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Taylor students study, travel over winter term

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@chronicle-tribune.com

UPLAND — Taylor University students are back from Christmas break early to tackle classes during their annual J-term.

J-term, also known as January term, is a four-week semester that typically begins the Monday after New Year’s Day.

Like a summer semester, students use the opportunity to take classes for full credit in a short amount of time.

According to Jim Garringer, director of media relations at Taylor, J-term is “distinctive” to the university.

“Students return shortly after the holidays are over to take concentrated classes offered for full credit as if they would be taken over an entire semester,” Garringer said. “The only wild card really is the weather.”

Garringer said the challenges students face who stay for J-term are often weather related. Lately, temperatures have been in the single digits with the addition of negative wind chills.

“It gets tough when we have the weather we’ve been experiencing lately,” he said. “Students are taking longer classes in a shorter amount of time, and fewer meetings makes it more difficult to cancel.”

Garringer said students who aren’t on campus during J-term this year can be found in London, Ecuador, Spain and Southeast Asia. He said many students use the break from classes to travel abroad for mission trips and course-related work.

According to Garringer, more than 300 students are currently abroad during the term. Most of them are taking part in course-based work that Charlie Brainer, dean of international travel at Taylor, said provides depth to the classes.

“J-term allows faculty to deliver their courses and it is a time when they can consider how international travel can add something significant for the students,” Brainer said.

Brainer said the biblical studies department uses travel to take students to Israel and Greece to see geographical locations related to the Bible.

“There’s an academic purpose to these trips, but there’s also a cultural component as well,” Brainer said. “Travel provides a holistic experience designed to challenge students.”

Mission trips taken during J-term are involved with the Lighthouse program. Students take a course in the fall to prepare them for service overseas before departing in January. While abroad, students may assist with community development, local ministries, teaching English or other services.

One group, who recently landed in Guayaquil, Ecuador, gave their first impressions of their home for the next few weeks.

In a blog post that offers updates on the experiences of students abroad in the Lighthouse program, Taylor University student Drew Lasley wrote about his first days in Ecuador.

“An important piece of understanding the people you are ministering to is understanding their culture,” Lasley wrote.

“This Saturday we were able to do this in Ecuador. We took a long bus ride and had the opportunity to see more of the city of Guayaquil on our way to the boardwalk. This is a famous location where we climbed 498 steps to a lighthouse. Naturally, being a lighthouse team we had to take a picture in front of it.”

After their trip to the lighthouse, the group made their way to a local market before heading to Guayaquil’s Iguana Park, “where you can get up close and personal with some wildlife,” Lasley said.

Maybe too personal.

“(The Iguana Park) in theory sounds sweet until you get pooped on,” he said. “They say it’s good luck but I would probably disagree with that. Smelled a lot more like bad luck.”

Students abroad, like Lasley, are due to return before the spring semester begins on Jan. 30.