Students in the 2024 Winter Study travel course in Taiwan pose at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial.

Winter Exploration

Winter Exploration

Imagine spending 24 days in Taiwan, taking classes in Mandarin, visiting cultural and historical sites, and meeting students from universities there, all under the guidance of a Williams instructor. That’s just one of the 148 courses—and many other experiences—students are taking part in during this year’s Winter Study.

A tradition dating back more than 50 years, Winter Study takes place during three-plus weeks in January. It’s a time for students to focus on interests cultivated during the regular academic year or to pursue something entirely new, free from the distraction of other courses or the pressure of being graded. Led by Williams faculty, staff, alumni and community members who are experts in their fields, the program encompasses a wide range of subject areas and opportunities, including language learning, experiential education, research, creative endeavors, travel and life skills.

Students early in their studies can take introductory research courses in subjects including biology, psychology and organic chemistry. Those farther along, including students working on senior theses, work on faculty guided independent study projects.

Travel, combined with cultural and language studies, is a staple. Destinations this year include Ecuador, Austria and Uruguay (where students study sustainability efforts). Longtime offerings include the Taiwan Study Tour, taught through the Department of Asian Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and Williams in Georgia. Offered through the Russian program, the course provides an opportunity for students to live with host families in Tbilisi and participate in three-week internships in a variety of fields, including journalism, medicine and humanitarian relief.

Hands-on learning is another focus of Winter Study, with courses in journalism, photography and consumer textiles. Students taking Social Justice Advocacy/Just Futures in New York City work with youth through a number of NYC-based nonprofits to support science education, debate skills and more. Similarly, the Class of 1959 TeachNYC Urban Education Program provides students a chance to observe, teach, tutor and mentor in a number of New York City’s K-12 public schools.

Two students in the 2024 Winter Study course, Farming New England: A Deep Dive Into the Regional Food System, care for pigs in their pen.
Students participate in the 2024 Winter Study course, Farming New England: A Deep Dive Into the Regional Food System.

Courses such as Hard Hats, Gloves, and Flashlights: Explore Campus Sustainability and Develop Practical Solutions offer students a chance to explore sustainability really close to home, delving into the inner workings of campus buildings and facilities. Just a little farther afield is The Toxic Legacy of Local History: Industrialization, Deindustrialization and Environmental Justice, which focuses on nearby North Adams. In Farming New England, students examine the complexities of the regional food system from multiple perspectives, including farming, agronomy, climate change, food insecurity and others.

In addition to learning about architecture, art history, dance, museum curation, music theory and even violin making, students are creating art themselves in courses including  Glass and Glassblowing and Welding in the Third Dimension. Creative endeavors play a role in wellness and life skills classes, as well. In Introduction to Argentine Tango, students learn basic tango skills and participate in discussions of the genre’s contexts and applications from the early 20th century to the present day. Musicianship and Wellness introduces strategies for achieving a more centered approach to music physically, mentally and emotionally. And Knitting for Mindfulness teaches students methods for relieving anxiety and stress.

Life skills extend beyond the arts; students can learn animal tracking, outdoor emergency response and EMT skills along with the ins and outs of impact investing, fundraising, effective leadership and climate and energy finance.

The courses included above are just a small sample of what’s being offered during January 2024. Learn more about the Winter Study Program and explore this year’s catalog.

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