My Self-Directed, Alternative Learning Experience

I don’t have a degree. I’ve enrolled at uni twice in the past – both long after I left school at sixteen – and didn’t make it to the end either time (for the record, pregnancy and (unfounded) financial worries kiboshed the Creative Writing degree in my thirties and workplace politics and frustration in my forties ended my Library Science studies). For some reason, the desire to take on tertiary study lingered for decades.

I’ve been employed more or less continuously for my whole life, changing careers and industries a couple of times, changing it up when I became jaded or bored, which was probably a little too often. But a few years ago I realised that my work life wasn’t challenging or stimulating me much at all and I needed something new to excite the old grey matter. I also became aware of that highly motivating tick tick tick of the clock that marked the passing of each year (ageing is both a blessing AND a bitch). Time to kick it up a notch.

Enter the One-Year, Self-Directed, Alternative Graduate School of Life Experience

Followers of Chris Guillebeau and his book, The Art of Non-Conformity, will recognise the alternative learning concept – instead of committing time, effort and money into a formal learning structure (for whatever reason), develop your own year-long learning program that will fit your lifestyle, interests and goals (here is Chris’ original post about how that can look). It’s as much about self challenge as it is about learning and fun.

This is how my year of learning looks, more or less:

  • Learn Spanish (for the second time)
  • Subscribe to and read The New Yorker
  • Learn the names of every country in the world, their capital city, three letter airport code (harking back to my days in international freight) and something I didn’t know about the country
  • Visit somewhere new every month, within driving distance (damn you, CV19)
  • Live for one month in a town or city in a different country (clearly on hold) – perhaps I can do some armchair travel or research into my chosen town instead?
  • Take a couple of short online courses (Like this one at Uni of Newcastle)
  • Complete WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Wine awards 1 & 2
  • Learn at least two new skills to a point of basic proficiency (I’m thinking pasta making and lino printing)
  • Support a non-profit organisation or charity by volunteering or sponsorship (I chose Rafiki Mwema, who I’m volunteering for)
  • Loan money to a woman through KIVA
  • Read at least twelve non-fiction books (not my usual genre)
  • Watch as many Christopher Walken films as possible, preferably in order of release (the man has 138 credits – so that means I won’t be watching any of his tv series or animated films – unless we go to the next level of social isolation). If you’re wondering why Christopher Walken, well, among other reasons, there’s this music video… the man is a legend
  • Write or research every week – whether that be a post, newsletter item, book related or purely for the sake of it
  • Cook something from one of my library of cookbooks every week
  • Develop a regular exercise routine from home

And because we’re already in April, I’m overdue for a progress review. I’m one of those people who responds better to external pressure, so by putting it out there to you, I’m making myself accountable. (It’s up to you to keep me in line!) I’ll be adding my progress reports to my twice-monthly newsletters, if you’d like to see how my learning mojo is holding out.

It was really interesting thinking about the type of things I wanted to include but in the end, I let Chris Guillebeau’s list guide me to some degree, with my personal interests as an overlay. What would your alternative learning year of life study schedule look like?

2 thoughts on “My Self-Directed, Alternative Learning Experience”

  1. There’s alot in this list! I’ve had sufficient opportunity in my life to be exposed to undergraduate and postgraduate study – I think your year of learning is more like a three year degree! Especially the Christopher Walken films – who had any idea that he had 138 film credits? Best wishes.

    1. Thanks Craig, I’m ever the optimist! I initially thought it might be too much, but I’m finding I’m doing five things from the list every week at the moment, just as part of what I regularly do, plus there are a couple of one-offs. I’m adjusting how I use my time too, that’s been bit of an eye opener, identifying the wasted time. The problem I’m starting to see is heading down rabbit holes – country 1 was Afghanistan and I spent hours looking into culture and traditions, to meet the “one fact” criteria! Do I call that procrastilearning? 😉 Anyway the plan is to blog an update each month so keep on keeping me accountable! Thanks for the positive vibe.

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