As chair of Hispanic Studies, I get to sponsor a fair amount of Winter Term projects that involve travel to the Spanish-speaking world. I've always thought that leaving the country is one of the best ways to spend January (that goes for myself as much as for my students). And for anyone wanting to work on their Spanish, it's of course a great opportunity to practice.
For me, the best part is early February, when students' reports come in. This year one of my Comparative Literature advisees, a double degree student, spent January trekking all over southern Spain to prepare for her senior capstone project: putting to music a handful of poems by prominent Andalusian poets from the 1920s--Federico García Lorca, Luis Cernuda, Rafael Alberti. In typical Oberlin fashion, she came up with it last-minute, but then immediately put 110% of herself behind it. Within a couple of days she managed to write a solid proposal and get some travel funds. And then she actually did what she proposed to do: spend a full month in Spain (her first time there), with visits to caves in Granada, Alberti's home near Cádiz, Lorca's house, flamenco clubs, and a couple of amazing mountain hikes. Now she's set to write, with the goal of having the pieces performed by the end of the semester. The project is ambitious but intensely personal; it bridges cultures and languages; it combines travel, literature, and music--and it will result in an original work of art. It can't get more Oberlin than that.