Ideas for Lifelong Learning

In the past year, we had a regular series on our Instagram Stories titled either Monday Musing or Wednesday Wisdom (depending on the semester). These topics sprung from conversations our student employees (Eva & Rachel) were having, then they wanted to share them with a wider audience. We’ve decided to group together the topics into overarching ideas and share them here on the blog. Today we’re talking about ideas around pursuing lifelong learning.

Lifelong Learning
We tend to think of our education as a means to an end, but learning from the world around us never has to stop. Choosing to tap into the wealth of knowledge around us can be intimidating, especially once we leave the classroom. Keeping a learner’s mindset can help us grow as individuals, connect with our communities, and engage in life on a deeper level.

Here’s a list of places to start: audiobooks (try your local library for a no cost option) and podcasts; community education classes, reading a book of different genre than usual, taking lessons from someone in your community, watch documentaries, YouTube tutorials, community cultural events, town hall meetings, and the list could keep going.

Image: arching library bookcase filled with books; black & white photo
Text: Ideas for lifelong learning

Reflecting on the Word “Learn”
Sometimes we get so caught up in college that we lose sight of what it is we’re doing here and how we’ll use it outside the classroom.

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far? These could be deep or light. How to be a better friend. Take lip balm out of your pocket before doing laundry.

How can you apply what you’re learning now? You do your homework and take your tests, but what are you really learning? Push yourself to consider how you can use it in your own life now or down the road. Maybe you hate that writing class, but you’ll use the skills to craft a cover letter. Time value of money might seem irrelevant, but you might use it to calculate student loans.

What’s one thing you hope to LEARN in the next year? Maybe it’s school or career related, or it’s a new skill. A part history or the world you’ve always wanted to know about? Use your resources!

Knowledge is power, and learning is a process that never ends.

Photo Source: Unsplash | Susan Yin

Tips for Growing Outside Your Comfort Zone

In the past year, we had a regular series on our Instagram Stories titled either Monday Musings or Wednesday Wisdom (depending on the semester). These topics sprung from conversations our student employees (Eva & Rachel) were having, then they wanted to share them with a wider audience. We’ve decided to group together the topics into overarching ideas and share them here on the blog. Today we’re talking about different ways you can stretch and grow outside your comfort zone.

Being a Work in Progress
We often get so focused on the end goals that we lose track of the present moment. Keep taking steps in the direction you want to go and don’t force the outcomes. Your big goals will fall into place as a result of all those mindful small steps, even if those goals aren’t the same as what you had in the beginning.

Taking Risks
In college, you’re faced with many choices & opportunities: What major? Take an out-of-state internship? Study abroad? Double major? Attend a job fair?

Economics taught me there’s always an opportunity cost. We always give up something in pursuit of another. It could be your time, money, or sense of comfort. But rather than avoid risks, I think we’d do well to learn how to leverage it.

Abraham Maslow said, “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” There will be times when the best choice is to take a moment in safety. But there are also times that growing requires a lot of courage.

Risks are going to exist either way, so don’t let them stop you from you’re meant to do.

Image: large leafed green plant on white background
Text: Tips for growing outside your comfort zone

Embracing Growth Opportunities
It isn’t always easy to admit there are areas we need to grow in. But these areas don’t make us inadequate; they’re simply opportunities for us to improve. 

You’ll have many chances in your life to attend speakers, conferences, etc. They may pop up through school, your job, or other activities. Some of these opportunities may call you out of your comfort zone, and not every one will be right for you. Remember, true growth never comes from a place of comfort. 

When deciding whether or not to pursue something, it’s helpful to first know yourself: your strengths, your weaknesses, and where you want to improve. In what ways will (or won’t) this opportunity help you grow in the right direction? Also, realize a professional event can benefit your personal life, and vice versa. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about an area you want to improve in, and take a brave step towards making it happen!

It’s all about becoming a better person than you were yesterday.

Not Settling
There are many areas we might settle for less than the best: final projects we turn in, majors we pursue, jobs we accept, and people we hang around. There are lots of reasons why we might do this. We “don’t have enough time.” It’s the easy option. We fear we can’t do better.

The truth is, you’re going to be the one living the life you’ve built. You’re only going to live the life of your dreams to the degree that you pursue them. There’s a time and place where done is enough, where having a job that pays the bill is necessary. But, the majority of your life will be a result of the choices you make. So make the ones that take you where you want to go!

Turn in the work and take the paths that excite you and build your confidence in the direction you’re headed. And do so boldly.

“Our problem is not that we aim too high, but that we aim too low and hit.” – Aristotle

Of Possible Interest:
Building Your Resume – all our blog posts on the topic
Boost Your Career in College; Now that You’re on the Job – our Pinterest boards filled with articles & resources

Photo Source: Unsplash | Josh Calabrese

How I Figured Out What I Want to be When I Grow Up

By: Eva

Before college, I knew that I wanted to be a therapist. From middle school until junior year of high school this was my dream profession until I began to worry I wouldn’t make enough money. At that time, 16-year-old Eva didn’t understand that success is measured in thousands of ways and depends on who is holding up the ruler. When I started college through PSEO (Postsecondary Enrollment Options) a couple months later, I enrolled in pre-business classes, but one economics course steered the fate of that short-lived decision. In the following years, I would scramble to find the perfect career that would make me rich, successful, and better than “normal.” I felt a lot of pressure to perform and compete against other students for scholarships, grades, and recognition. This mindset might have been the perfect environment for some people to thrive, but for me, it meant that my goals were made with skewed parameters that required unsustainable levels of energy. I think a lot of people have felt the way I did my first few semesters of college.

Before I go on, I have to acknowledge something super relevant to my experience. I am a young white woman from a middle-class family. I think many people in college, whether first-generation or legacy, white or POC, able-bodied or disabled, can feel pressure from their families and communities. My particular brand of pressure is inseparable from ableism and white privilege.

After my brief stint as a business major during PSEO I switched to nursing. I got my CNA license, enrolled in pre-nursing classes at LSC (Lake Superior College), and was given my first pair of super-cute teal scrubs as a high school graduation present. I loved that as a nurse I could help people in such a direct way. However, after three years of caring for elderly people as an aide, caregiver trauma started to seriously impact my mental health. That realization was incredibly difficult but necessary because it helped me understand my limits.

succulent with grey pot; Text: How I figured out what I want to be when I grow up

I explored my options: I was always told that I wrote well, but I was repelled from an English or Writing degree because of the (untrue) stereotype that graduates with liberal arts degrees are unsuccessful. I tried for several months to transfer to UMD for a biology degree but the core science classes at LSC only counted as electives at UMD. I couldn’t afford another five semesters of college and that fact allowed me to ignore that I was still headed in the wrong career direction. Another area I had done well in was laboratory procedures, which sounded like an acceptable route. I signed up for Medical Lab Technician classes at LSC. There were parts of the classes I really liked, such as drawing blood, looking through microscopes, and learning about pathology. Overall, I felt overwhelmed and disappointed with my choice.

By this point I started to realize that I had been shoving myself into a box I didn’t fit in. I had been trying to make my idea-centered brain work with numbers and logic. Not only was this wasting my strengths, but because of the low enrollment cap on the program I might have prevented someone else from succeeding.

When I looked back I realized that whenever I’d talk about being a nurse or lab tech I felt like I was talking about someone else. All of the prerequisites and checklists felt like I was a hamster in a wheel and not someone about to begin the rest of their adult life. Back to the drawing board. My favorite classes had been sociology and anthropology and many of my role models had similar degrees. After a lot of Google research, I decided that anthropology would be a great place to start. After three and a half years of college, I finally figured out my priorities – and was proud of them.

But wait! There’s one more twist to this story. My first full-time semester at UMD I began working as a Peer Educator at Career and Internship Services. I remember talking with the counselors about all the careers I thought I might like, but after years of chasing the wrong degree I knew I still did not feel right. Part of the student employee training involved personality and strengths assessments, all of which hinted (shouted) that I should consider counseling. I liked the sound of it, especially because it allowed me to help people hands-on, but caregiver trauma is a relevant issue for counselors I couldn’t ignore. Then I had a “could have had a V8” moment when the thought occurred to me that I should look into career counseling.

I could help people, have a useful career that took advantage of my strengths, work in a position that aligns with my values, and have a reliable income. I felt like a massive weight was lifted off my shoulders, almost literally. The pieces clicked together with an ease I had never experienced before. I know that I might change my mind in the future. At least for now I have a plan, which is more important than the plan actually happening.

Of Possible Interest:
Career Planning – all our blog posts on the topic
Turn Your Major Into a Career – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Eva’s other posts 

Photo Source: Unsplash | Scott Webb

Finding Inspiration in Your Field of Study

By: Eva

As a female anthropology student, I always get a bit excited when I see other women’s names stamped onto studies and publications. Although anthropology has been traditionally a man’s vocation through the last couple centuries, there are many women who stand out as incredible role models for all anthropology students. I think having someone to look up to is important no matter your interests or profession. So, here I will talk about three of my favorite female anthropologists and the impacts they have made on my education and worldview.

White canvas with paint pots and brushes; "What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." by Dame Jane Goodall

Dame Jane Goodall (1934 – Present)
Goodall is a primatologist (a scientist who studies primates – she focuses on chimpanzees). When she started her chimpanzee research in the 1960’s in Tanzania she did not have much formal training, which may have been what allowed her to think outside the box and make observations that had gone unnoticed by more experienced primatologists. For example, she would give the Chimpanzees names, such as Frodo, instead of numbers. Thanks to her we now know that chimpanzees make and use tools and have complex social orders, which gives us insight into our own human behaviors. She also has been a dedicated environmental and animal-human rights activist her entire life. She paved the way for many women primatologists and anthropologists and advocated for engaged and participatory anthropological methods. For me, the greatest impact Dame Jane Goodall has left on me is to stick by what you know is right and to always treat people, animals, and the earth with kindness.

Margaret Mead (1901 – 1978)
If any of you have taken an introductory anthropology or sociology course, you will probably have heard of Dr. Mead. She was a revolutionary cultural anthropologist. She faced discrimination from her peers and the general public as a bisexual woman in the 20th century, but the quality of her research and person rose beyond those biases. Many tenets of today’s intersectional feminist theories on gender, sexuality, and personality stem from her study of cultures in Samoa, New Zealand, and the US. Reading Mead’s work has taught me to truly listen to the stories that other people tell and try to put myself in their shoes.

Ursula Le Guin (1929 – 2018)
Technically, Ursula is a writer, not an anthropologist, but she has made a huge impact on my life and my education. Her parents were renowned sociologists and anthropologists so many of her writings contain a certain cultural depth. She is mostly known for her science fiction pieces. The first piece of literature I read by her was The Carrier Bag of Fiction. In it, she discusses her approach to science fiction writing, which is to say she tells “real life” instead of tall tales about the heroes. From her, I learned to celebrate everyday stories, because within them are the solutions to a lot of big problems.

Read Eva’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Kelli Tungay

What to do When You Haven’t Completed an Internship

By: Eva

As I round the final turn for my undergrad I find myself in a strange spot. In December I will get an anthropology degree that isn’t directly related to my desired profession, which is career counseling. I actually can’t be a career counseling “intern” since I would need to be enrolled in or have completed a Master’s program in order to interact with people in that manner. But internships meant for anthropology majors don’t overlap with counseling. So… What did I do?

I worked at UMD’s Career and Internship Services! I am a Peer Educator, which means I help students and alumni work on their resumes and refer them to other office services, like internship searches and degree decision counseling. Although I am not an intern and don’t work directly with students like a counselor, this position does give me a lot of exposure to the field. This summer I was one of several student employees to stay on during the break. I took on a lot of fun and challenging projects that are essential to understanding the inner-workings of a modern career office in a four-year public university. Being in a career office for 30 hours a week has also allowed me to talk with the counselors about their profession, be part of office meetings, and see how each person’s role functions as part of a larger whole. I could not have found a more relevant internship if I had tried!

Stack of books; what to do when you haven't completed an internship

What are other options if you can’t find an internship?

Research! If you have done a major research project for a class, with a professor, or on your own time, you can totally list this under the related experience section on your resume.

Hobbies! When I talk with students and alumni in the Career Resource Center I am amazed at how many people have awesome hobbies that are closely related to their desired jobs. Are you a computer science major who codes for fun? Do you want to be a professional photographer or videographer and you take your Canon Rebel with you on your weekend trips up the North Shore? Are you an English major and have your own book review blog? All of those activities can be put on a resume!

Freelance work! I know someone with a graphic design degree who took graduation photos and designed grad party invites during high school. This evolved during college into advertisement design projects for offices on campus, and one of the connections they made on campus helped connect them to their first out-of-college graphic design position. They used a lot of those freelance projects on the resume they used to land that first professional job!

Art Shows! There are a lot of opportunities for photographers, clay artists, print and digital artists, mixed media artists, and even more to get their work out in public. Coffee shops, tattoo studios, business offices, salons, college campuses, banks, restaurants, and city and state government buildings all often have areas dedicated for local artists to show their work. I definitely suggest writing up a quick contract for yourself and the place manager/owner to sign to make sure that your contact info, art, and sales are protected.

Community Programs! Community programs are great ways to get involved in your area as well as gain invaluable experiences. There are tons of local choruses (Twin Ports Choral Project), theaters (The Duluth Playhouse), outdoor education clubs (Youth Outdoors-Duluth), environmental organizations (Environmental Association for Great Lakes Education), and social activist groups (Program for Aid of Victims of Sexual Assault or PAVSA). These are just a few examples of many places you can start to look for an internship alternative.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Eva’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon

Lessons Learned from Transferring to UMD

By: Eva

Hello, my name is Eva. I started college in 2013, and at this point in time, I have credits from four different colleges and universities. Right now I am working on a Bachelors in Anthropology, but I was enrolled at various points throughout college for Business, Nursing, Biology, English, and Medical Lab Technician. Although it’s meant graduating later than most people my age I am honestly very grateful for the experiences I have accumulated. Here are a few pieces of advice for transfer students…

Keep the paper syllabus!
We all know that the first class of the semester is usually a waste of time, but if anything, go just for the hard copy of the syllabus. Many instructors do have their syllabi online, but if the link is broken, the syllabus has changed since you took the class, or if the instructor or class is no longer at the institution, it will be WAY more difficult to find.

Be ready to defend your education.
I almost had an American History class not transfer to UMD. I talked with the professor at UMD, the History Department head, and the CLA office. I filled out two petitions and sent well over two dozen emails and rang about five different phones. I was super duper polite and considerate the entire time, which worked to my benefit later. I almost think I got so annoying they wanted to get rid of me and allowed the class to count towards my minor. Although it took a lot of time it was worth the time and money in the long run.

Lessons learned from transferring to UMD. Book stack.

Recognize if you’re chasing the wrong career.
Before I transferred to UMD for Anthropology I tried to transfer for a Biology BA. All the biology, chemistry, and anatomy classes I had taken as core classes at LSC only counted as elective credits at UMD. It would take another three years to graduate if I stuck with biology and I was already burned out from trying to make my brain work with numbers and formulas instead of words and ideas. My utter despair at the idea of spending six more semesters in laboratories and blinking through dry biology textbooks helped me realize that what I wanted was not what I was good at.

Double and triple check the classes you’re taking will transfer.
Although it all worked out, I was pretty peeved when my LSC biology courses weren’t considered equivalent to UMD’s. I had been told that they would transfer just fine and that they would be protected because they were part of the MNTC and my Associate’s degree. Just because an advisor says the credits transfer does not mean the system will allow them to transfer. Talk with the other institution to make sure you’re putting your time and money in the right place before you sign up for classes. Make sure to get your answers in writing with an official signature or email.

Ask for help.
I’ve cried in three different staff offices at UMD as I asked what are my options during the transfer process. I cry at the drop of a hat, but all of the staff were incredibly kind and offered me many tissues as I apologized for my overactive tear glands. When we’re in stressful situations we often tend to clam up and protect ourselves. It can be scary to reach out to people in unfamiliar settings but I learned pretty quick that the staff at UMD are there because they want to help students succeed. Even if I talked to the wrong person for my question, that person usually knew someone else with a better answer.

I had one main person who I would email and call on a regular basis. Because she was familiar with my situation she was able to connect me with the people and resources I needed, and I knew I could trust her to help me out.

All in all, even the process of transferring was part of my education. I learned a lot of life lessons by running into obstacles, replotting my educational career, and navigating large and small university systems. I hope that these tips are useful for transfer students, whether you are coming or leaving UMD.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Eva’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon

Life Lessons in Anthropology

By: Eva

When I tell people I am an Anthropology major their first comment is always “Oh, so you learn about dinosaurs?”

Not that dinosaurs aren’t cool, but anthropologists learn a lot more than just how to identify fossils. We learn a lot about ourselves, too.

My emotions are valid.
Anthropology has several different fields, and I focus on cultural anthropology. This means I study what people say, what people do, and what people say they do. To understand all of this involves a lot of talking and interacting with people and recording all of it, and this includes my personal reaction. In a way, anthropologists have to study their own emotions when they’re in the field with just as much care they would give to the people they are working with. In-depth self-reflection has become very important for anthropologists in the last few decades to make sure that the safety and well-being of every participant is looked after. I think this self-study, combined with gentleness and patience, is important for everyone.

Life lessons learned through Anthropology; water surface

Everyone has biases.
Anthropology is a science, but it’s not the kind where you can throw all the data into an algorithm and have it figured out. There is simply too much “humanness” for that to work. Before I switched to Anthropology from Biology I associated bias with weakness. After all, how can you have bias when balancing a chemistry formula? My Anth classes have strongly emphasized the fact that we all have biases and that it is important to acknowledge them, and that bias is not inherently bad. When you do this, you can see how you may have influenced a situation or why you may have reacted in a certain way. This opened my eyes to better understand myself and the people around me and helped me gain more empathy.

Everyone is interesting.
Everyone has cool stories. They just need to be asked. We tend to think that we’re not that interesting because we don’t have a 4.0, don’t have plans to become the next Malala or Obama, or aren’t going into a career that will make millions. But to be honest, that’s most people, including myself. Anthropology has taught me to celebrate the everyday experiences of everyday people. If most people know what it’s like to feel a certain way or experience a certain thing, then those ordinary stories also have the answers for a lot of the worlds’ problems. It just takes someone who wants to listen and find out what those answers are.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Eva’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Tyler Yarbrough