The Joy of Learning

Study What You Love

This weekend, the organization that I volunteer with took our kids to the local swimming pool. After our swim, we started dropping of the kids home from the pool. Passing by their school, one of the youngest said: “I miss you so much school!” I told her she will be back in school after another day. Her remark really made me think of how I felt when I was her age. I also loved going to school because I was always learning something new.

Yet, if you ask me now, my feelings have definitely changed. Somewhere along the way, learning seemed to have become more difficult. Was it because I was no longer interested in what I was learning? Or were the subjects and topics simply becoming more difficult to understand? Where did that joy of learning go?

I think as I got older, I became too serious about learning. Education and studies are important, but I think everyone learns differently and what interests us differ as well. It took a long time for me to realize that there is nothing wrong with excelling in some subjects and failing in others. In my perspective, finding what you are bad at will help you figure out what you are good at. The same goes with our passions and interests. For example, it always strikes me when I meet people who may struggle with English or Mathematics explain the statistics and strategies of games and names of basketball or soccer players. It is incredible! So, I think when we are interested in learning our subject, studying becomes an exploration of a world that we want to engross ourselves in.


Trying Something New

This blog topic came up in a week where work has slowly been picking up. I have been feeling more optimistic. After the 30-Day Fitness challenge, I have been feeling very confident in myself. Challenging my body by consistently going to the gym and taking classes has been a great habit that I have adopted. So I had been thinking, what new challenge would I like to try next? After testing my body, I wanted to challenge my brain. So I have decided to start learning a new language: Italian.

Why Italian? Personally, I am very interested in the Italian culture. I find the fashion, the attitude, the history and Italian personality fascinating. Italy is one of the places that I would love to visit and explore. While learning German in Germany, I had my family to support me. So learning Italian will be somewhat on my own. Yet, the lessons I learned when learning German will come handy. I know that I learn best when I am engrossed with the subject, in this case, the Italian language. Although, I cannot go on a trip and learn Italian in Italy right now, there are so many resources to take advantage of right here and now.

For instance, I am going to try to learn Italian a little differently than when I learned German. In Germany, I learned in a traditional setting: in a classroom with my teacher and classmates. The level we were learning was also very high. We were learning to read, write, speak and comprehend in German. In my case, I want to speak and understand basic Italian for when I go on a trip or meet Italians. Therefore, there is a relaxed manner when approaching learning.

I can recall when I was learning German that there was pressure to learn as much and as quickly as we could. We had tests we were preparing for. There was a lot of homework and studying to do. My brain felt stretched and strained. It was hard to keep up and stay focus sometimes. I felt like many things flew over my head. This was another factor I discovered for about myself when learning: I study best when I am relaxed and engaged.


Learning How You Learn

Like in my last post about learning in increments, this is something I want to implement when learning a new language. When I think about it, Italian is only one of the many languages that I would like to learn. So through this challenge/experiment, I will test myself to see how do I learn best, what am I good at, where do I lack, and where can I improve on.

It is funny how my perspective has changed. I think this is what bothered me about learning and studying when I was in high school. I was always afraid to fail. So studying for tests were stressful and trying occurrences. It would also be very disappointing when I did not get the grade that I wanted or knew that I did not do very well on an exam.

Looking back, there were not many subjects that I remember. I studied those subject simply to pass an exam. I did not really learn anything. But I learned how to learn. I developed an work ethic that I could later apply to subjects that did interest me. Mind you, how I learn best in different circumstances is still developing. However, I think the skill of learning how you learn is very important. There are many things to learn in life. You decide what is important and interesting to you and it may be similar or different than the next person. Moreover, how you learn can differ to.

For example, in my German class, we were made of students from all over the world. Some were from Europe, others from the Middle East and Asia and some, like me, from North America. Each of us had different levels of learning and understanding German even though our teacher taught us the same things. Some students dedicated more studying outside of our lessons. Others could practice with spouses or family. For me, German was similar to English in some ways. But I had to learn the articles for nouns that do not exist in English.

It is said, travelling broadens the mind. I would agree. Yet to go beyond a week-long vacation is to explore a culture not only through their streets and cuisine but also in how they speak and their language. When I studied the German language, I could glimpse into the German mentality and personality. It is very organized, systematic and precise. As a designer, Deutsch is very clean and minimalistic.

I know that learning Italian will be a new experience. The German and Italian culture and language are naturally different. But I am excited to see what may be similar or new. Overall, I am motivated and confident to learn. To be so fascinated and passionate about something is contagious. It can take a hold of you and move you. Have you ever felt this way before?


Buona fortuna! / Good luck!

Whatever excites you, take the chance to learn more about it. There is a whole world around us filled with different people, cultures, languages and perspectives. In the digital age, information is right at our fingertips. Learn what you love and see where it will take you. Give yourself the time to make mistakes and learn in a relaxed and consistent manner. Overtime, you can build the confidence and strategies to teach yourself to learn anything you want. I will let you know how my studies go. Until then, in buona fortuna! Good luck, and happy learning! ■

Patricia Atienza