Student on hill in Cuba during January Term trip in 2020
Students in the J term course in Cuba at Loma del Capiro, the hill that Che Guevara used as a lookout during the Battle of Santa Clara during the Cuban Revolution. From left to right: Paolo Gonnelli (Middlebury), Xinxin Liu (MIIS), Abby Gray (MIIS), Ariah Barth (MIIS), Jack Herscowitz (MIddlebury).  (Credit: George Henson )

For Middlebury Institute students, the January Term (J-term) offers the opportunity to put theories and lessons to the test in courses offered in five different countries, work on directed study projects at home or abroad, or get ahead by taking intensive subject matter classes on campus.

This year, courses were offered in Cuba, the Czech Republic, France, Peru, and Monterey. 

Traveling Cuba’s National Freeway: The Road to Revolution

Led by Dr. George Henson, this course focuses on the historical and geographical roots of the Cuban Revolution. Students from the Middlebury Institute and Middlebury College are exploring Cuba’s present political, economic, diplomatic, and cultural landscape, covering topics from healthcare and education, to trade and tourism. 

“Cuba is at a crossroads—economic, political, and social—not seen since the Triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959,” Henson shares. “This program is significant for many reasons. Not only does it allow students to travel the entire length of the island, visiting each of Cuba’s provinces, it allows students to witness the geographic, culture, and economic differences and similarities that exist between these provinces, through lectures, visits to historic places, and dialogue with everyday Cubans. The program is also unique because it brings together students from both Monterey and Vermont, which I hope to repeat in future trips to Cuba.”

Cuba is at a crossroads—economic, political, and social—not seen since the Triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959.
— Professor George Henson

Czech Republic Nuclear Research Reactor Practicum

Designed with Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies candidates in mind, this course offers students the opportunity to travel to Prague in the Czech Republic and visit Czech Technical University (CTU), where they conduct experiments on a research nuclear reactor and visit other nuclear plants. The trip finishes with a day in Vienna, Austria attending meetings with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Led by Dr.George Moore, this course presents students with not only practical experience, but also potential career opportunities.

France International Education Management Abroad Practicum

Team France brings International Education Management students into the field working with international students in Paris, France. Participants will observe and participate in onsite orientation sessions and tour French universities, study abroad program centers, and American universities Paris campuses. Students pair off with a professional partner to complete a project with a partner organization, either in English or French. Finally,  students have the opportunity to interact with the host community along with university staff, faculty and students to better understand the realities of managing education abroad.

France International Education Management Abroad Practicum 2018

Hi, my name is Sophia Iglesias and I’m in the International Education Management program. This past J-term I did the Onsite Perspectives course in International Education Management in France. We visited American universities, French universities, and study abroad providers to learn how international education works in the French context.

Some days, we would just meet as a group at the Middlebury Center in Paris: “Centre Madeleine.” And we would just meet and talk about different trends. We also visited different organizations that work with international students. So we met with homestay organizations, also some other housing options as well, just to see how they work with the international students.

All of us got to go the SciencesPo orientation and see how this French university welcomes its international students, what services they provide, how open they are with different information. And it was just really interesting to see how these different organizations do similar things, but how they make it their own.

So one of the things that really drew me to the Middlebury Institute was the fact that our projects are with real professionals. We work with real organizations on projects that will be used. So during the Onsite Perspectives course, we were divided into groups with different learning partners. My learning partner was the American Business School of Paris, who every semester has an orientation for their incoming international students. One of the workshops they have is one that they have scenarios that they present to the students that they could face throughout the semester with other students. So they asked us to create new scenarios that they could share with their students so that they could start seeing how they could be facing different situations and understand what could be an appropriate reaction.

My plan is to work in Spain someday. And this year, the program was offered in France. And although they are two very different countries with different trends, at the same time, they are part of the European Union. They work very closely together. So I thought that would be very beneficial for me moving forward.

Team Peru with Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development

Students interested in Sustainable Development work on a community project with the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development in Peru, founded by two Middlebury Institute alumni. This three-week program offers students the opportunity to improve their Spanish skills, and is a taste of community development summer program for students to have the opportunity to learn more about sustainable development. Through this intensive course, students gain the experience to become confident and knowledgeable actors guided by experienced professionals, faculty, and administrators.

International Development and Social Change in Monterey

The International Development and Social Change program, offered in Monterey for three weeks during January term, is for aspiring development professionals who are seeking additional skills in program Design, Partnering, Management, and Innovation (DPMI). Students practice program design, evaluation, strategic partnering, and facilitation skills which are needed to begin a career in international development

The course is led by three current international development practitioners. Participants have the opportunity to go through the entire process of designing programs for real-world issues in simulation, and learn the importance of iterative design, network analysis, and facilitation. Going through the process is difficult but prepares students for what to expect in the international development field. 

“It’s one thing to say iterative design is good, but it’s another thing to put it into practice,” shares current DPMI participant International Environmental Policy student Lawrence Garber MAIEP ‘21. He adds that he has learned about the importance of iterative design, and also how difficult it can be. “Even though it’s a simulated project, we get very attached to the design work that we do, so I can imagine how attached we would get in the field. But, I’ve learned that if you always go back to the belief in the ideal of iterative design, it’ll all work out.”

Even though it’s a simulated project, we get very attached to the design work that we do, so I can imagine how attached we would get in the field.
— Lawrence Garber MAIEP ‘21

Frontier Market Scouts 

Frontier Market Scouts is a certification opportunity for students who are interested in becoming talent scouts and investment managers serving entrepreneurs interested in investing in the developing world. Through this program, students gain an understanding of the impact sector and its key players, how to design a business model focused on impact, and the steps of implementation and scaling their business model. 

Other January Term Courses in Monterey

Students staying on campus have a variety of options for furthering their professional skills including a course on international trade theory and practice, consulting with organizations, qualitative and quantitative data analysis skills, and survey design. These courses are offered for credit, with an option to apply them toward core degree requirements or specialization requirements, or just as a supplement to other courses offered during the rest of the academic year.  

For More Information

Eva Gudbergsdottir