As graduettes, nothing makes us miss college less than remembering those sleepless nights in the library. We scroll through final-themed Snapchats from our younger friends or siblings and couldn’t be more grateful that the student life is behind us.
While we rejoice in the fact that we no longer have to pull all-nighters or overdose on caffeine while cramming for a test, we have to admit that we miss learning. Thinking back to how much we learned during those four years (read: how much we’ve since forgotten), we can’t help but kind of wish we could set foot in a classroom again.
For all those graduettes longing to develop a new skill or even just brush up on old knowledge, we’re giving you our crash course on how to keep learning after college. And don’t worry — there won’t be a final exam!
1. Sign up for a weekly class
Whether you’re learning to make jewelry, picking up a new language, or finally figuring out how to actually use Excel, getting back in the classroom will feel great. You can try your hand at a new art like painting or cooking or gain more skills related to your career field.
Your employer might even pay for classes or conferences that they find beneficial to your work. Christina Madsen, a Barnard College graduate, was given an education stipend as part of her work benefits, which she used to take some analytics classes. “I’d definitely recommend asking an employer if that’s something they’ll permit since it benefits you and the company,” she says.
Do some soul-searching (and Google searching) to determine what types of classes you might like to take, and make sure to talk to your supervisor or HR department if you think it’s something that will make you a stronger employee. Most colleges have continuing education courses that are open to the public, so start your search there, especially if you’re looking for something academic. And keep your eye out for free classes — many retail stores offer complimentary lessons, like the makeup classes at Sephora and cooking technique classes at Williams-Sonoma.
2. Find a mentor
If you don’t have a built-in mentorship program at work, reach out to an older colleague whom you connect with and ask her to grab coffee or lunch. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about someone’s background and experiences from just a few coffee breaks! Your mentor should be someone you trust for advice on office etiquette, career growth, work politics, and more, but don’t feel pressured to cover all of these areas right off the bat. Work on building the relationship first — just getting to know her can be extremely beneficial.
If you’re looking for a mentor outside of your office, reconnect with previous internship supervisors or former professors (if you’re still living in your college town). If you moved away after college, your alma mater can still be an excellent resource — reach out to the career center or alumni association and see if they can put you in touch with alumni in your city who are working in a similar field. You can also look online for other mentorship opportunities, such as the National Association of Professional Women’s mentorship program.
3. Join a club
Discussion-based clubs for people interested in books, film, philosophy, foreign languages, or just about anything, are great ways to stimulate your mind, meet new people, and become a little more cultural. You’ll feel like you’re back in a humanities class in no time, minus all the analysis papers (*giant sigh of relief*).
Check with your local library (even if you haven’t stepped foot in one since graduation), or try websites like Meetup and Reader’s Circle to find discussion groups meeting near you. You’re not limited by location, either; online discussion groups such as those through Goodreads will give you just as much of a mental boost!
4. Listen to podcasts on your commute
Chances are you plug your headphones in the second you leave to walk to work, so why not listen to something educational (even though you’ll never get tired of hearing “Blank Space” on repeat)? Explore the iTunes store to find a podcast that you like, whether it focuses on news, sports, or even quirky stories.
Emory graduette Mandy Ghias recommends “Serial” if you’re into criminal law or mystery (think nonfictional Law & Order), “BBC Global News” to stay up-to-date on current events and “This American Life” for really engaging first-person stories.
5. Be a tourist in your own city
Grab a guidebook for your city and create a bucket list of attractions and activities that sound appealing. From museums to monuments, there’s so much to be learned by exploring your neighborhood. You can also sign up for a walking tour to get to know your surroundings, like food tours, movie- or TV-themed tours (e.g., a Sex in the City tour in New York City) or tours of a famous writer or artist’s home.
Take advantage of the resources offered at each attraction to get the most out of your experience, such as actually using the listening devices at museums and monuments, or staying a few minutes longer to chat with your tour guide.
Visiting a cultural fair, street fair, or food festival can be exciting and enriching, too. Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone and get to know the people working the booths; think of them as experts in their fields.
6. Attend local lectures and readings
Check out your nearest bookstores and universities for lists of upcoming speakers and readings; you can usually find an events calendar on their websites. Go hear an up-and-coming author discuss her latest book or attend an open lecture by a notable professor. If you have speakers or artists you know you want to see, visit their personal websites or social media pages to find conferences or individual lectures that they’ve booked. Follow the companies within your industry that you’re particularly interested in, as many may have opportunities such as conferences where you to hear from them or other experts.
Carnegie Mellon graduette Elyssa Goodman, who lives in New York City, loves to attend events hosted by her favorite authors and photographers, as well as lectures on 1970s to 1990s New York culture, and the history of fashion and beauty standards. “Whenever I leave a lecture, I feel inspired,” she says. “What’s nice about lectures outside of school is that you only have to go to the ones you want to go to, and you can leave without penalty if you don’t like it.”
7. Subscribe to a daily email newsletter
We all know we should be reading the newspaper or watching the news every day, but ain’t nobody got time for that! Email newsletters like theSkimm and Need 2 Know are great ways to catch up on all the important headlines in just a few minutes.
8. Explore webinars, blogs and other online resources
You already spend a lot of your free time on your computer thanks to Facebook and Netflix, so you might as well add a few new sites to the mix.
Colie Lumbreras, a University of Iowa graduette living in Chicago, stays active on LinkedIn to continue learning. “They have webinars and news about conferences and summits, as well as good blog posts,” she says.
You may have kissed your study guides and Scantrons goodbye the second you received that long-awaited diploma, but you’ll never really be done learning. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself or try something completely new—your future self will thank you for it.