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       At Elmhurst College the year begins with J-Term.  I had a hard time putting into words what happens during this time but found a great article at http://public.elmhurst.edu/magazine/indepth/9970301.html .  Here it is in a nutshell:

“January Term is not required, and it is not for everyone. Some students pass, electing to work a seasonal job or extend their holiday break. Some professors also opt out, craving a few extra weeks to attend a conference, finish a work of scholarship, or just fix up the house.

This is the way it goes during January Term, the mini-session in the heart of the academic year that takes students and teachers alike into unfamiliar corners of the course catalog. J-Term focuses students’ attention, exclusively and intensively, on one class for three and a half weeks. Each winter, inventive “special topics courses” flourish, and even traditional courses tend to be taught in innovative ways. It is the time of year when you are most likely to find business students enrolling in “Chicago’s Great Libraries,” English majors registering for “Digital Game Design,” and nursing students lining up for a light opera performance workshop.

Moreover, for an increasing number of students, J-Term courses mean a departure from campus altogether. Last winter, Elmhurst students could choose from a meaty menu of travel courses. A seminar on the European Union visited London, Paris, and Brussels. A music business course headed to Nashville. An introduction to the business and culture of India explored Madras, Bangalore, and other key cities on the subcontinent. In all, about forty courses took students literally far afield.”