, Mark emerged as a leader and grew confident about traveling abroad,” Neville said.

“We gear our trip abroad to Dublin or Berlin, towards helping students with disabilities have the confidence of traveling alone. We want them to learn how to handle and be comfortable with experiencing a whole new culture, currency, food and language,” Neville added.

Many abroad programs, like Neville’s, have pre-departure meetings so students know what to expect when traveling and how to feel secure in a new culture.

“Students get a whole new perspective when learning a topic in a different country. For example, students can learn about ecotourism in Peru or Greek history and culture in Greece,” said Davis.

“Jan Terms, even on campus, allow time for students to learn new topics and dive into new subjects with friends,” said Madsen.

“My favorite part of both Jan Terms abroad was meeting other McDaniel students and creating friendships,” said Gales.

On-campus Jan Term courses also offer their own learning experiences.

There is a new course being developed and offered as a Jan Term called My Design. “The course is to encourage students to be comfortable taking a Jan Term as a freshman,” said Madsen. “The course is to allow students the chance to see at the beginning of their academic development, the value of liberal arts and to design their experiences over the next few years to maximize their time at McDaniel.”

This course, like many others on campus, is designed to help prepare students for their future and expand their knowledge on subjects beyond their major – the main goal of a liberal arts college.

“My Design course is designed to give students time to connect with employers and show them their opinion of liberal arts and the post grad opportunities that liberal arts provides,” said Madsen.

One Jan Term course is required by McDaniel undergraduate students as part of the McDaniel Plan. Professors and staff at McDaniel have focus groups and surveys to allow students the chance to give feedback about what they hope to see in the future, and their ideas of potential improvements to Jan Terms abroad and on campus.