Journey for January Term

URI student hugging three young children in the Dominican Republic

Sure, some students dream of a winter break on the beach, but many now plan to take advantage of our new Winter J Term, a mini-semester running each January and offering the chance to earn credit for unique classes, community service, career exploration, or world travel. Our first Winter J Term features nine travel courses and 21 undergraduate-and graduate-level classes on-campus or online, in two intense weeks that can help accelerate your path to graduation.

The community service trips abroad transform students’ point of view. They come back a different person. ~Kelly Watts

The service learning aspect of J Term travel courses is often the most meaningful part of the journey for students, says Political Science Professor Maureen Moakley.  She’s led popular alternative winter break trips to the Dominican Republic. A similar faculty-led trip will now be offered as a Winter J Term course. While staying with local families in a rural “batey,” a mixed Haitian-Dominican community, URI students will earn 3 credits and participate in a service-learning project, not to mention a few days in the capital, Santo Domingo, exploring and studying political, historical and cultural aspects of Dominican life.

In 2010, Professor Moakley was leading students through Santo Domingo when an earthquake rocked Haiti. The itinerary she’d planned took a backseat. “We joined the Catholic Relief effort and that became the favorite part for the students,” she said. As a result, subsequent trips have included community service.

Education major Brittany Alejo was among Professor Moakley’s students last year. While tutoring people in a literacy program at a camp for sugercane workers from Haiti, she also learned to speak Creole and taught various age groups math, reading, and writing in Spanish and in English. “When we first pulled up and stepped off the bus, a girl grabbed each of my hands like she was claiming me, and another grabbed my leg,” Brittany said. “They were excited about the ‘Americanos.’ They weren’t shy at all. The “batey” was a life-changing experience; night and day we were greeted with so many hugs and there was so much love around everyone. The kids would sit down and actually want to interact with you. It was truly amazing.”

The community service trips abroad transform students’ point of view, said Kelly Watts, URI Faculty-Led Programs Coordinator. “They come back a different person. Rarely is there a student who isn’t changed by the experience.”

Whether it’s going to the Dominican Republic to teach literacy, Mexico for anthropology research, or Belize to practice filmography and documentary skills, there’s a lot to do during winter break at URI.

Related Links: USA Today On winter break but not for long: A look at winter terms on college campuses

Banner photo: Education major Brittany Alejo with young learners at the literacy center in Batey Libertad, Dominican Republic.



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