Tuesday, January 15, 2013

J is for Jam Packed

January Term 2013

The University of Virginia's January Term is a university-wide initiative sponsored by the Office of the Vice President and Provost. The purpose of January Term is to provide U.Va. students with unique opportunities: new courses that address topics of current interest, study abroad programs, undergraduate research seminars, and interdisciplinary courses. The intensive format of January Term classes encourages extensive student-faculty contact and allows students and faculty to immerse themselves in a subject. The College of Arts and Sciences, McIntire School of Commerce, Curry School of Education and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will offer over thirty undergraduate courses in January Term 2013. Areas of study include Anthropology, Art, Bio-Medical Ethics, Commerce, Drama, Engineering (STS), English, Environmental Sciences, History, Mathematics, Media Studies, Politics, Religious Studies, Slavic Languages and Literatures, Sociology, and Spanish. 

The virginia.edu/jterm site gives you the information shown above describing J-term, all of which is accurate and helpful. What they don't tell you, is what a day in the life of a J-term student is like at UVA, that's what I'm here for.

After being home for all of 10 days full of family, friends, and all my favorite restaurants, I headed back to grounds. During winter break, UVA is a bit of a ghost-town, but like a calm, beautiful, friendly ghost-town of sorts. Columns seem to be brighter and brick buildings more beautiful in the cold winter air despite the construction all around. Few people are on grounds, but those that are have a sense of purpose for the new year, and the possibilities seem limitless.

My sense of purpose that drove me to cut my couch-time short was driven by my job as a Resident Advisor for j-term residents in the same building that I am an RA during the rest of the year (pretty convenient, huh?), and an amazing J-term course: Gender, Class, and Race in Teen Film. I decided to take the Media Studies course, like many j-term students, to be able to really focus in on and master a subject, while lightening my credit load for the spring semester.

Unlike the usual go, go, go of a full course load during normal academic terms, J-term takes on a much more focused and efficient pace. Every morning, instead of scrambling to get all my things together and mentally check that I had everything mapped out for the day, I woke up, grabbed a quick bite to eat and my notebook, and headed to class. The first few hours of class consisted of discussion and lecture on a number of topics centered around different portrayals of gender, class, race, sexuality, and social issues in teen film and how those portrayals are both an effect of society and affect society. The last few hours of the class, accompanied by lunch brought in by whichever group of students presented that day, was a guided viewing of different teen films such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

After class, I went home to knock out the intense, but manageable, amount of reading assigned. I found myself fighting through the ideas in the articles, and fully understanding the implications of what was being discussed, finally understanding what professors hoped we would gain from the hours and hours of reading that supplement their amazing lectures. It was what pure, focused, unadulterated learning felt like, and it was fun. We took movies like Clueless and Mean Girls that I had never thought much about other than how funny they were to me, and broke them down to reveal their influences, their different perspectives, their feminist elements, and even the effect they had had on people's experiences. Our class learned to challenge what we thought and why we thought it and why we had accepted it as normal all these years. We ate and watched movies, and yet I learned more than in many other classes I have taken that I spent hours and hours and hours studying for from a book. 

J-term is multiple hours every single day of class when you could be sitting on your couch, but it is more than worth the credits you earn. It left me loving my school and the innovation of its students and faculty more than ever. It is just one of many amazing learning experiences offered to UVA students that challenges the norm of academics and presents information in an interactive and immersed format that really results in a deep and useful knowledge of a subject. J-term is jam-packed.

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