By the end of the fall semester, winter break is much needed. However, the rest we enjoy over those three weeks can easily turn into boredom. A restlessness to get back to campus sets in even though students might not be quite ready to manage the stress of a full-blown semester. J-Term can offer the happy medium we need, a time when students can both satisfy the curious mind and continue to rest up for the spring semester that awaits. The continued reprieve from the pace of a normal semester combined with access to on-campus resources makes for a month of countless opportunities for academic, personal and emotional learning. So what were the most important things we learned over this past J-Term?
For Rach Peck ’25, the J-Term class Collaborative Video Projects provided integral insights into their major, Film and Media Culture (FMMC). Peck said the course gave them the opportunity to learn what it is like to work on a film crew, something they were concerned could deter them from completing the major.
“I’d been having serious doubts about whether I wanted to continue with my FMMC major,” Peck said.
They said there’s no avoiding production work for FMMC majors, which worried them. “I was doubtful that I would have the same enjoyment when it came to production work, which is a necessary part of the major,” Peck added.
Peck was able to take advantage of the class schedule J-Term allows. “The reason senior theses are filmed in J-Term is because there really isn’t another time in the school year where you can spend 12 hours a day on a project,” Peck said. “I’m really glad I chose to take this class instead of sticking with a more conventional one because I don’t know when else I would have had the opportunity.”
Their love for film originates in discussion-based work. “I learned in my [First Year] spring that I really enjoyed discussing film and contemporary issues through visual arts,” Peck said.
However, while completing on-set tasks like crafting props and dealing with costume dilemmas, Peck discovered that the hands-on aspects of the film major are something they can both manage and appreciate. They said, “I enjoy the work of a film set and am excited to see where it takes me next.”
While Peck found knowledge in one of the many unique academic opportunities J-Term provides, Lillian Prime ’24.5 said it was in her free time that she stumbled upon new ways of caring for herself.
“I think the unique schedule of J-Term gives you more time to explore other things that are meaningful to you that you might feel like you don’t have time for in the normal semester,” Prime said.
“One night, I went night skinning with my friends at the Snow Bowl. I was nervous about it before, but it ended up bringing me so much joy. It made me realize how important it is to make time for joy like that, and in the process of being nervous for the event, how to sit with yourself in moments that feel scary and be okay with that nervousness,” Prime explained.
She said this and other small moments are what led her to, what she considers, a lesson that greatly affected her life. What is that lesson?
“Taking care of yourself, being kind and gentle with yourself is more important than being ‘productive’ all of the time,” she said.
Not only is the J-Term schedule different, but the community is in flux as well. There are fewer people on campus. For some it’s their first time being back at Middlebury after studying abroad, and for others it's their first time at Middlebury without companions who have been with them from the start. For Atticus Coates ’24.5, his J-Term experience was the latter.
He said being on campus this J-Term without friends who made the decision to study abroad revealed the true bond and value of all of his friendships. “I've made friends at Middlebury who I feel deeply connected to and love as dearly as my mom, dad or brother,” he said.
“Knowing that there are people out there who love you, who truly love you and who you love back helps you get through the hard times,” he added.
Although the changes that J-Term can bring in class structure, schedules and our communities can be disorienting, change is natural and always around. These adjustments can be refreshing, and have the possibility to teach us invaluable lessons.