Sunday 19th May 2024

Five free ways to keep on learning


Have you ever thought about how you could be a better version of yourself? I have. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to sell you a new diet plan or a religion. I’m talking about self-improvement through knowledge. As in learning something new every day… you know, the way we used to at school?

I wasn’t always like this. While in education, I much preferred the endless reruns of Friends and America’s Next Top Model to studying. Studying was something you had to do to get all the right pieces of paper. But something weird happened to ‘adult me’ – I realised I missed learning.

Now I’m an adult, I miss learning.

Now I have this constant need to have learnt something by the end of the day. By which I mean something important and permanent – not just the latest goss on Kanye, Kim and Taylor, but things like how to hold a basic conversation in Spanish, the significance of Yasujirō Ozu’s films, or what the eyes of a fly look like in close-up (fascinatingly gross).

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In a world where university fees are hiked to new unprecedented highs, self-improvement can, however, be expensive. Last year I signed up for a year-long creative writing evening course with City University London. This was all I could afford, the fees for a creative writing MA being more than triple of what I paid. In the end this worked out well for me – my course mates and I have kept in touch and now have an informal weekly meet-ups that are entirely free.

Self-improvement can be expensive – but there are ways to do it on a budget.

And as I’m in the process of buying a flat, I have no plans to pay for any more courses in the near future. So what else is out there? Is there still such a thing as free education?

1. The internet is a wonderful resource in and of itself, but a lot of information available needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Just think how easy it is to edit a Wikipedia entry! However, the Open University, for instance, offers free online courses in everything from money management to criminology and poetry writing, from introductory to advanced levels.
2. Apps like Memrise are revolutionising where and when we learn, adding potential to our daily commutes. Different courses can teach you languages from Afrikaans to Welsh and everything in-between, basic HTML or JavaScript, or how to recognise paintings by famous Western artists. Duolingo is another handy language app, focused on European languages. Or if you dare to have a go at Mandarin, ChineseSkill will challenge you to start learning characters from day one.
3. If you have more time to spare and prefer learning your languages face-to-face, MeetUp features listings for language exchange meetups.
4. Another way to make the most of your commute is podcasts. There’s the now widely popular TED Talks, as well as ideas-focused Little Atoms and a whole range of other topics listed here (worth having a look even if you’re not a regular Stylist reader). For those interested in writing support and inspiration, here’s another list of podcasts.
5. For those looking for science-related knowledge in London, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum run ‘Lates’ for adults, featuring entertainment, drinks and, of course, science. While some events are ticketed, there is usually also a free programme.

I will leave you to consider your options. In the meanwhile, tweet us your resources. And happy learning!

Helen Harjak

Mouthy Blogger

Would you like to know how to dress like a catwalk model for one millionth of the price? Talk to Helen.

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