Teach Yourself!

This is going to be a practical post.

Can you imagine? I’m not exactly known to be the most practical person. My mom (and many of my friends) used to joke that someone with such a great academic record should really be able to remember to buy milk or call the dentist (okay, forgetting the dentist MIGHT have been on purpose). In fact, I know my mother worries sometimes that with all my head-in-the-clouds daydreaming behaviour, I will be incapable of leading a productive grown-up life.

But in fact, I have thought about some very practical matters recently. Chief among them, what does a recent graduate do with his/her life? Well, this graduate here would like to be a brand designer. She’d like to create brand identities, develop strategies, be a creative planner and an artist. Really. That type of job has that faint but irresistible smell of “this could be your passion”.

However, agencies are a bit tough to break into, and many job descriptions will describe someone who’s a bit of an all-rounder. Having worked in a small agency, I see the point of that, and considering all that brand design entails, it really does make sense for me to know my way around the Adobe software, have a decent design portfolio, know how to program a website (basic HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.), handle big, intimidating copiers without causing paper jams, speak five languages fluently, be able to milk a cow in under 20 seconds, do handstands while juggling computers and decode the Facebook newsfeed algorithm on request… well you get my point. I was sort of serious up to the paper jams. Actually, up to the languages. But of course, that’s not the kind of stuff I learned in college.

So instead, I’ve been teaching myself. I called this post “school of life” but really it’s more like “school of awesome free (and not so free) online resources”. I’m studying for a certificate in Graphic Design (that’s the not so free part) but I’ve recently also found some other resources very much worth looking into, so I thought maybe I should share. Please note… this is a personal collection, I’m not being paid by any of these websites to advertise them (on a blog with 27 followers, that wouldn’t make much sense either, hehe), neither are they aware that I’m talking about them 😉

1) Duolingo.com

Learn Spanish, Italian, French, German and Portuguese online for free. Your progress is divided into sections on a “skill tree”, which you need to solve to unlock new sections. In each set of exercises, you are permitted a maximum of three mistakes (three hearts you can lose). In the end, you get points for the questions solved and the hearts you have left. It’s fun in an almost addictive way, and I’ve been using it to brush up my French recently. My boyfriend’s taking his first tentative steps to mastering my mother tongue, German, in the same program – he’s not quite as excited about it (yet, hehe), but German is also a bitch. Ariane has been using it to learn some Portuguese. You can sign up with Facebook if you’d like to connect with your friends and see their progress as well as yours (feeling competitive?). And since it’s completely free, you don’t lose anything by checking it out either 🙂

2) Skillshare.com

Yet to try this, but it looks like a really cool resource for a wide range of affordable online courses. I browsed through yesterday and I will for sure be enrolling in some of those once I finish my design fundamentals course.

3) Codecademy.com

Learn to code for free. Just started this now, it’s very hands-on and user friendly in its design and learning interface. I’m really excited to get deeper into it, and so far I didn’t have any trouble following the courses. I’ve learned some basic HTML and CSS already and now I’m just starting JavaScript. Kudos to Codecademy for keeping the courses fun…

Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 2.04.02 PM

Those are my top 3 at the moment, but don’t forget one valuable point… work experience. Get student jobs. Really. Work with a professor. Last fall, I started what sounded like a very boring office assistant position. I took it because I needed money. I ended up learning how to create a personalized online survey and being head organizer for a three-day conference. I learned a LOT more than I had ever expected, and it was in no small part due to the fact that I just volunteered when something needed to be done. So be proactive. Take opportunities. Agree to build a WordPress site, make an online survey, organize an event, even if you’ve never done any of those things. It’s learning by doing and in the end, you’re benefitting just as much, if not more, than the professor who got around doing the wordpress site himself.

By the way, if you have any cool resources to add to the above list, please comment!

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