Within barely a couple of weeks the way in which we see the world and our place in it, has turned on its head. From a bustling booming lifestyle we are suddenly locked up indoors. From being constantly told to disconnect and not let the small screens dictate our lives, our entire day now rotates around these gadgets. From working towards developing social skills we now have to learn to social distance. And from feverishly studying for exams, we now don’t know if these will be held, or if they will even matter! Yes it has become a very strange place – no school, no college, no outings, no shopping, no travel – and definitely no year-end farewell parties!
But what it has done, is given us lots of free time at home – time to bond with family, time to think and plan, and certainly time to strengthen what you know, your knowledge, and venture to learn something you don’t know, or haven’t had the time to learn earlier. This could be particularly important for students who are graduating from school and college, and are at crossroads — figuring out which path to take, where to go and how to move ahead.
Planning for the future for most students is always a tough process, but more so now when there is so much uncertainty about the spread of the disease itself and the shape of a post-pandemic world. This is particularly difficult for students who have not quite made up their mind about their further studies, as also those who are not quite sure if their choices will be of value in the future.
For many others lockdown time may be just the period you need to pause, ponder and give yourself the opportunity to shifts gears. It is possible you were hurtling towards a science oriented, engineering related career which on second thoughts is not one you have actually been looking forward to. Or you have in mind a career in the hospitality sector, and it is difficult to see how and when this industry will recover. Or, you want to get into a career in business but do not have a clue as to what this will entail. These are just some of the confusing thoughts that are confronting many students right now.
So as we wait for release from our temporary imprisonment, let us utilise this time in useful and constructive activities that not only help us build ourselves for an unknown future, but also enable us to invest in ideas that could be valuable pointers for our future.
Here are some pursuits to think about:
1. Study/Training courses
If you’re not burned out on academics, devoting some of your quarantine time to self-education makes sense. An increasing number of people are using the time to build their skillset, with an upsurge in enrolments on online learning platforms such as edX, FutureLearn and Coursera, which offer “massive open online courses” – or MOOCs. Besides helping to bolster your career during this economic uncertainty, learning a new skill can give you a sense of control of their future at a time when many students feel that is lost.
We are now a society in which many jobs and careers require additional education or training beyond school.
Students can choose to learn to code, personal finance planning, creative writing, and so much more. There are hundreds of online courses in various fields ranging from music and the arts to business, leadership and personal development, to specific AI Learning and Chef training programmes, foreign languages, fitness and meditation classes and so on, taught by professors from Harvard and other top universities. Harvard University is offering 67 courses online across domains like business, computer science, art, design and humanities. ( https://online-learning.harvard.edu/) You can also find - An introduction to Mathematical Thinking, a Stanford University course, via Coursera, giving you a journey through the basics of mathematical logic and proof: or An introduction to Screenwriting a University of East Anglia course offered via FutureLearn, a creative writing programme for would-be screenwriters… and hundreds of others.
Such learning can build your skills and extend your learning, not only in the subject or discipline of your study, but also in other fields of interest, which can give you a broader perspective and experience that may enhance your life and could also open possibilities of using talents in new and uncharted realms.
Other interesting programmes (sourced from www.moneycontrol.com ) include –
- Courseware on Artificial Intelligence (AI) offered by NASSCOM FutureSkills initiative, the foundational Artificial Intelligence course from SkillUp Online aligned to the industry-recommended curriculum.
- A 15-day self-paced digital certification programme called Career Edge, offered by TCS iON, a strategic unit of Tata Consultancy Services, on the TCS iON Digital Learning Hub platform specially designed for college students/working professionals to enhance their career skills. The programme, offered, is followed by an online digital assessment and certification.
- More than 150 free courses from programming a complete game, HTML5 fundamentals to time management for students on global e-learning marketplace Udemy
- The NTC Premium Fitness training programmes including studio-style streaming workouts offered free of charge by footwear and fitness accessories firm Nike
In addition you can find many other interesting courses on e-learning sites such as Khan Academy, Byju’s , TED-ED, Academic Earth and many more.
So whatever be your goals, the quest to learn a new skill or to pursue your own discipline, a study programme can allow you to connect with new people across the virtual domain, and transform this period into a time of enlightenment and self-discovery.
2. Improve your digital skills
A special mention must be made of the need to develop competency in computer skills. With the entire world wired through the computer particularly as we move into a ‘virtual’ world, students can never get enough of good computer skills. Most students do not move beyond Instagram, Facebook, video games and the like, and fail to see their smart gadget as the most powerful tool for enhancing their lives.
Today there are computer applications for almost every business activity, productivity tools and different technologies and applications used for storing and reporting information that enhance productivity and ensure efficiencies at work. As we see today, most of the information we are getting on the offending virus today is through computerised technologies and algorithm processed AI. The digital transformation impacts every industry, and being able to befriend the “machine” is one of the most critical of skills. Just knowing programming languages is not enough. The ability to embrace technology and machines is about the ability to get stuff done, about knowing the tools and how to use them. They also involve using social media, working with design or video editing software and knowing programming languages.
3. Learn a new language
This is a time when you can spend a couple of hours every day to learn a new language – something you may have wanted to do for years, but never had the time. Knowing a foreign language is an asset irrespective of the work or profession you intend to pursue. If you know more than one language and are sensitive to cultural differences you can effectively interact with diverse people, and handle a range of national and international assignments. With so many multi-national organizations working in India, bilingual employees have a definite advantage. There are many websites and apps that offer language courses. Some of them even offer a certificate after you complete the course.
The pandemic has wrought havoc on so many people – from harried health workers, to unemployed daily wage earners, and the thousands of migrants who have no future, no home, money or food. This is the time to lend a helping hand within the confines of home, or in protected areas working with NGOs and other volunteer groups. A good start is your own neighbourhood — offer help with shopping and other errands, or befriend those who are elderly, disabled or alone. There are also government authorised volunteer organisations, government bodies, Facebook groups, media houses and others providing a range of services where student volunteers can help in manning tele-counselling helplines, educating people about the real causes of the corona disease, symptoms and preliminary steps to follow, distributing food packets, or grocery items, monitoring supplies of PPEs and masks to health workers, or even launching initiatives such as stitching face masks, preparing food for the poor and so on.
Whatever project you participate in, volunteering can help build emotional stability, organisational skills and give a sense of purpose and perspective to life, specially at such a time, that most other activities may not do. Best of all, volunteer work builds self-esteem – vital to your ability to succeed. Of course, be sure to only volunteer if you are in good health, feel strong enough and are not in a high-risk group.
There are just so many activities that you can engage in during this period. Just because time is at a standstill doesn’t mean you have to be. You can keep yourself busy with so much that is available around us, in the virtual world, if not the physical, that it would be a pity to waste it away just watching Netflix movies or video games.
So take yourself in hand and make the most of these spare weeks – they won’t come again ( we hope!)
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