Check Out Independent Activities Period at MIT

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Harvard is pretty sleepy during J-term—the undergraduate population shrinks by more than 80 percent, many of the students who remain on campus are holed up in their rooms writing theses, and even those who aren’t hard at work are banned from holding parties or hosting guests. But just down the river, MIT is an exciting place to be during the first month of the year.

For forty years, MIT has held Independent Activities Period during January. This monthlong phase features over 100 for-credit courses as well as over 600 not-for-credit activities—ranging from art workshops, to cooking classes, to hands-on engineering projects, to career guidance sessions, to lectures on dozens of topics.

While Harvard's break between semesters, squeezed like the rest of the FAS budget by economic pressure, is not nearly as enriched, Harvard students might still be able to enjoy some of the fun. MIT’s January activities are formally open only to "members of the MIT community," according to the IAP website, but an email from an MIT alum, forwarded over the Pforzheimer House open list, informed us that "discreet and helpful" members of "the world at large" (which includes Harvard!) would likely be welcomed at most events.

The solution to the Harvard J-term blues just might be masquerading as an MIT student for the month. Try to avoid the limited enrollment offerings, but if you’re on campus for J-term, check out the astoundingly large assortment of activities at our nerdy neighbor school. A night of contra dancing or underwater hockey (that’s right—puck, sticks, and scuba masks), a day spent reading the entirety of Beowulf aloud while walking, or an Integration Bee (like a spelling bee for math geeks) might be just the thing to spice up those cold weeks of long treks to Annenberg.

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