Many students use the break between academic terms to spend time with families and friends or to travel. Some simply relax, rejuvenate, and re-energize before the start of the spring term. But an increasing number of students choose to return early to campus for Wintersession, a 10-day period at the College during which they can experience unusual opportunities before they return to classes, studying, and other responsibilities.

This year, College-led and student-initiated programming provided opportunities to explore creative passions, pursue career interests, learn about different academic fields, engage in recreational activities with friends, and connect with alumni.

In the third year of the program, Wintersession 2013 featured more than 150 seminars, activities, classes, and other events. Students could earn scuba diving, earn fitness certification, explore neuroscience, learn about personal finance, taste ethnic foods, paint pottery, or challenge friends to games of dodgeball, in addition to many other options.

“Wintersession is the time during the academic year when students have an opportunity to engage in things that they haven’t been able to do during term time,” said Harvard College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds. “It’s a time of exploration here in Cambridge, and it’s a time when you can make those explorations without having to worry about grades, time management, or any of the other things that students typically worry about in the usual course of events.”

For example, scores of students heard from Hammonds, the Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science and of African and African American Studies, as she discussed her book “The Nature of Difference: Sciences of Race in the United States from Jefferson to Genomics.”

Wintersession wrapped with “Public Interested?,” a College-organized conference that allowed hundreds of students to interact with dozens of alumni who have chosen to dedicate their careers to public service.

Wintersession is optional, and students are encouraged to use the time between terms in whatever way benefits them most.

7 speakers, 12 minutes each