J-Term 2024: Engaging Students in Courses from Around the World

From traveling through a “lost paradise” to exploring the concepts of what makes one of the biggest cities of today a cosmopolitan hub, J-Term Classes 2024 see students engage in highly immersive learning experiences around the world.

J-term courses in 2024 take students around the world and in the field to connect them with learning experiences that intensify their focus and reach beyond the classroom.

During J-Term 2024, where 80 courses are being taught in 24 countries, renowned scholars, writers, artists, journalists, and policy analysts will expose students to experiences that are enriching their learning at NYUAD. 

Intellectually linked to their locations, the courses take advantage of local resources; explore the history, culture, economy, and society of the host communities, and often involve collaborative activities with local students and faculty. 

Students take one course full-time for approximately three weeks. The courses are designed as immersive experiences that intensify the student’s intellectual focus, reach beyond the classroom to incorporate experiential learning, and are often site-specific, connecting students to the place where they study.

The courses illuminate the interdependence of local knowledge and global awareness while fostering cross-cultural research and insights into complex global issues.

Here is a selection of some of the classes taking place during J-Term.


Loss and Nostalgia: Mourning Al-Andalus

Madrid, Spain

Nadia El Cheikh, Vice Provost for Cultural and Research Engagement, and Bilal Orfeli, the Program Head of the Arabic Program, take students on a journey to explore grief using the concept of Al-Andalus as a “lost paradise” as a case study. 

Students will study the theoretical underpinnings of grief and nostalgia within the historical, scientific, philosophical, literary, artistic, and anthropological fields. 

The course will focus on one case study to explore how the loss of Al-Andalus was grieved and articulated in the pre-modern historical and literary sources, in Arabic and Hebrew, to form narratives of divine decree, justice, self-realization, communal self, among others. 

El Cheikh and Orfeli will challenge their students to answer the question “Why and how do humans grieve and how is grieving affected by the type of loss?” and “How does a geographical place evoke a deep sense of loss and nostalgia, both individual and communal?”

The course will also discuss how the loss of Al-Andalus and the nostalgia about that “lost paradise” have been recaptured in the modern period, in the various art forms –novels, poetry, movies, and music– in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, to serve modern ideologies, and self and communal awareness.  

Bioarchaeological Perspectives on Death: A Case Study in Medieval Italy

Florence, Italy

The central concept in the course taught by Tommaso Mori, a researcher from the University of Florence, leads students to explore a core, albeit somewhat macabre, question: how do we view and treat the dead?

In his course, students will explore how the human skeleton can provide unbiased evidence of past lived experiences. 

“Our skeleton is not a rigid frame that is fixed once we reach adulthood: it is a living and dynamic organ that changes in response to our activity, nutrition and disease,” he says.

This seminar uses human skeletal material from Italy representing people who lived during the medieval period to teach data collection methods, as well as standards to estimate sex, age at death, and stature of people in the past.

Students will learn to analyze skeletal stress markers and indicators of activity patterns to reconstruct past behavior. Students will learn methods for assessing diet and health, including identifying infectious diseases, traumatic lesions and other skeletal pathologies. 

A City's Essence: London, Past, Present and Future

London, UK

Using London as a case study, students will be tasked to answer the simple question of “what makes a city”

Through the guidance of  Associate Professor of English and Social and Cultural Analysis Sukhdev Sandhu will lead the students to investigate the essence of a city and try to decipher what makes a metropolis identifiable as an entity. 

This interdisciplinary class, spanning the arts and sciences, looks at London through a variety of lenses including food, data, water, medicine, childhood, finance. 

The central questions of the course include: Does a city’s essence lie in its monuments, its historical strata, its millennia-spanning narratives? And how productive is it even to think of a city as a singular entity?

The course will include a wide roster of field trips and also offer sustained access to field-leading artists, curators and public intellectuals. Students will have the freedom to work on creative, collaborative and multidisciplinary research projects.

The Anthropology of Tourism

Prague, Czech Republic

Pegi Vail, Associate Director of NYU’s Center for Media, Culture and History, is teaching a course that dissects how the booming multinational tourism industry plays a critical role in the global economy and serves as one of the most powerful mediums of transnational encounter. 

Before the industry ground to a halt worldwide due to the pandemic, humanity was at a tipping point in many destinations, from UNESCO World Heritage sites in European cities such as Prague and Venice to ancient cities like Machu Pichu in Peru or Angkor Wat in Cambodia. 

“Over tourism” has become common parlance but, as the industry recovers and people take to the road again, the need to rebuild sustainably in a new era of travel responsibility is imperative. The course, taught by Pegi Vail, will explore the political economy and the cultural and environmental impact of tourism through an ethnographic examination of actual sites. 

Students will focus on travel stories circulating in print, social media, and exhibitions spaces such as museums, cinema, and TV—exploring their role in shaping our experiences and destination perspectives. 

Mediterranean Foodways: Cuisine, Culture, Sustainability

Florence, Italy

In Professor of Anthropology Jonathan Shannon’s “Mediterranean Foodways: Cuisine, Culture, Sustainability,” students will explore attitudes, beliefs and behaviors associated with food production, preparation, and consumption.

Students will explore the intersections of food, culture, and politics through analysis of the Mediterranean diet, food markets, the Slow Food movement, and the challenges of global food production, including sustainability and the problem of food waste.

Case studies from around the Mediterranean as well as film viewings and field excursions will enable students to appreciate the multiple and contradictory ways traditions are created and recreated in a globalized Mediterranean.

As part of the class, students will explore Florence’s eclectic markets to better understand the concepts of the class.

“Students will research the food markets and stalls of Florence using ArcGIS story mapping software. The Story Map will include geolocations of food stalls and markets, photos and videos of foods, and short text describing these public food entities,” said Shannon.

One of the central questions of the course is to explore sustainability in the context of foodways in the Mediterranean, and how that influences forms of social difference.