Why Studying Abroad During J-Term is the Best

I have always wanted to travel. Like every kid, I grew up hearing stories about far away lands full of castles and learning about countries with landscapes and histories that one could never fully understand at a desk in a classroom. However, despite the travel bug that bit me and inspired me to want to have my own Lizzie McGuire Movie-type adventures exploring ancient cities (and hopefully becoming an international pop star?), I am a total homebody. There is no way that a semester abroad would work for me—I enjoy my dog, peanut butter, and Hulu too much.

Given my circumstances, January Term at GAC provided the absolute best opportunity for me to follow my heart’s desire to travel the world. I spent January abroad studying fantasy and folklore (two of my favorite things! Woohoo!) in the United Kingdom. I spent two and a half weeks in London (with day trips to Oxford and Wales) and a week and a half in Edinburgh. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. 10 out of 10. Would recommend.

So, why study abroad during J-Term?

1. You get all of the travel and tourism of a semester abroad but with fewer textbooks.

Yes, J-Term classes abroad are still classes. However, the class I took while I was gone was focused on FANTASY AND FOLKLORE! Our class sessions were spent discussing monster theory and our recent field trips to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour and Wales. There are definitely worse ways to spend your January and worse classes that you could take…

2. Minimal planning is required (after you book the plane tickets).

Excursions, field trips, museums, tours, and so many other things were included for me on my trip. Certain things, such as the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, weren’t included with our trip’s plans, but we had ample free time to discover those in addition to our course’s prearranged tours. Participating in a J-Term course opened me up to a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Perhaps I would have never ventured to Tintern Abbey in western England or Tantallon Castle in Scotland, which happened to be two of my absolute favorite destinations, if I hadn’t studied abroad with a J-Term program.

3. You’ll meet students from GAC that you might have never met otherwise.

A majority of the students that were on my trip I had never met or seen before—which is surprising, considering our tiny campus size! However, now that we are back on campus I see these new study abroad friends around all the time. After sharing such a fantastic experience abroad with new friends, it’s wonderful to be able to see them back on campus as well.

4. You get the thrill of studying abroad without committing to a semester away.

Like I said before, I’m a homebody. I have no shame in saying that I love being near my family, friends, and boyfriend. Due to this, a semester abroad wouldn’t necessarily work for me. J-Term study away enabled me to see the world and have amazing adventures without being away from home for too long. A month away was just perfect for me. (J-Term study away is also a great option for students who cannot miss out on major classes during the academic year but still want to travel!)

5. As cliché as it is, you'll make memories that will last a lifetime.

Studying abroad this past J-Term was hands down one of the best decisions I have ever made and it led to some of the most incredible experiences I've ever had (and probably ever will have). I learned to navigate the London Underground, celebrated Burns Night in Scotland by eating haggis and dancing at a ceilidh, saw more than my fair share of Harry Potter filming locations, explored the beauty that is the Scottish Highlands, and appreciated every ounce of history that poured out of the United Kingdom. I cannot express to you how grateful I am that I had the experience to study abroad. It was a monumental experience in my life that I will never forget (and I will never let anyone else forget with my weekly nostalgic Instagram posts).