No other course I teach is anything like Jan Term; it is a time for me to focus on one thing and to dive in deeply. I typically take a travel course to New York City with 15 to 20 students, most of whom will have their first experiences with hearing classical music live in spectacular venues like Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera. That idea of experiential is the heart of Jan Term for me. Students spend the rest of the year taking courses in their majors and minors—as well as many outside the major and minor—working for mastery of something in particular. In Jan Term, students are encouraged and even expected to try new things in a way that doesn’t worry much about grades. It’s the experience that counts and the willingness to try that is so valuable.
For the week before departing for New York City, my students studied the classical music that we were to hear and watched and talked about the operas. We also talked about the specific collections of the major museums and what their special exhibitions would be. And in order to feel as comfortable as possible with that exciting city, we worked on getting to know the subway and bus system and how to eat inexpensively. Then we left for the rest of the month in NYC.
Imagine the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center or the Staatskapelle Berlin at Carnegie Hall, Carmen and Romeo and Juliet at the Metropolitan Opera. We explored the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, the Frick Collection, Cloisters, and other museums. Students visited the 9/11 Memorial, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the Empire State Building and much more. This course is about the culture of one of the most exciting cities in the world and helping our students feel connected to it. Students’ lives are changed in the confidence they build in getting around a huge city and in the appreciation they learn for art and music.