5 Free Ways To Learn Outside The Classroom

5 Free Ways To Learn Outside The Classroom

Put summer school on your own terms.
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Summer may be in full swing, but that doesn't mean you have to let your brain off the hook. With the expansion of technology comes a plethora of invaluable resources to stretch your mind and gain valuable skills--and what better time to do so than while tanning? Here are a few ways to try something new this summer, each a few thousand dollars cheaper than summer school tuition.


1. Improve your language skills.

With increased globalization comes the increased demand for language skills. Knowing more than one language proves extremely valuable in the professional world while expanding your personal capabilities for communication. Free to download at the App Store, Duolingo provides free language lessons in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Esperanto, Turkish, Norwegian and Ukrainian through a series of fun, interactive lessons that devote time to vocabulary, speaking and reading and writing comprehension.

2. Expand your economic knowledge.

You may remember them from their bestselling book Freakonomics and the four sequels that followed--Stephen Dubner and sometimes-guest Steve Levitt created a weekly podcast available for download through both mobile apps and online. Entitled Freakonomics Radio, the podcast was launched five years ago and continues weekly to this day. The episodes are interesting, engaging and thought-provoking while remaining accessible by Dubner's introduction to all topics covered. The podcasts introduce new ways to think about everyday phenomena ranging from sleeping patterns to the country's rate of incarceration to online dating to terrorism.

3. Get technical.

The science and technology fields are booming, and understanding basic web and app coding is and will continue to be a lucrative, applicable tool. Coding can seem daunting to tackle, what with its extremely nuanced nature and jargon. But Code Academy overcomes that, offering online step-by-step interactive coding lessons, allowing you to watch your progress come alive as you simulate creating different aspects and features of webpages.

4. Make the most of your commute.

Albeit via car, foot or subway, many of us who work during the summer are burdened by some sort of commute. This can often feel like a waste of time usually spent listening to music or aimlessly checking various social media accounts. Moreover, we often vow to read more books over the summer only to find that buying and then lugging a book to and from our destinations is heavy on both our wallets and our shoulders. Audiobooks, available both on iTunes and via providers such as Audible, bypass these obstacles, providing an often-free but altogether cheaper way to fill that wasted commute time with some summer reading.

5. Explore universities' online courses.

In theory, summer courses through your university provide you with the opportunity to explore fields out of sheer interest without pushing you behind schedule to graduate. However in practice, said online courses often create nearly as many problems as they solve, coming with hefty price tags and massive time commitments. Cue free online courses: although they don't provide college credit, they allow you to explore a field at no cost, neither monetary nor timing. An organization called Academic Earth boasts a database of over 750 online courses and 8,500 online lectures, all free of charge, open to the public and provided by internationally-renowned universities such as Yale, Stanford and Oxford.


Wherever your interests may lie, don't let them die; take advantage of the incredible tools we have today to use your newfound free time to learn on your own terms.

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Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.

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Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

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Time is Finite

Watch the clock.

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I obsess over time. I have always planned schedules, made up routines, and calculated where and when I'll be at certain times, no matter how far into the future. During the course of my day, I figure out what tomorrow will be like and what events will occur. I think of all the things that will eventually happen and even the possibilities or unexpected occurrences. No matter what happens, I have at least an inkling of what my time-frame is to complete specific tasks. I know what will come and when.

Even in a class, I keep my eye on the clock. My mind may drift off into my own "schedule land," in which I think of the rest of the day. Who will I eat with? When should I go to sleep? How much work will I get done? All of these questions and more pop up in my head, and it can be overwhelming, and yet, I find it to be extremely useful at the same time. Yes, I may cause a headache or two from my over-analytical tendencies, but at least I have an idea, a prediction, an expectation of what I will do next or where I will go. It heightens my motivation; it gives me more determination in order to succeed and complete my day in a productive manner.

My obsession, and yes I call it that, may seem anxiety-ridden or even psychotic, but my thoughts about time focus on how much I have yet to do even if I have done so much up to this point. While I acknowledge my prior experiences, accomplishments, and even failures, I still have so much more I have to do. This is not a matter of wanting either. This is a need, a necessity. The problem is that time is finite.

I cannot control the speed of time, no one can, but I and everyone else can utilize it while we have it. This, in effect, will allow us some sort of manipulation over the passing of time in our own individual lives. If you have a goal, whether big or small, it can be reached simply by you acting on it now. Develop a mini plan based around the events that might happen, and make sure there are certain "checkpoints" to attain. Think about how much time will be used in between each checkpoint, accounting for successes and downfalls as well. Once you frame your work, you can start, and start immediately. There is nothing worse than an improper, late, inaccurate schedule or conception of time. You have all of these goals and events listed and ready to go, so start now while you have the most time to do it all because if you miss something, you'll regret it.

I don't mean to scare you, but this is the reality of life. We live in a finite world: surrounded by finite things and people and opportunities. We can stop whatever we're doing, but time will never cease, so while it is still progressing and while the earth is still rotating, we need to do what we have to in order to get to the point of happiness and personal acceptance with our lives and our successes. Stay alert, and keep watch of the clock because every tick and tock and pendulum swing matters.

Cover Image Credit:

https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-silver-colored-pocket-watch-lot-selective-focus-photo-859895/

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