There’s nothing quite like learning something new to get you excited, inspired and motivated; things I feel are so important for our mental health and wellness. Throughout my adult life I’ve constantly found myself returning back to education, not just to open up new career options and increase my knowledge, but also for personal growth.
Over the past 15 years I have returned to study a number of times to feed my hunger for learning, and I don’t know if or when I will ever stop!
Finding myself through study
After leaving high school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in life. Studying was my jam so I left with an ‘A’ bursary and launched straight into a four-year conjoint Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Business Studies at Massey University. To be honest, I chose the course because I thought going to university was just what you did when you leave high school (and I wasn’t that inspired by any of my other options). When I graduated, I still didn’t know exactly what path I wanted to go down in life. I was working in IT and telecommunications at the time, earning great money, but knew it wasn’t where I wanted to stay forever and so the trial and error process began…
I know it’s sometimes a criticised strategy, but I’m a strong believer in following your passion when it comes to work. For many of us careers are a 20-40 hour a week role; working takes up such a big chunk of your life, and if you don’t enjoy your job it can have a negative flow-on effect into other areas of your life. How many of us have had a difficult time at work and ended up frequently complaining to partners/friends/colleagues about it? Or been too tired or stressed out to do anything other than mooch in front of the television at the end of the day?
And so I started researching online for my next step. Even just the act of looking at the options available and dreaming of what they could lead to was exciting. I had previously experienced health problems that I managed to get under control with the help of lifestyle changes and exercise, so personal training was one area I was interested in. I also loved writing and thought working for a magazine might be an exciting role for me. So? I applied for courses to study both.
Getting into the Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism was difficult; there was a rigorous screening process – which included ability testing – and limited places available that made the application process a very serious thing. In my mind I’d already taken the leap to go from full-time work back to full-time study (and the downsized income that would come with it). And so when I didn’t get in, I was incredibly disappointed.
I received a call several weeks later that someone hadn’t accepted their place in the programme and I was next on the list, so naturally I jumped at the chance and left the idea of personal training behind. This led to an incredible opportunity working for New Idea magazine where I met some wonderful people and got the feel for writing on a regular enough basis to earn a living.
As often happens with life, next came a turning point where I had to choose whether to continue writing for the magazine or head in a different direction. That different direction eventually led back to finally taking the personal training qualification I’d passed on years before. I worked in a gym environment and my own home-based studio, taking short courses to upskill along the way and absolutely loving it. But after seven years, I felt my knowledge still wasn’t adequate to truly help my clients address their modern lifestyle issues.
In my own life, yoga bridged that gap, addressing stress and anxiety relief, encouraging body awareness and acceptance, and helping me to generally slow down in a fast-paced world. However, this time I was unwilling to drop my income too much so I signed up for a two year Diploma in Yoga part-time.
If there is a way, you can find it
Just after I signed the contract to begin my yoga course, I found out I was pregnant with my first child! At that point I had the choice to either defer learning until later or jump in the deep end and continue to study knowing that it would be for the duration of my pregnancy, right up until my daughter would be 16 months old.
Luckily the mid-semester break in that first year of study lined up exactly with my due date, so I did my final exams and practical assessments a few weeks before giving birth. As I had already chosen to study part-time, I took the following semester off to look after my newborn girl, then returned the next year when she was seven months old and my mum could look after her. Although it wasn’t always easy, I completed my yoga qualification last November (alongside additional short courses in pregnancy and postnatal women’s yoga which was influenced by my own life experiences throughout the diploma) and am already looking into options to do my advanced teacher’s training! I have found a wonderful course that will allow me to complete my training in a series of monthly weekend workshops throughout the year which means I can continue to work and look after my daughter during the week.
Why learning new things is good for you
Although all the qualifications I’ve accumulated over the years seem incredibly random, I use every single one of them today. My four-year conjoint degree taught me to apply myself to something and stick with it. I am now a self-employed personal trainer, yoga teacher and blogger, and still use the business skills I learned – such as accounting, law and computer studies – on a daily basis. The video editing skills I learned in media studies are about to be used when I begin posting vlogs on YouTube later this year, and will also be handy for the demonstration videos I will be making for my online personal training clients.
The journalism qualification taught me to write well; whether it’s blog posts, articles, emails, newsletters or promotional materials, I know I can string some decent sentences together and have a relatively good ability to self-edit my own work. Plus, I learned website design skills that helped me with the template for this NZ Real Health website and the fitness businesses I’m involved in.
The personal training and yoga qualifications have been about me really finding my place in the world. I feel like my calling in life is to help people lead healthier and happier lives in a sustainable way that helps to counteract busy modern lifestyles – and this blog is an extension of that!
Learning new things provides challenges, motivation, inspiration and can be incredibly fulfilling. Returning to study can be daunting and there are often logistical issues you may need to work through such as childcare, reduced income or even other issues such as self doubt. The unfamiliarity of a new situation may be scary, but in stepping out of your comfort zone, the potential rewards are so fulfilling they could literally change your life and give you new perspective.
The many study options available
There are so many ways that you can feed your hunger for learning. If full time study isn’t your jam for whatever reason, here are some other options that could suit:
- Part-time study
- Short courses
- Distance learning
- Online learning
- Taking papers individually
When I did my first round of studying at Massey University, I actually did some of my papers extramurally – or, in other words, via distance learning – and found it a wonderful way of learning in my own time and at my own pace. I was provided with the lesson materials, then worked my own way through them, submitting assignments to set deadlines and occasionally attending contact courses which were great opportunities to meet the lecturers in person.
I’ve experienced a range of learning options myself; a full-time four-year degree, one-year postgraduate diploma, short courses, distance learning, online study… Different options will suit you at different times of your life, so there is always something you can do if you’re really serious about it.
I’d love to hear your studying experiences if you’re a learn-a-holic like I am, or your dreams for studying in the future! What would you love to do that would feed your hunger through learning? Comment below and let me know.
Thanks to #MasseyUni for teaming up with me for this post
If you’ve been thinking about learning or upskilling without leaving your home, head here to find out more about distance learning.
Images / NZ Real Health