In celebration of the Jan term

From left, Molly Sherman, Mischka Johnson, Clamencia (researcher at the Las Piedras Amazon Center), Rachael Fox, and Alyssa Swartz take a break from conducting community interviews on a Jan term trip in Peru (Photo courtesy of Chandra Reiff).

McDaniel College offers students experiential learning opportunities around the world. The courses are curated by professors and are proposed to be manageable expedition learning courses that give way for profound experiences.

The three week long expedition can offer a great introduction to international travel, students report.

“I saw that there is a world outside the world I live in,” shared Deirdre Gallagher, who spent her Jan term exploring myths, monks, and monuments in Greece.

Alyssa Swartz had backpacked through the Western United States during the summer prior to a Jan term experience with McDaniel.

“Going abroad for the first time made me realize how important it is to travel and see all that is out there,” shared Swartz, who went on the Forest Online trip to Peru. “After graduating, I totally want to visit some more countries and continue to learn about other cultures!”

The length of time facilitates the creation of personalized knowledge. This looks like curiosity-driven questions, collaboration with students, and conversation about academic ideas that extend beyond the classroom.

The Jan terms are designed by professors that have a vested interest in the destination. The knowledge they hold and the connections they have are to the benefit of the students in attendance.

“The amount of information Dr. Faulkner shared, I could not magically acquire on my own,” said Danielle Wendt, who traveled to Greece for Jan term. 

Jason Scullion, Ph.D., who has piloted the Forest Online Jan term trip to the Amazon rain forest, shared that taking young people out into the natural world brings clarity to themselves and their goals. He believes that the forest has a force and the time you spend there brings things in yourself out into the light. 

In a new environment, students are able to gain new perspectives and gather insight into future career and personal goals. Scullion added that having off-campus experiences is highly impactful and can push students in new directions.

“Spending time in the rain forest and observing the amazing diversity of life there really helped to clarify further that I want to work in the field of ecology or wildlife biology,” said John McEachern, a Forest Online student.

“This experience really pushed the limits of myself and others,” shared Collin Breidenbach, a student who went on the Forest Online Jan term. “The clarity and perspective I gained just from being immersed in a different culture cannot be understated.”

Jan terms, wherever in the world they may occur, exemplify what transformational education can do for a student.

Tim Olson shared that the greatest affect the trip to Peru had on him was how it improved upon his capabilities as a wildlife educator.

“The ability to see and learn about these beautiful animals that most people would never get the chance to see was amazing,” he said. He hopes that he will be able to convey the wonder of his experiences to his campers.

Not having the internet to rely on (which is not necessarily a feature of every Jan term) for interaction encourages students to make space for deeper contemplation and socialization that they might not normally have the time for in traditional academic settings.

Breidenbach shared “not having internet access for 10 plus days was a great way to clear the mind and become more in touch with yourself, your surroundings, and make friendships with those around you.”

Many students from this trip share in the solidarity of this connection in the face of limited internet connectivity and vast amounts of nature.

“I’ll always remember the laughs, deep talks, and friendships,” said Rachael Fox. 

“The jungle has a way of forcing you to be humble and enjoy the little moments,” shared Fox. She attended the Forest Online Jan term as a student once and was able to return as a teaching assistant.

“I wanted to go to Peru again as a TA to help others experience all those self-reflection yet realignment feelings that the Amazon makes you feel,” Fox said. 

On March 26 at 7 p.m. in Decker Auditorium, students from the Forest Online Jan term trip to Peru will be sharing their time in the Amazon through storytelling. It will feature presentations from groups of students that specialized in the discovery of ecotourism, forest protection, wildlife, and community research.

“The Forest Online Jan term was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Jessie Titus. “I saw things I never thought I would see in the wild, visited places I’d only ever dreamed of, and formed friendships I never imagined.”