Having just finished my undergraduate degree, I’m thoroughly relieved that I’ll never have to study for exams or write an essay again. The all-nighters, unhealthy amounts of caffeine and hours spent poring over books are in the past. And while I’m happy to kiss those days goodbye, I’ve been wondering lately whether or not I’ll ever be learning on that scale again. As much as the endless lectures and assignments were sometimes irritating, I know the whole experience was worthwhile.
A conversation with my roommate got me thinking about education after university. She was stressed out that she couldn’t register for a class she wanted to take this summer. “I really wanted to learn about that!” she said. “So why don’t you?” I replied. An idea as preposterous as buying a textbook she didn’t need for a class had never occurred to her. But if the subject is something you’re interested in, why not read about it at your own leisure? Without the worry of exams, it is much more enjoyable to absorb new material.
Leaving university left me a bit sad that I won’t be learning new things all the time. I came up with a few easy ways to keep my mind busy now that I’m done school. I think they’ll help me as I start to navigate the working world. But they could also help current students stay sharp during the summer break.
- Read the news: There’s nothing worse than when someone asks your thoughts on the latest political scandal and you don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. While you can usually escape this fate in university, it starts to get more embarrassing the older you grow. These days it’s easier than ever to stay up-to-date on current events. You don’t need a subscription to a daily newspaper (though, as a journalism major, this pains me to say), and you don’t even need cable TV (do any students have it anymore?). It’s as simple as browsing through a news app on your smartphone or visiting a news website. Or you can just follow news organizations on Facebook or Twitter to get updates while you check to see what’s going on with your friends. Use these free tools and you’ll never feel out of the loop.
- Subscribe to iTunes U: I’ll admit that, in my panic about “dumbing down” after university, I subscribed to an unreasonable amount of iTunes U courses. There are so many cool topics that I never had the time to study in university, but that still keenly interest me: psychology, philosophy, space, economics. Now, without pesky essays on my plate, I finally have the time to learn about them. These audio or video classes are taught by some of the best professors in the world and are conveniently located on your computer or iPod. Best of all—they’re free! You may even find some that teach you extra skills relevant to your career.
- Read a book: Whether you’re into biographies, sci-fi, mysteries or humour, escaping into a good old-fashioned book will do more for you in the long run than lounging in front of the TV ever will. Even though a book may be fiction, it can still open your eyes to new viewpoints and ideas. Learning to see things from a different angle is one of the most important foundations of education, and having this mindset will help you in whatever career field you enter.
- Study a textbook: Hear me out. While I’m sure most students yearn for the day when they no longer have to spend half their summer earnings on textbooks, they are a simple way to refresh your memory. You can simply review your old university books, or get an edge on career competition by advancing your skills with a new book. You don’t need to get another degree to prove to employers that you have the right skills. Staying up-to-date and maintaining your current knowledge are easy ways to impress your future boss.
- Watch documentaries: Okay, maybe I haven’t convinced you to do any actual reading. If you’ve just finished school, you probably want a break from it. Luckily there are thousands of compelling documentaries out there that will not only keep you entertained, but will actually teach you something. Tons of them are available for free online. And if you have a Netflix account, check out the documentary section.
Whatever way you choose to keep learning, do it with a keen attitude and a sense of its value to your overall growth. While keeping up-to-date with the skills you need for your career is important, don’t close your mind off to outside education. It will definitely help you down the road and give you confidence as you navigate the working world.