By the time winter break rolls around, the majority of college students are counting down the seconds to six weeks at home free from deadlines, classes, and laundry. However, a distinctive part of the Johns Hopkins experience includes an optional – but highly popular – three-week term in January known as Intersession. Students take 1 to 3 credit classes in a variety of subjects that are unique to Intersession, meaning that they aren’t offered during the spring or fall semesters.
The best part about Intersession is having the opportunity to learn things and take classes that are completely out of your comfort zone. I did something a little bit differently this past intersession by taking a very demanding WFR (Wilderness First Responder) course. While many other people have time during Intersession, I had none! We had class for 8 to 12 hours a day because it is essentially a paramedics course for the wilderness.
- Zoe J., freshman English and Economics double major from Parkland, MD
The course offerings fall under the categories of Academic Exploration, Personal Enrichment, Study Abroad, and Career Development. Most courses are pass/fail, with the exception of Study Abroad and language courses, which award a letter grade. Students can up to 3 credits, which allows them maximum flexibility in the number of classes/credits they take.
Academic Exploration courses are a great way for students to reach their distribution credit requirements, especially if they are unable to take a course outside of their major during the regular semester. The course topics themselves range from “Introduction to Model Rocketry” to “The Ethnic Gangster in American Cinema” and “The Archaeology of Beer.” Academic offerings also include beginner language courses in Italian, German, and French, which are 3 credits and cannot be paired with any other Intersession class.
I’ve chosen to come back to Hopkins for the past three Intersessions, and each time I’ve gotten to take a class just for fun that I would have never gotten the chance to take otherwise: Fiction for Foodies, Salsa dancing, and German.After taking German over Intersession this year, I decided to add German 2 to my schedule this spring ad it’s one of my favorite classes of the semester for sure. As of now, I’m planning to continue with Intermediate German next year, which would have never happened if I hadn’t had the opportunity to take it over Intersession.
- Sarah S., junior Biology and Spanish double major from Gwynedd Valley, PA
Personal Enrichment courses are a series of non-credit, informal classes that students can register for over the three weeks. They include music workshops (such as “Introduction to Playing the Appalachian Fiddle” and “Guitar for Beginners”), visual and performing arts (such as “Breakdance Fundamentals” and “The Makings of a Musical”), health and wellness (such as yoga, acupressure, and massage classes), personal enhancement (the “Bartending and Alcohol Awareness” class is a hit amongst the upperclassmen who are 21+!), and languages (such as Chinese or Swahili).
My favorite part about Intersession was the chance to try something completely different. As a personal enrichment course, I got to take ‘Dancing Like Jane Austen,’ which was all about English country dances and pretending like you were at a ball in the beautiful Homewood house! I took it with some friends and it was a really fun, interesting class that opened myself up to a whole new interest I’m sure that I never otherwise would have discovered.
- Kevin C., freshman History major from Southport, CT
Study Abroad programs provide students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in an entirely different culture and language, without the stress or hassle of taking an entire semester off. Study Abroad trips over Intersession 2011 sent Hopkins undergraduates all over the world – Cuba, the Galápagos Islands, Florence, Uganda, and Munich are just a few of the places that our students explored for three weeks!
Over Intersession I took a course called Perspective on the History and Culture of Spain … in Madrid. I had the most amazing time ever, and wrote about it in a blog entry which you can read here. Intersession is best!
- Tess T., sophomore History major from Ridgewood, NJ
Domestically, the Career Development programs take students on overnight trips to Washington, D.C. and New York City. Designed for students who wish to network and/or study a topic more geared towards their career goals, these courses are a combination of academic analysis and fieldwork. Students get to meet and learn from big names in Economics, Entrepreneurship and Management, Political Science, Media/Public Relations, etc.
I participated in the Perspectives on Globalization course and it was a great opportunity to meet new people, learn about globalization, explore possible career paths, and network with successful alums in the field.
- Erica Z., freshman Economics majors from Elk Grove, CA
Intersession is purposefully structured so that students can truly have the experience of “learning for the sake of learning,” while also having the option to pursue any other interests – whether it’s interning, doing research, studying abroad, or just exploring Baltimore with friends. The amount of free time allows students to complete their classwork and enjoy their break at the same time, offering a nice transition into the spring semester.
Some students do choose to stay home for the entire six or seven weeks to work at a part-time job or relax. However, Intersession makes it easy for students to pick and choose when they return to campus. The actual duration of the classes vary according to the program – some last the entire three weeks, while others only last one or two weeks.
“B’More” is one such program, offered exclusively to freshmen. B’More takes place during the last week of Intersession, and provides freshmen with an opportunity to learn more about Baltimore through various perspectives. B’More classes are offered in areas ranging from photography (“Charm City Through the Lens”) to sustainability (“Cleaner, Greener, and Sustainable Baltimore: An Inside Look”), although all classes attend various events like keynote speakers and panels, as well as an afternoon of service.
It was so nice to have the relaxed Intersession atmosphere during my B’More: Vaccines and Child Health class. It was also a great way to ease back into the new semester. I’m so happy I had a chance to explore a topic completely unrelated to my major because it is not necessarily easy for double-majoring engineers.
- Ian H., freshman Materials Science & Engineering major from Milan, Italy
Intersession also provides students with an opportunity to work or do research full-time. Unlike during the semester, where students have classes and other responsibilities, Intersession offers a chance to focus solely on research or a job.
From interning in their hometowns to learning about homelessness in Baltimore or studying sports and entertainment law, Hopkins students look forward to Intersession each year as the best of all worlds.
It’s also a total shift from the buzz of the semester. It’s nice to be on campus without any of the stress of the school year.
- Lauren B., senior Public Health Studies and Economics double major from Summit, NJ
Regardless of the number and variety of Intersession options available to students, Intersession is what you make of it – which is precisely why it’s such an integral part of many students’ time here at Hopkins. The opportunities are endless, the classes more relaxed, and the benefits are both personal and professional. And the best part? With the exception of personal enrichment courses and study abroad programs, classes are free for all degree-seeking, full-time undergraduates!
Interested in learning more about Intersession? Check out our blogs from current students on Hopkins-Interactive!
Also, be sure to check out our brand new Project Intersession video, made by our Hopkins student videographers.