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Why J-Term Study Abroad is the Best Holiday Gift

Paris Winter

January term, or J-Term as our new generation of acronym-obsessed hipsters calls it, is a short academic session offered by many universities in between fall and spring semester.

Usually lasting from three weeks to a month, J-Term acts as an opportunity for students wanting to squeeze in a few more credits or a chance to take specialized courses that don’t quite have enough material for an entire semester.

We’ve compiled some top reasons to take a J-Term course this holiday season to take in all that extra knowledge, except with a classic Go Overseas twist of doing it abroad.

You Can Earn Extra Credits

This one is quite straightforward, but perhaps the biggest reason why you should ditch the unproductive Internet-browsing-on your-bed days for an overseas adventure in the destination of your choice -- the chance to earn some additional credits on top of your normal coursework!

Earn some additional credits on top of your normal coursework!

It's hard to imagine that you can combine both leisure and study into one tightly compacted program, but J-term does that. If you’re participating in J-Term study abroad through your university, credits will transfer directly onto your academic record. If you’re school doesn’t offer J-Term abroad, make sure to consult your academic advisor before making the decision to apply for another program.

Chances are, your credits will still transfer since J-Term is just as legit as a semester or quarter course, but check your university’s policies on handling third party programs before committing.

You'll Make Friends You Get to Keep

Students in Costa Rica

If you've stayed in a hostel before, you’re probably familiar with how the average overseas friendship goes -- starting from that first awkward introduction all the way to the uneasy feeling of separation anxiety the next destination brings. That’s the downfall of making new friends abroad. You have to accept the fact that you’ll probably never see them again.

Perhaps that’s what makes it so special for some people, being able to show all your cards to someone the first round because it doesn’t really matter how much these strangers know about you at the end of the day when you go your separate ways.

But this is also exactly what allows people to become friends so quickly, whether it be getting drinks together at the hostel bar or pouring your entire life story onto someone you met just an hour ago (or both, at the same time).

As much as we try to play it off cool, it isn’t always easy letting go of a friendship that sometimes felt more genuine in three days than friends you’ve had for three years. However, lucky for you smart ‘lil J-Term student, those friends you make on this trip abroad are here to stay once you all return home.

By participating in a J-Term program with your university, there's no doubt that you'll be bonding with students taking the same classes, experiencing the same culture shock, and probably living in the same student housing as you. In my case, I actually ended up rooming with my study abroad roommate again the following school year at my home university. and we remain extremely close friends to this day.

One of the best moments of making friends while studying abroad -- as opposed to simply traveling -- is being able to come back home and realize “dude, this is the first time we’ve been in the US together.”

You Can Still Graduate On Time

Everyone is an overachiever in today's competitive world, and it's completely understandable that you'd want to focus on taking 20 credits a semester instead of sipping Sangria in Spain. Time is one of the main concerns against studying abroad but a short-term program allows you to have that cultural experience without getting in the way of working towards your degree.

J-term presents itself as the perfect opportunity to sneak in those extra credits and abroad experience in instead of paying and staying for another semester in college.

A while back, we published an article on why guys don't study abroad as much as they should, and one of the biggest excuses was also the lack of time to dedicate an entire semester to going overseas. Studying abroad during J-Term is a great solution both for the athletes and triple majors who can't and the slackers who say they can't.

If you're a rising senior suddenly hit with the realization that you're a few credits shy from graduating on time, or that you never had the chance to study abroad and wish you could change that, J-term presents itself as the perfect opportunity to sneak in those extra credits and abroad experience in instead of paying and staying for another semester in college. Nobody wants to be that one fifth year stuck in school for the fall semester after graduation.

It's More Affordable

Il Duomo, Milan


If you're like any other average college student out here, you know the struggles of barely being able to afford in-state tuition come before entertaining the idea of paying for an entire semester abroad. Especially if you're doing a program through an independent study abroad program instead of your university, your financial aid might not transfer over to your time abroad thereby rendering it prohibitively expensive.

Although J-Term is not cheap, overall costs tend to be lower, if you're working on top of studying, you won't have to take too much time off from your job, and there are scholarships out there designed especially for J-Term study abroad opportunities that you can apply to.

There will naturally be less competition for these scholarships since people are obviously not as aware of doing a J-Term abroad. This way you can keep your normal financial aid for the academic year, score an extra opportunity to earn credits and go overseas.

For those of you with scholarships or financial aid, it can be a more economic choice once you factor in the financial aid you might not receive while abroad for a full semester or year. Hey, cut us some slack! We're just trying to make it out alive without more loans than we already have.

Avoid Housing Contract Penalties

Let's be honest, not many people stay in dorms after freshman year and definitely not as an upperclassman. We're in our 20's now (barely legal but so what?), we've got rent to pay and the commitment of yearlong leases.

Studying abroad for a semester means either throwing away four months of rent or going through the hassle of finding someone to sublease your room for such an awkward period of time and paying for storage while you're gone.

Why not come back to your room exactly the way you left it after an awesome time abroad and be able to immediately pass out on your shitty Ikea mattress that you've secretly missed?

Of course, if you can find someone to take your room for the month, subletting is always a good option to offset some of those study abroad costs. Just double check with your roommates or landlord before posting the ad on craigslist!

You'll Have All the Perks Without the Commitment

We get it, studying abroad means being away from family and friends for a heck of a long time and even the toughest of them all get homesick. It's like freshman year all over again, after the first eager month of meeting new people and trying new things. Except since you're only going to be abroad for a month or so, you get to go home before you actually start feeling anxious about being so far out of your comfort zone. I'd say that seems like a perfect win-win situation, eh?

If you'd rather be in the loop than in another country, you will be hesitant towards studying abroad for a whole semester. FOMO while abroad is too real for it's own good and no one wants to be that one person missing out on all the memories because you're halfway around the world.

J-term is like an exclusive sneak peak into more traditional study abroad experiences for those a bit hesitant on committing to an entire semester.

Consider studying abroad during J-Term so you can still return to college in the spring right where everyone left off in December, and a whole bunch of study abroad stories to share with people. Instead of passive-aggressively liking all the Facebook photos of your friends partying together, you're out there skiing in the Swiss Alps while they's stuck helping their parents shovel snow out the driveway.

J-term is like an exclusive sneak peak into more traditional study abroad experiences for those a bit hesitant on committing to an entire semester. Whether it be for personal or social reasons, you get to taste the sweet, sweet perks of being abroad with the safety net of a short term program. And who knows? Maybe by the end of your month abroad, you've been completely converted into a travel fanatic and decide to study abroad again next fall!

Celebrate the Holiday Season in Style

Helsinki, Santa

Instead of going on that expensive but also slightly boring two week vacation to Cancun with your family, why not celebrate the holiday season by doing something a bit more useful (and healthy) than making rounds between the hotel pool and buffet line?

Family vacations can be fun and all but I'm pretty sure listening to your aunt gloat non-stop about how your genius cousin is teaching English in South Korea can get a bit mundane after a few hours. Be the one your parents are bragging about to the rest of your relatives.

If you weren't planning on going anywhere for the holidays, even better of a reason to consider taking a J-Term abroad. Although spending an entire month doing absolutely nothing may sound appealing after a rough week of finals, trust me when I say that you will be bored out of your freaking mind by the end of January.

Spending the holidays abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a different culture at the happiest time of the year. You've had your entire childhood and the rest of your future life to enjoy the holidays at home so why not mix it up with some international love?

Now that you’ve got all the reasons necessary to convince your parents to let you go overseas for J-Term, it’s time to get out there and have the best alternative winter break yet. Don’t forget to leave a review on Go Overseas after you come back to help spread the word to others!

Love this January term idea? Then read this list of J-term study abroad programs.

Photo Credits: Paris Winter, Curtin, Jessie Beck, and Jyoti Dewan.

Paris Riley

Originally from SoCal, Paris moved up north to attend UC Berkeley and major in English. In line with our mission here at Go Overseas, she has lived in England, studied abroad in Ireland, and is traveling through Australia this summer. She hopes to eventually make her way to Asia and teach abroad in Thailand after graduation.