First Day of School

Labor Day… the day we celebrate the official end to the dog days of summer. A reward to ourselves for working hard, staying indoors in our offices while children and students have spent the last few months running free in the sunshine. (Not that I’m bitter or anything…) It was two years ago today that I began my final year of university, and now as I sit in a Starbucks back in that same college town, I both celebrate the fact that I’m on vacation and not in class today, and feel a twinge of jealousy that university is over for me.

I love learning, I love reading, I love sitting in lectures, and I love the idea of going back to school. However, my bank account and indecisive nature have ruled out grad school for my immediate future. So imagine my delight when I stumbled across Chris Guillebeau’s plan for “The One-Year, Self-Directed, Alternative Graduate School Experience.” A way to introduce discipline to my independent “studies”–and pretend I’m still a student! Brilliant.

I immediately (albeit unofficially) signed myself up, and began planning my studies. It seemed natural to begin at the start of the school year, so today marks the beginning of my journey. My commitments are outlined below, and I’m excited to share my experiences and gained knowledge throughout this next year.  Hopefully this blog will be a means of holding myself accountable to stick with it until next September, and a good memento of what this year will hold. (And it fulfills one of my requirements.) Feel free to  leave comments, suggestions, encouragement, inspiration, etc. And now, without further ado, the plan for this year:

The One-Year, Self-Directed, Alternative Graduate School Experience (The text in blue is from Chris’ plan; the black is my comments and/or modifications.)

  • Subscribe to the Economist and read every issue religiously. Cost: $97 + 60 minutes each week. I’m  a little worried about how well I will do at reading this magazine every week, as anything financial feels a little beyond me, but it appears they cover more than economics so I’m going to make the best of it! 
  • Memorize the names of every country, world capital, and current president or prime minister in the world. Cost: $0 + 3-4 hours once. Is Chris crazy?? It will take me much more than 3-4 hours to be able to do this. My plan is to buy this shower curtain (and use Sharpie to add in the Pres/PM names) so I can work on it while I shower. (Got to love multi-tasking!) 
  • Buy a Round-the-World plane ticket or use Frequent Flyer Miles to travel to several major world regions, including somewhere in Africa and somewhere in Asia. Cost: variable, but plan on $4,000. I am BY FAR the most excited about this requirement. More on this in a future post!
  • Read the basic texts of the major world religions: the Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, and the teachings of Buddha. Visit a church, a mosque, a synagogue, and a temple. Cost: Materials can be obtained free online or in the mail—or for less than $50 + 20 hours. I’m also pretty excited about this requirement. I’ve already read the Torah and New Testament, so although I will continue to read from them for personal study, I think I might track down a book or two on Judaism to read in addition. I also want to visit the Christian Science church and Spiritual Community Gathering that meet in my town in addition to the mosque, synagogue, and temple. I’m also taking a night class on Islam which starts in a couple weeks. 
  • Subscribe to a language-learning podcast and listen to each 20-minute episode five times a week for the entire year. Attend a local language club once a week to practice. Cost: $0 + 87 hours. I’ve found a variety of French podcasts to try out over the next year. I’ve done a good bit of French study in the past, but I’ve already lost a lot of it due to not practicing. And since there isn’t a French language club in my area, I might just call my parents up to speak in French with them once a week. (Which I’m sure is making you happy, Mom and Dad.) 
  • Loan money to an entrepreneur through Kiva.org and arrange to visit him or her while you’re abroad. Cost: Likely $0 in the end, since 98% of loans are repaid. Generosity with my resources is definitely important to me, but I want to do some research on Kiva before making any commitments to this one… I’m sure I will have a post about it in the future. 
  • Acquire at least three new skills during your year. Suggestions: photography, skydiving, computer programming, martial arts. The key is not to become an expert in any of them, but to become functionally proficient. Cost: Variable, but each skill is probably less than three credits of tuition would cost at a university. Still deciding on what exactly these three will be. I’m open to suggestions! Things I have considered are web design, bread making, figure drawing, videography, clothing design, piano. I already have a basic knowledge in most of those things, but “proficient” is probably a stretch. 
  • Read at least 30 non-fiction books and 20 classic novels. Cost: approximately $750 (can be reduced or eliminated by using the library). Totally planning on eliminating this cost and taking advantage of my library. I’ve started my list of classic novels already, which I’ll post about soon. Still working on my list of non-fictions.
  • Join a gym or health club to keep fit during your rigorous independent studies. (Most universities include access to their fitness centers with the purchase of $32,000 in tuition, so you’ll need to pay for this on your own otherwise.) Cost: $25-75 a month. Planning on joining my local YMCA, which is only a few blocks from my apartment. Hopefully this will serve as additional motivation to get over there in the long, cold winter months when all I want to do is stay huddled inside! 
  • Become comfortable with basic presentation and public speaking skills. Join your local Toastmasters club to get constructive, structured help that is beginner-friendly. Cost: $25 + 2 hours a week for 10 weeks. I don’t know why, but I’m wary of going to the Toastmasters club.  But in good faith, I’ve looked up the details for the one in my town. I think I will try to go at least 10 times. Unless it’s really weird. In which case all bets are off. 
  • Start a blog, create a basic posting schedule, and stick with it for the entire year. You can get a free blog at WordPress.org. One tip: don’t try to write every day. Set a weekly or bi-weekly schedule for a while, and if you’re still enjoying it after three months, pick up the pace. Cost: $0. Obviously, I’ve already started this one.
  • Set your home page to http://wikipedia.org/random. Over the next year, every time you open your browser, you’ll see a different, random Wikipedia page. Read it. Cost: $0. 1st, that is not the correct link to access a random Wikipedia page. This is what you will need if you want to check it out yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:RandomPage 2nd, I just “learned” about Juan Rafael Mendez. The wiki about him is pleasantly short, although I doubt I will ever remember anything I read about him. I suppose over the next 365 days I will hopefully retain at least some things I read. 
  • Learn to write by listening to the Grammar Girl podcast and buying Bird by Birdby Anne Lamott. Cost: $0 for Grammar Girl, $14 for Anne Lamott.
  • Instead of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, read The Know It All by A.J. Jacobs, a good summary. Cost: $15.

TOTAL COST: $10,000 or less

Well, that’s about it for now. I need to get back to reading my first book for the project. Book review to be coming soon!


One thought on “First Day of School

  1. Pingback: I Quit! | A Year in Learning

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