Tips for Grads: Being a lifelong learner

By Olivia Gacka, PhD Student

At the end of last semester, I asked all of you to complete a writing exercise with me listing things you were proud of. As we are now facing the end not only of the semester but of the academic year as a whole, I’d like to invite you to do something similar again. Some of you will be graduating soon, and this will be one of the last GradConnections newsletters that you’ll receive as a UW­–Madison graduate student. If that’s you, CONGRATULATIONS! You did it. But some of you, like me, have a ways to go. And we too can do it!  Whether you’re finishing up your formal studies for good or still have years left, it’s important to remember that learning should be a lifelong project.

In that spirit, I’d like to ask you to take out a piece of paper or pull up a blank document on your computer and list out the following things:

  • What’s one thing you learned this semester that blew your mind? Sometimes, there’s nothing more exciting than that one tidbit of information you learned in a class or a talk that just knocks you off your feet. For me, it was finding out that my favorite playwright, modernist writer Samuel Beckett (who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969 and is perhaps best known for his play “Waiting for Godot”) was also apparently a very accomplished athlete. I can’t tell you why that rocked my world so hard, but it really did.
  • What’s one thing you learned this semester outside of school that blew your mind? Learning is not limited to the lab or classroom. A couple of months ago I learned from a news segment my parents were watching that climate change is making it such that France is becoming an increasingly less hospitable temperature for growing grapes to make wine, while England is starting to average at the ideal temperatures to do so.
  • What’s one thing you want to learn more about in the near future? Whether it’s through a class or on your own, lifelong learning really just means curiosity. So, what are you curious about? This summer, I’m hoping to learn more about the history of restaurants. Will I use it as an excuse to eat at more restaurants? Almost definitely. But hey, I’m a hands-on learner!

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.