Alternative Grad School

On June 1, I started working on my personal version of Alternative Grad School, an idea borrowed from Chris Guillebeau’s book The Art of Non-Conformity. I was someone who really loved college because I was constantly learning new skills and information. Unfortunately, the world lacks structure for lifelong learners. While I am glad for the limitless opportunity I now have in lieu of arbitrary classes, required assignments, etc., structure helps me work, so I needed a framework in order to continue educating myself. I bought a new notebook and created a list of things I would like to learn, do, memorize, experience, and so on over the next year before June 1, 2018.

You can find Guillebeau’s list here.

My list is very similar with a few adjustments to make the program feasible for me while working full-time. I’ve also added a few of my own, completely original requirements.

  • Memorize every country, world capital, and leader of every country in the world

  • Travel to a new continent

  • Read the basic texts of the major world religions: the Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, and the teachings of Buddha

  • Listen to a Spanish language-learning podcast 5X/week for a year and practice with Ethan

  • Loan money to an entrepreneur through 

  • Train to run a 10K in 60 minutes

  • Show Once Familiar in an Iowa City coffee shop or other public venues

  • Compile a graphic design portfolio by completing 15 Briefbox projects

  • Read 30 non-fiction books and 20 novels

  • Start a blog and post bi-weekly

  • Listen to Grammar Girl and read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

  • Read Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs

  • Publish three freelance stories

  • Complete a photography series by 12/31/17 and another by 6/1/18

In my three weeks of Alternative Grad School, since June 1, I’ve focused on several requirements more than others. I tried tackling the biggest, most time-consuming requirements right away, the most daunting being reading 50 books in one year.

So far I read:

  • Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland
  • Tell Me If You’re Lying by Sarah Sweeney
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  • Utopia for Realists: The Case for Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and 15-Hour Workweek by Rutger Bregman
  • Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America by Stephen G. Bloom

Books June 2017 copy.jpg

I also started learning about Buddhism by reading Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Meditation and Practice. It isn’t exactly a Buddhist “text” like my Alt Grad School goals outlined, but it’s a compilation of talks given by Shunryu Suzuki at the Zen Center in Los Altos, California.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
—Shunryu Suzuki

I also started learning Spanish via the podcast Coffee Break Spanish, which I discovered on Spotify but is also available on iTunes. I used it to refresh my German studies in the past. Once you get used to the teacher’s Scottish accent, it’s a really great podcast for picking up the basics of a language. So far I don’t know much (Me llama Carly. Vivo en Iowa en Los Estados Unidos.) but I’m getting there.

Goals in which I’ve been behind are my 10K run training (I was truly sick over the past few weeks, I swear), my photography projects, and graphic design. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some progress in those areas in July.

Wish me luck. Comment with any other important life skills you feel should be on one’s Alternative Grad School list.