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What Is Lifelong Learning?

The author's lifelong education and learning started in college and the Navy. It continued through work experiences in the U.S. and abroad.

What Is Lifelong Learning

The author.  Taken in Udonthani, Thailand in September 2021.

The author. Taken in Udonthani, Thailand in September 2021.

Enter to Learn was the title of my high school graduation valedictory speech. I chose this topic because I knew that lifelong learning was the key to success in life.

Anyone who thinks that education and learning end after high school is mistaken. Success in life requires an accumulation of knowledge gained through education and learning. Knowledge is power and it enables you to know the truth and develop all of your talents.

Post-high school learning is not limited to college or university study. The armed forces offer many education and training opportunities. Community colleges and technical institutes also provide many adult education and technical vocational courses.

Colleges and private organizations also sponsor a multitude of free online courses in information technology, business, and foreign languages.

Finally, lifelong learning is attained through on-the-job training and life experiences.

Author as Graduating High School Senior

Author as a high school senior.  Taken in 1962

Author as a high school senior. Taken in 1962

My Lifelong Learning

In this article, I answer the question of what is lifelong learning by reflecting on my post-high school lifelong learning. This began with my education, learning, and training in college and the United States Navy. Next, it continued with my life and work experience while living in Taiwan and then as a linguist with the federal government. Working briefly in real estate and taking an overseas job assignment with the government also added to my lifelong learning. Finally, I remember all of my continuous learning since retirement. Each learning episode is noted in detail.

My Education, Learning, and Training in College

My formal college education and learning took place during three periods of my life.

  1. September 1962–February 1967
  2. February 1972–May 1973
  3. January-November 1980

September 1962–February 1967

Upon graduation from Burlington High School, I entered the University of Wisconsin in Madison in September 1962. I enrolled in a pre-medical course of study because I had wanted to become a doctor.

This required taking science and humanities courses in college. From 1962 through 1966, my science courses included zoology, comparative anatomy of the vertebrates, inorganic and organic chemistry, qualitative and quantitative chemical analysis, and physics. English composition and literature, German, American history, and philosophy were among my humanities.

My overall grade point average was only B minus and not good enough to gain admission to medical school. Surprisingly, my Bachelor's Degree in Science with a B average in chemistry courses was good enough to win admission to the University of Michigan Graduate School for advanced degree study.

While at Michigan from September 1966 through February 1967, I enrolled in remedial inorganic, organic, and analytical chemistry courses and fared poorly. It was at this point where I finally realized that I didn't have the aptitude to become a chemist.

February 1972 — May 1973

From February 1972 through May 1973, I enrolled as a graduate student in the East Asian Languages and Literature Department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

During military service from 1967-1971, the Navy had discovered that I had an aptitude for learning languages. After serving a brief tour in Taiwan in 1969 and using the Chinese Mandarin language, I had decided to learn more about China, Chinese Mandarin, and Chinese culture.

While enrolled in Madison this time, I took Chinese language and literature as well as history courses. The Chinese language and literature courses include vernacular Chinese Mandarin, classical literary Chinese, and readings in contemporary Chinese literature. My history courses examined the social history of China up until 1911 and the intellectual history of China from 1911 until 1972.

I earned all A"s" in my language and literature courses and B"s" in the history classes. I did much better in my Chinese studies than in pre-med courses because I now could apply what I had learned.

January–November 1980

From January through November 1980, I attended college for the third time. This time, I enrolled in the School of Education at the University of Toledo.

Having just returned from six years living in Taiwan, I needed to find full-time employment to support my family. My idea was to get certified in secondary education so that, hopefully, I could teach history, Chinese, and/or chemistry in high school.

While at the University of Toledo, I learned how to become a teacher. This was done by taking courses in the history and sociology of education, educational psychology, and the principles of teaching and learning. To get certification for teaching history, I remember taking classes in European history, the history of England, the history of the Old Antebellum American South, the German history of the Third Reich, and Latin American history.

I received A "s" in all of my classes but never got teacher certification. This is because I accepted employment with the federal government.

Learning and Training in the U.S. Navy — 1967–1971

My learning and training in the U.S. Navy turned out to be a turning point in my life.

After discovering that I had an aptitude for learning languages, the Navy assigned me to the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in California in October 1967 to learn Chinese Mandarin.

In July 1968, I completed a 37-week aural comprehension course. Next, the Navy sent me to a security school in Texas for training as a cryptologic Chinese linguist.

Overseas duty followed in Taiwan and Japan where I also had on-the-job training as an intelligence analyst.

Later, I used my cryptologic Chinese skills working for 27 years for the federal government.

Work and Life Learning Experiences in Taiwan — 1973–1979

While living in Taiwan, I taught English as a foreign language and also learned the Taiwanese dialect of Chinese. Both were necessary to survive in Taiwan.

Teaching English was the only employment I could find to support my new Taiwanese family. I learned how to teach English by applying the principles and methods that I used to learn spoken Chinese Mandarin at DLI. With no formal training, I learned this skill by trial and error in my on-the-job teaching classes.

My wife was a native Taiwanese who could not speak Mandarin or English very well. Therefore, to communicate with her, I learned Taiwanese just as a young child would learn it.

Work as a Chinese Linguist with the Federal Government — 1980–2007

While working with the federal government, I had both formal and on-the-job training.

My formal training consisted of Chinese language courses at the National Cryptologic School and one year of Chinese Mandarin immersion training in Taiwan from 1984-1985. I also had training in the Thai language at Berlitz in 2003.

My on-the-job training was in learning the skills of transcribing and translating Chinese Mandarin and the Chinese and Thai written languages.

Work as a Real Estate Agent — 1993–1994

In 1993, I learned real estate principles in a three-month course taught by Century 21.

After passing a licensing test in December 1993, I worked as a real estate agent with Century 21 in 1994.

My work was solely on-the-job training in learning how to help buyers and sellers who came into our office. Through trial and error, I found out that I did not have the skills to be a realtor.

As a Realtor in 1994

Realtor calling card from 1994.

Realtor calling card from 1994.

Learning on an Overseas Job Assignment — 2003-2007

When I was selected for an overseas job assignment in 2002, I quickly had to learn computer literacy and the Thai language. Later, while working in the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, my on-the-job training was advising the Thai military.

If I had not taken an overseas job assignment in 2003, I probably would not be as computer literate as I am today. Before 2003, I only used a computer at work for limited tasks and never owned a computer.

After arriving in Bangkok in August 2003, my computer was the main lifeline for me back to the United States. I quickly learned through trial and error how to use email and attach photos and files. Also, I learned how to use the computer for online banking. To save money, I also used computer applications like SKYPE to make international calls.

At work, I learned through on-the-job training how to use Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. My Thai language training was used in advising the Thai military.

Learning During Retirement in Thailand — 2007–Present

Finally, I have continued my lifelong learning during my retirement in Thailand. I have done this through my English teaching in Bangkok and present writing on Hubpages.

From 2007–2014, I taught English as a foreign language in a Thai Catholic grade and high school in the Bangkok area. The school kept me current in pedagogical knowledge and skills by sponsoring frequent teaching seminars.

Since 2014, I have been retired in Udon Thani. I spend my time now writing articles for Hubpages. With assistance from Hubpages editors, I have learned how to become a better writer.

© 2021 Paul Richard Kuehn

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