Learning can be defined as “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught”.
For many of us, the word learning is synonymous with formal education, studying, tuition, schooling and teaching. A high-quality formal education is something that I appreciate the value of. This is why I made the decision to invest in studying Linguistics at undergraduate level. I also believe that a good formal education should be accessible to all, which has motivated me to study an MPhil in Education (Globalisation and International Development) at the University of Cambridge.
However, the majority of my most important learning moments have occurred outside of the classroom.
When applying for jobs during my final year at university, the majority of the content in my application was drawn from my extra-academic commitments. I was interviewing for communication, events and fundraising roles within domestic and international charitable organisations. During the application and interview process, I was asked to draw upon the skills that I had learnt in my voluntary roles and my part time jobs, rather than from my degree course.
Because I had ran almost one charitable event per month during my time as co-Charities Chair of my netball club, when asked, I was able to talk the interview panel through the logistics of planning and executing an event. Because I had worked part time as a social media assistant, I was able to give a presentation on how the organisation could use Twitter to garner more support for service users. Because I had been given the opportunity to write a grant application for a charity, and it had been accepted, I could utilise it as an example in an interview for a fundraising role.*
What I am trying to say is, (cliché alert) life is the biggest teacher of all…
Playing on a netball court has taught me more about teamwork than a group project at university ever could.
Practicing the art of self-reflection has helped me to understand the importance of prioritising certain tasks to avoid burn out, something that I have always struggled with in formal educational systems.
Listening to a first hand account of the blitz at a care home gave me a better insight than any of my history classes did at high school.
Building a snow cave and sleeping in it taught me a lot more about perseverance than every single motivational speech I have heard from a headteacher.
Creating my own newsletter, blog and Instagram brand has taught me things about marketing that I never picked up during my AS Level lessons in economics and business studies.
My generation really grabs hold of opportunities to learn in life. My favourite thing about us it that we often have the drive, skills and outlook to get things done, to reach our goals and to achieve. This is exhibited in our ability to work outside of the typical 9-5, to invest in our side hustles, to demonstrate our creativity, to have multiple streams of income from internet sponsorship deals. We know how to devote our spare time to acquiring a new skill like a language, art form or technical proficiency.
If you take anything away from this article, let it be that your learning is not confined to an educational system, but is in your hands everywhere you go. As my mum always says, education is life-long.
This piece was written to be entered into the ActiviaTraining Scholarship Competition, if you want to have a crack at it yourself, click here.
*It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that my degree was still important as the organisations were only accepting applications from degree holders.