Taking a class for fun, but actually learning something in the end.
May 28, 2013 3:04 PM   Subscribe

You've taken some classes, academic or not, for fun or out of simple interest. Some of those classes were paid opportunities to socialize. You walked out of them not feeling very different from how you felt coming in. Then you forgot everything you were supposed to have learned, and you never did anything like that again. Other classes taught you (or put you on the road to learning) a fulfilling skill or a body of knowledge. What kinds of classes were they? How did you find out about them? What lasting effects have those classes had on your life? (e.g., took a foreign language class → went abroad without a guide, took a welding class → set up a workshop in the garage, etc.)
posted by Nomyte to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (29 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Yoga classes -> changed my relationship with my body
posted by bq at 3:10 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

The one that stands out in my mind was the the class I took from the Pitt extension program. It was a mix of classroom and walking tours of Pittsburgh architecture. It was awesome! I appreciate buildings now and I really appreciate Pittsburgh.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:13 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Scuba diving made me a lot more comfortable in water. Swimming became enjoyable -- note that you need to be able to swim beforehand though.

Took a ceramics class and continued doing that for years, making much of my own dishware.

This is going to have more to do with the person than with the class -- some people never weld again, or use the foreign language again.

What you want seems to have something to do with how to find something you really like doing and want to do more of or find out more about -- you just need to try different things until you come across something that does that for you.
posted by yohko at 3:21 PM on May 28, 2013

I went to sign up my daughter for a 3-month session of riding lessons and decided to splurge on a package for myself as well (I rode a little as a kid). Daughter didn't want to continue after those 3 months, but me? 5 years later, I own a horse-shaped black hole that swallows up all my spare time and money (see profile pic).
posted by drlith at 3:25 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

I took a sociolinguistics class in undergrad solely because I'd heard the professor was awesome (it had no relation to my major), and a decade later, I still remember and use things we read or talked about in that class. This is mostly because the professor really was great, but also because so much of what we discussed relates to interpersonal communication, which is one of those things that everyone does all the time but rarely thinks to analyze.
posted by ella wren at 3:35 PM on May 28, 2013

I'm with drlith. Started riding again at age 38; four years later I've been promoted twice at work - I think because carry myself with much more confidence and face down obstacles like I'm galloping an athletic Thoroughbred at them.
posted by rdc at 3:38 PM on May 28, 2013

Another vote for yoga--I always feel better, both physically and mentally, when I leave the class. Plus, it motivates me to practice at home several times a week between classes. I get the satisfaction of learning something new and enjoyable that is also good for my body. Also--you don't have to be "athletic" to get something positive from yoga classes--I have never considered myself athletic in any way, and taking yoga has really started changing the way I view and feel about my body.
posted by bookmammal at 3:40 PM on May 28, 2013

Various friends tried to teach me to knit for about two or three years running, and it always ended badly. I never got the motions fully internalized in muscle memory, never saw the difference between knit and purl stitches, and tried the patience of a lot of well-meaning people who didn't understand why I just didn't get it.

Then I took a month-long intro class at my local yarn store. Having a dedicated time and place to work on the physical motions, and a teacher who was paid to deal patiently with my mistakes made all the difference. I made this last winter, about three and a half years after my class, and I'm working on another lace shawl now.

I've spent an awful lot of time doing job applications over the last four years, and one of the most frustrating things about that process is the feeling of firing information off into a void with no tangible returns. Knitting's been a great sanity saver during these times, because unlike job applications, the effort that I put into knitting yields concrete returns and gives me a sense of self-worth and accomplishment.
posted by ActionPopulated at 3:48 PM on May 28, 2013

I took a class on canning marmalade, and it's led to lots of preserving every summer...at this point, more than I can actually eat, so I end up using a lot as gifts! :)
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:56 PM on May 28, 2013

Another yoga vote, for ways to move your body that would be hard to figure out without a teacher.

Although it sounds boring, a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification course taught me a lot about how to better plan things that are important to me, make those things happen within a range of limited resources, and how to navigate the inevitable risks and disappointments. It also helped me recognize when some of the disappointments can also be opportunities. The jargon is awful, but the concepts are worth keeping.
posted by smuna at 4:06 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

My work had these staff appreciation workshops you could sign up for. I went to one on coffee and tea. Got to learn about the different types of coffee and tea, and got to try samples. I really appreciated that 2 hour workshop...Now, I grind and perk my own coffee daily.
posted by MeatheadBrokeMyChair at 4:20 PM on May 28, 2013

I'm currently watching the lectures for CalTech's Machine Learning course. (On lecture 8/13). I got there by having a programming background and a stats job. I was watching tutorials on using a procedure I haven't used before in a stats package - and in the youtube feed was this pretty decent machine learning course - which I can say has already had an impact on how I do my job.

In college I took a machine tool process course which exposed me to CNC programming, which aided me in landing my job in research engineering, where I worked on fuzzy control systems for industrial automation. Now arguably, learning this machine learning stuff, I'm somewhat back to that - or at least now learning the full theory and tying it to econometrics... which... is sort of weird and wild and cool.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:33 PM on May 28, 2013

My employer sent me to few industry-sponsored Saturday classes when I was new on the job. I was bored by them.
A year later, when I took over managing the department, I asked to go to class again, and I was enthralled by every word. It changed me internally, in that I learned to appreciated the finer points of the craft/art/science. But not so life-changing, because the technology was soon superseded by new technology, and I chose other paths.
The craft/art/science was typography, which I still love, though it's not my trade. The class was taught in Midtown Manhattan in the TANY offices (you can figure out the acronym) by a true expert of the old school.
Of note: During a break from class, milling around a big central room with coffee, I observed some journeymen, who liked to drop by the Assn of a Saturday, and were that day gathered round a table for their first glimpse of a new machine: the little beige pillar that was the first Mac. They were skeptical, not knowing what they were looking at: the end, except for a tiny sliver, of their profession.
posted by LonnieK at 4:39 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I took a blacksmithing class in college, and ended up teaching and doing metalworking for several years (as a hobby). I had to learn a lot of patience to spend countless hours working on the same thing, and got better at presenting when teaching. Similarly, I took a mask-making class a few years later; turns out all of the shapes and things I focused on making in metal were faster to make in papier mache - suddenly it was much easier for me to execute on all of these ideas I'd been thinking up over the years!

I've also had companies bring me in to interview just based on metalworking being on my resume - they thought it was neat, so that helped get me in the door.

Finally, most of the art classes I've ever taken have really pushed me to to think outside of the box - and I think that's a skill that's really helped me in my career.
posted by stormageddon at 4:40 PM on May 28, 2013

I took a course in Chinese cooking when I was about 25, and eventually got to the point where I could do a decent stir-fry, reasonable enough so that I could make dinner for a girl friend without feeling mortified. (I am otherwise one of the worst cooks alive.)

It was an "adult education" course offered through the local community college.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:00 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, in the late 1970's, I took a HS course called Maine Outdoors. Our teacher led us through the woods and I learned about bracken, cedar moss, and how the inside young bark of a yellow birch tastes like wintergreen. I thought this was the coolest class I'd ever taken.

Then in the mid-1990's, I took the Master Gardener course. That is the bomb! So much knowledge for so little money and time spent! And an awesome book that you get to keep at the end, plus making friends with other like-minded people. I also subscribed to gardening magazines and read a lot of books. Every little thing spilled over into something else, not just plants and gardening, but ecosystems and aquifers, and ground water conservation, all of that stuff.

I am not the perfect gardener or naturalist now, I know more than some but very little compared to others. But the wonder is still there. Yesterday, I stepped outside and got buzzed by a hummingbird. I felt like a little kid, it was so cool! He just stopped in front of my face and went, "bzzz!" and then took off. And I'm like, "Ha! It's May and that's when hummingbirds come to Maine!" And I see lupines starting to come up and now I know what they are by the leaves, and the other day someone was talking about poisonous plants and now I know about giant hogweed and monkshood and poisonous hemlock vs. water hemlock vs. hemlock evergreen trees.

I guess since that teacher in HS inspired me to look around at the natural world and identify plants, I have been watching it, and reading about it ever since. My folks admire nature too, maybe it runs in the family. And now my daughter is so into gardening on a way more massive scale than I ever was. Sometimes she'll call or text me with questions (that I have to Google the answers for) and it's just a real great connection, because I know her daughter, my grand-daughter, is growing up learning this stuff by osmosis. And learning to grow your own food or what plants do, how they can bring beauty and/or health into your life, that's not only the bomb, it's the bomb-diggity!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:11 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

I took an art history class that looked at buildings as products of the social, economic, political and technological environments at the times they were built, from the French revolution to the present. It gave me a much richer understanding of and sympathy for the buildings I see every day, wherever I am. I see some older suburban office building and instead of reacting simply with "That's ugly," or "I sorta like that one," I can say "Oh, a product of the cold war." It's like having learned a new language.
posted by jon1270 at 5:28 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I took a cake decorating class from a lady at my church when I was in high school; it was basically an excuse to eat more sugar than my mom normally allowed in the house. I never mastered the art of roses and leaves and whatnot, but I learned to handle frosting and pastry bags, and can put a decorative border and tidy writing on just about anything, so the number of friends' birthday desserts I've masterminded in the last 20 years is astonishingly large.
posted by aimedwander at 6:01 PM on May 28, 2013

My father still makes fun of me for taking a class on film noir in college but it was actually really remarkable--learning some of the technical aspects of filmmaking along with some of the sociocultural context in which the films got made really made me appreciate the end product in a way that went beyond "well, I sure like the movies". I have always wanted to take an art history class because I'm pretty sure the same thing would happen.

I took a quilting class a couple of years back that I enjoyed a lot. I don't have time to do much but playing with color and shape in a distinctly tactile way (withh bonus useful end product) is the exact opposite of my day job in a way I really like. It also lends itself well to doing a chunk of work here and there so that's what I do.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 6:08 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I took belly dance classes for fun and wound up performing with a troupe for seven years. We were flown around the country, even, it wasn't just recital stuff. I credit those seven years of daily ab workouts for my speedy c-section recovery. No painkillers FTW!
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:10 PM on May 28, 2013

Comedy improv classes! I learned: the value of failure and of responding positivity. My creative brain is more nimble and I've learned to trust myself much more. I spend x hours a week (different for different classes) laughing and discovering parts of myself I always suspected were there but wasn't sure.

I found amongst myself and my new peers in improv classes a major psychological benefit to remaining involved with improv.

Even if you don't have the performance jones I think the classes provide a serious psychological lift.
posted by wemayfreeze at 6:29 PM on May 28, 2013

The best classes for me have been the ones that allowed me to make a connection somehow, either with myself or with a great community or with the natural world. The best so far have been a series of wildflower classes, which mean that every time I hike or walk outside I look around me and know what's what and the role it plays in the environment, which connects me to nature in a way that makes me feel a little bit like I know the role *I* play in the environment.
posted by charmedimsure at 7:16 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm about to start a basic sewing class at my community college. I found it through the college's continuing education website.
posted by michellenoel at 7:17 PM on May 28, 2013

Oh - the effect I expect it to have is the ability to sew some basic clothes and home goods. And I expect to make a friend or two.
posted by michellenoel at 7:17 PM on May 28, 2013

The classes that fit this description for me were things I was interested in but what pushed them over the top was the instructor. Think about general areas you enjoy learning about (eg. Psychology or Studio Art) and start researching professors/instructors. I have sometimes walk up to students and asked them for their reccomendations not of a course but of a teacher.
posted by rip at 8:22 PM on May 28, 2013

In the early 1980s I took a six-week Calligraphy adult ed course offered at a local high school. I only took it because a friend at work had signed up for it and wanted someone to go with her. She ended up quitting after the second week and I turned out to have a knack for it. I got some extra practice in during work hours by writing "While You Were Out" messages in chancery cursive and soon, to my surprise, folks from all over the company were asking me to do projects for them - wedding programs, invitations, etc. I ended up with a neat little side business after a while.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:34 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

A few years ago I took a Thai cooking class with my mom (I think through the city's adult education program) and I still regularly use a couple of the recipes from that. It was also my first introduction to some ingredients (lime leaves, coconut cream, etc) and techniques that have informed my cooking in other ways.
posted by quaking fajita at 4:54 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I learned to fly eight years ago. Five years ago I had my first kid, and haven't piloted a plane since. But I'll always have that sense of achievement, and--especially in the year or two after I got my license--I had the feeling I could accomplish just about anything. On a practical level, learning to fly involves studying everything from weather to mechanics to simple physics, so you come away with a nice body of knowledge in addition to the physical ability to handle a plane.
posted by bassomatic at 6:23 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another vote for yoga. Regularly practicing has honestly changed my life. I respond to difficult situations and people with far more grace and ease now and have discovered that I am my own infinite source of contentment and gratitude. I think that a regular yoga practice teaches you, more than anything, awareness. Being aware gives you more freedom in how you choose to respond to things and live your life. It's very empowering. I also have killer muscles and no tension in my body ever.

I took a month long mixology class and have my bartending license. That has enabled me to work gigs at weddings/etc when I need extra money (usually get paid $20-30 an hour plus tips). It is also super fun being really good at making drinks.
posted by corn_bread at 11:10 AM on May 29, 2013

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