Life, the Universe and Everything: Lifelong Learning

I’ve written about taking a short course to learn something new on this blog but it feels strange that, other than that, I’ve not really tackled the topic of lifelong learning before. After all, I spent 17 of the the first 22 years of my life in full-time education and, since then, I’ve spent many evenings and weekends learning new skills and acquiring new qualifications.

I was asked at the interview for my first office job why I only took two A-levels (I actually studied for three, but failed maths!), so I decided to fill the perceived gap in my education and sign up for A-level Business Studies in the evenings. Once I started working at a Further Education college near Manchester, that’s when I started to really understand the benefits of part-time structured learning. I left that job with City & Guilds certificates in garden design, beginners photography and darkroom skills (for fun), plus ECDL Expert status (for my CV). After that, I took an advanced driving course and I also returned to the same college to continue my photography with an AS-level.

Learning embroidery with Jess de WahlsOnce I moved to London, I found a college that offered A2 Photography and so completed my fourth A-level. Since then, with so many fascinating courses and workshop in central London, I have taken short courses in: Oracle and SQL (yes, really!), corsetry, fashion journalism, lingerie making, Photoshop, ballet, archery and creative writing. I’ve done workshops on concepts like how to find a job you love, and skills such as making latex clothing, sewing a shift dress, beginners embroidery and how to knit. In fact, it now feels really weird when I’m not learning something!

Of course, you don’t have to sign up for a course or study for a recognised qualification to benefit from lifelong learning. You can teach yourself a skill from YouTube videos, learn a new language via an app, or just read every book you can find in your local library on a specific subject. If you do want to take a course though, you can study online or find a local college that offers evening classes and get learning from your course mates too. Learning something new is like a reboot for your brain – you’ve just got to pick the method that works best for you.

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Image from a tour of the UAL Archives & Special Collections Centre