As I write this, I have friends preparing for mid-terms.
Last year around this time, I’d be taunting them. For the first time since I was a toddler, I was out of school in October — no classes, no homework, no tests. The natural response is to haze your buddies who still must go jump over these scholastic hurdles.
This year, however, things are a little different. I certainly don’t miss midterms — not by any means — but as I look back on my first year as a college graduate, I realized that I was wasteful with it. Sure, midterms are stressful and grades are a drag, but at the same time they offered me a reason to be proactive in my studying.
Last year, for the first time in my life, I had no real reason to learn anything new — and, as a result, I didn’t learn much of anything. There was a slight learning curve when I began my full-time job, but other than that I filled my evenings with Netflix, Youtube, nights out and long mornings in. It was fun and relaxing at first, but coming into my second year out of college I realized I was bored. I needed to make some changes to recapture the engagement and learning that schooling had enforced with midterms and marks.
Here are some of the sources I turned to in order to continue my education beyond college.
Ok, so most of you don’t need to be told to listen to podcasts. More than half of all Americans have listened to a podcast — and millennials are the largest portion of the podcast-listening population.
There’s a podcast on just about anything you might want to know, from local and international news, to philosophy and religion, even to fun (but surprisingly educational) shows creating improvised musicals. Because podcasts are audible and can be paused, rewound, and played at any time, they are the first and easiest solution to getting some more continuing learning into your life. (If you need some help finding some new podcasts, check out these recommendations from Grotto writers.)
Podcasts are great, but if you are like me, you probably don’t listen to every word from even your favorite podcast hosts. So instead of tuning in during your bus or train ride into work, try picking up a magazine — could be news, economics, literature, whatever — the point is to read rather than listen.
Reading requires more attention than listening does, and therefore getting your news or culture update from a magazine means your more likely to remember it than if you merely listened. Plus, a commute without the headphones leaves you more open to interaction with new people.
Scheduled career education
Most of our post-grad days are spent at work, and there is plenty to pick up just by doing a job for the first time. But think back to college and how education worked then — your education was aimed at more than learning specific proficiencies for a career. You were also studying the big picture of your field — the theories and history and innovations. Why lose that mentality at work? Becoming an expert in your area — especially if you like what you do — could lead to new opportunities or a promotion.
Look at your schedule and figure out some way to include a minimum of one hour a week on industry learning. Maybe during the last 15 minutes of your day, you could browse through a book on management or skim through the New York Times for the latest in scientific news. By building a habit of learning about your sector, even if it doesn’t directly relate to your current job, you are setting yourself up for success. This kind of learning could give you a new insight into a project you wouldn’t think about otherwise or prepare you for a new job interview.
If you’re like me, you don’t live in the same town you used to. In fact, a 2018 study showed that when students graduate from elite, private universities, they tend to flock to big urban centers, like New York City or Los Angeles; while state school graduates move on average 330 miles from where they went to school.
New places mean that all the local knowledge you acquired during college is now obsolete. Unfortunately, that knowledge is often not replaced with new local history or regional insight, but with merely practical knowledge like the location of the nearest grocery store or the company watering hole.
Schedule half a Saturday a month to go learn something new about your local community — whether it’s taking a tour of a local landmark, visiting a regional museum, navigating your town’s food scene, or finding a local walking tour. By building up local knowledge, not only will you create new memories only possible in your new town, but you’ll place yourself in new situations where you can make new (non-work related) friends.
Find a practical hobby
Everyone always talks about finding a hobby, but to be honest, most of us don’t have the time. Between new towns, new jobs, and new relationships, the prospect of finding the time to learn impressionist painting or building model planes doesn’t easily rank high on the list of priorities.
That’s why finding a practical hobby is so important. It gives you the option to do something fun and creative, but also do something that has a purpose. Everyone needs to eat, so why not pick up a subscription to New York Times Cooking and learn to make one new recipe a week? Christmas is coming up, so why not replace presents or gift cards with handmade kitchen towels or scarves? Fresh fruits and flowers brighten up life, so why not teach yourself the basics of indoor gardening?
Keep it practical, keep it fun, and keep learning!
Find time to rest
The final piece of advice for a life of continuing education is probably something that we have been hearing since we were high schoolers filling every spare moment with extra curriculars: find some time for leisure.
At the end of the day, any kind of continuing education you take on won’t matter if you fill your schedule with work, hobbies, and extra-curriculars. Any free time left will undoubtedly be left to something mind-numbing but not truly restful. When was the last time you actually felt rejuvenated from a weekend long Netflix binge?
Make sure to leave some free time for something that you truly enjoy and find relaxing. For me, that’s reading a mystery novel, but for others it could be yoga, jogging, meditative prayer, journaling, or a host of other activities. Just make sure its mindful, enjoyable, and truly restorative.