Johns Hopkins University is special. No, not simply because our Homecoming Weekend is in the spring. Not solely because we’ve figured out how to get a beach—yep, you heard me correctly—into the heart of Charles Village, Baltimore. Not even Lotis, the Egyptian mummy in the basement of Gilman Hall, can take all the credit. There’s something about our school that sets it apart. Something innovative, something advantageous, something 12 letters and one month long: Intersession.
For over forty years, the Intersession Program at Hopkins has offered a plethora of exclusive pass/fail courses that are not offered during the academic year. This program is optional, so you can choose to stay at home (as I did last year), or to merely remain on campus class-free. This year, the mid-year vacation starts on December 17th, 2011 and ends on January 8th, 2012. Intersession will last from the 9th until the 30th, when second semester classes begin. Students not taking an Intersession courses this year will have from December 17th until January 30th OFF. That’s right. Over a month of optional school in the middle of the year? Welcome to Hopkins.
The purpose of this blog, however, stems far beyond the joys that result from being offered the chance to decide whether or not you’d like to participate in school during any given month. Students who decide to take the month off may be taking advantage of some extra family/friend time, traveling, or just relaxing at home and watching movies, while those who do participate in Intersession could be roaming the Slave Castle of Cape Coast, Ghana and getting school credit for it. Either way, all of these people have something in common: they are all students of Hopkins. Each one of them has the opportunity to decide how he or she would like to spend the month of January. Hopkins students are very lucky indeed. The Intersession Program at JHU offers them something very simple: time. Time to enrich their own lives in whatever way they’d like to. Here’s how some of my friends will be spending their time:
Three of my best friends (Liz, Rose, and Alexa) are on Birthright sponsored by Hopkins Hillel! They’re travelling around Israel for ten days with 40 other Hopkins students and 2 Hillel group leaders. They’ll be riding camels through the desert, visiting the Western Wall, swimming in the Dead Sea, and hiking Masada, among other feats. Intersession grants them the opportunity to benefit from this exciting abroad experience while still enjoying ample family and friend time once they return home.
Paige, my cognitive neuroscience classmate from last year (as well as a remarkable hairstylist and masseuse), is taking the time to get EMT certified. For 3 weeks, she’ll be dedicating 11 hours a day and 7 days a week to completing this task. The Hopkins Intersession Program has (generously) afforded her these 200+ hours.
John, one of the videographers of the “Learn More, See More, B’More” video series, will be going to the Sundance Film Festival.
My athletic friend, Daniel, and the rest of the Hopkins basketball team, will be traveling to Danville, Kentucky for a tournament at Centre College. The team also spent a couple of nights at the Marriott in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Intersession will give those boys a lot of time for some much-needed team bonding.
Phoebe, my Phi Mu sister, is going to Honduras on a trip sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Global Brigades team. This on-campus student group will be funding a handful of trips to Honduras for various causes—water, dental, medical, micro finance, etc. Phoebe will be going on the public health trip. During Intersession, she’ll have the opportunity to build floors, water collectors, toilets, and more, for a village without the resources to do so itself. She’ll also be teaching hygiene and sanitation to students in the local school. While she knows the weather will be brutally hot, she’s up for the challenge and knows how rewarding this experience will be.
Another Phi Mu sister, Liza, is doing something similar. She’ll be traveling to Ecuador and the Galapagos taking classes in tropical biology and evolution. You might assume that she’s a Biology major, but she’s actually studying English and Art History.
Kevin, a fellow New Yorker who I met at a Hopkins meet-up before freshman year had even started, might take a bartending course at a local bar on North Charles Street! This course is labeled “personal enrichment,” and is not taken for credit. Other personal enrichment courses offered during Intersession include beer history, wine tasting, an introduction to the Rubik’s Cube, instrument workshops and music lessons, and yoga, health, and fitness classes.
My close friend, Lindsay, is hoping to shadow a couple of doctors at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. She wanted to take some time off during winter break, and felt that doing hospital work during the academic year might be a bit too much in concert with her class schedule. Intersession gives her the time to explore the Johns Hopkins Hospital without the added stress of simultaneous schoolwork.
My friends Molly and Monique are, as they say, “Sitting on our bums and doing nothing.” They call it “nothing,” but I call it well-deserved rest, relaxation, and revitalization. JHU_Allysa even asked me, “Does being a beach bum count?” Yes it does, Allysa! Intersession gives her time to go island hopping in the Grenadines and still take a law course once she gets back to Hopkins.
What am I doing? Well, I spent a week as a beach bum, too. I took a family trip to Aruba with our family friends (the father of that family happens to be my dentist—I caught him chewing Double Bubble, for the record). My friend Andrew (yes, Andrew the Great—see my blog titled “Lots of Learning”) happened to be in Aruba at the exact same time. I’m now taking a week-long course called Media & Public Relations in the Big Apple–read more about it here. The class meets 4 hours a day for 1 week in Baltimore, and then another three days in New York City, allowing students to network with and learn from current executives in the field. Andrew is taking this class with me, along with a couple of our other friends. Layne, a current senior at Hopkins and my Phi Mu sister, will be joining us as well. In fact, Layne has participated in Intersession every year and has taken everything from a Wilderness First Responder training course to Cuban salsa dancing and voice lessons.
On behalf of the JHU students: Thank you, Johns Hopkins University, for your time.